Thomas Sowell

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Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social theorist, and senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Born in North Carolina, Sowell grew up in Harlem, New York. He dropped out of Stuyvesant High School and served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War.

The people made worse off by slavery were those who were enslaved. Their descendants would have been worse off today if born in Africa instead of America. Put differently, the terrible fate of their ancestors benefitted them.

The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.

What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don't like something to saying that the government should forbid it. When you go down that road, don't expect freedom to survive very long.

Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.

The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that they do not work. Therefore we should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive.

Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.

Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric.

You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.

Education is not merely neglected in many of our schools today, but is replaced to a great extent by ideological indoctrination.

Capitalism knows only one color: that color is green; all else is necessarily subservient to it, hence, race, gender and ethnicity cannot be considered within it.

One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them.

Those who cry out that the government should 'do something' never even ask for data on what has actually happened when the government did something, compared to what actually happened when the government did nothing.

In liberal logic, if life is unfair then the answer is to turn more tax money over to politicians, to spend in ways that will increase their chances of getting reelected.

The march of science and technology does not imply growing intellectual complexity in the lives of most people. It often means the opposite.

There are only two ways of telling the complete truth - anonymously and posthumously.

Sometimes it seems as if there are more solutions than problems. On closer scrutiny, it turns out that many of today's problems are a result of yesterday's solutions.

Life in general has never been even close to fair, so the pretense that the government can make it fair is a valuable and inexhaustible asset to politicians who want to expand government. 
It is a way to take people's wealth from them without having to openly raise taxes. Inflation is the most universal tax of all.

Immigration laws are the only laws that are discussed in terms of how to help people who break them.

One of the most pervasive political visions of our time is the vision of liberals as compassionate and conservatives as less caring.

Without a moral framework, there is nothing left but immediate self-indulgence by some and the path of least resistance by others. Neither can sustain a free society.

The real goal should be reduced government spending, rather than balanced budgets achieved by ever rising tax rates to cover ever rising spending.

The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best.

If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.

Liberals seem to assume that, if you don't believe in their particular political solutions, then you don't really care about the people that they claim to want to help.

The welfare state is not really about the welfare of the masses. It is about the egos of the elites.

If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism.

Talkers are usually more articulate than doers, since talk is their specialty.

The more people who are dependent on government handouts, the more votes the left can depend on for an ever-expanding welfare state.

What 'multiculturalism' boils down to is that you can praise any culture in the world except Western culture - and you cannot blame any culture in the world except Western culture.

Liberalism is totalitarianism with a human face.

The old adage about giving a man a fish versus teaching him how to fish has been updated by a reader: Give a man a fish and he will ask for tartar sauce and French fries! Moreover, some politician who wants his vote will declare all these things to be among his 'basic rights.'

Too much of what is called 'education' is little more than an expensive isolation from reality.

If the battle for civilization comes down to the wimps versus the barbarians, the barbarians are going to win.

There are few things more dishonorable than misleading the young.

Both free speech rights and property rights belong legally to individuals, but their real function is social, to benefit vast numbers of people who do not themselves exercise these rights.

Facts are not liberals' strong suit. Rhetoric is.

People who have time on their hands will inevitably waste the time of people who have work to do.

Facts do not speak for themselves. They speak for or against competing theories. Facts divorced from theories or visions are mere isolated curiosities.

Although the big word on the left is 'compassion,' the big agenda on the left is dependency.

Mistakes can be corrected by those who pay attention to facts but dogmatism will not be corrected by those who are wedded to a vision.

Helping those who have been struck by unforeseeable misfortunes is fundamentally different from making dependency a way of life.

Even if the government spends itself into bankruptcy and the economy still does not recover, Keynesians can always say that it would have worked if only the government had spent more.

Balanced budget requirements seem more likely to produce accounting ingenuity than genuinely balanced budgets.

All too often when liberals cite statistics, they forget the statisticians' warning that correlation is not causation.

The real minimum wage is zero.

Hyperinflation can take virtually your entire life's savings, without the government having to bother raising the official tax rate at all.

In various countries and times, leaders of groups that lagged behind, economically and educationally, have taught their followers to blame all their problems on other people - and to hate those other people.

All of us should be on guard against beliefs that flatter ourselves. At the very least, we should check such beliefs against facts.

You don't send people to prison on the basis of what other people imagine, or on the basis of media sound bites like 'shooting an unarmed child,' when that 'child' was beating him bloody.

A shortage is a sign that somebody is keeping the price artificially lower than it would be if supply and demand were allowed to operate freely.

Creating whole departments of ethnic, gender, and other 'studies' was part of the price of academic peace. All too often, these 'studies' are about propaganda rather than serious education.

Prices are important not because money is considered paramount but because prices are a fast and effective conveyor of information through a vast society in which fragmented knowledge must be coordinated.

Many people, including some conservatives, have been very impressed with how brainy the president and his advisers are. But that is not quite as reassuring as it might seem.

Just what is it that academics have to fear if they stand up for common decency, instead of letting campus barbarians run amok?

If you want to get each individual's honest opinion, you don't want that opinion to be influenced by others who are presenvt, much less allow a group to coordinate what they are going to say.

The Government Budget Office has been embarrassed repeatedly by making projections based on the assumption that tax revenues and tax rates move in the same direction.

Actually lowering the cost of insurance would be accomplished by such things as making it harder for lawyers to win frivolous lawsuits against insurance companies.

I suspect that even most conservatives would prefer to live in the kind of world conjured up in the liberals' imagination rather than in the kind of world we are in fact stuck with.

The time is long overdue to stop looking for progress through racial or ethnic leaders. Such leaders have too many incentives to promote polarizing attitudes and actions that are counterproductive for minorities and disastrous for the country.

All the political angst and moral melodrama about getting 'the rich' to pay 'their fair share' is part of a big charade. This is not about economics, it is about politics.

Our schools and colleges are turning out people who cannot feel fulfilled unless they are telling other people what to do.

Wishful thinking is not idealism. It is self-indulgence at best and self-exaltation at worst. In either case, it is usually at the expense of others. In other words, it is the opposite of idealism.

A moral monopoly is the antithesis of a marketplace of ideas.v The simplest and most psychologically satisfying explanation of any observed phenomenon is that it happened that way because someone wanted it to happen that way.

It is hard to read a newspaper or watch a television newscast without encountering someone who has come up with a new 'solution' to society's 'problems.'

Groups that rose from poverty to prosperity seldom did so by having their own racial or ethnic leaders to follow.

Tariffs that save jobs in the steel industry mean higher steel prices, which in turn means fewer sales of American steel products around the world and losses of far more jobs than are saved.

Those parts of history that would undermine the vision of the Left - which prevails in our education system from elementary school to postgraduate study - are not likely to get much attention.

When teenage thugs are called “troubled youth” by people on the political left, that tells us more about the mindset of the left than about these young hoodlums.

Why then the built-in excuse, when juvenile hoodlums are called “troubled youth” and mass murderers are just assumed to be “insane”?

When teenage thugs are called “troubled youth” by people on the political left, that tells us more about the mindset of the left than about these young hoodlums.

Seldom is there a speck of evidence that the thugs are troubled, and often there is ample evidence that they are in fact enjoying themselves, as they create trouble and dangers for others.

Why then the built-in excuse, when juvenile hoodlums are called “troubled youth” and mass murderers are just assumed to be “insane”?

At least as far back as the 18th century, the left has struggled to avoid facing the plain fact of evil — that some people simply choose to do things that they know to be wrong when they do them. Every kind of excuse, from poverty to an unhappy childhood, is used by the left to explain and excuse evil.

All the people who have come out of poverty or unhappy childhoods, or both, and become decent and productive human beings, are ignored. So are the evils committed by people raised in wealth and privilege, including kings, conquerors and slave owners.

Why has evil been such a hard concept for many on the left to accept? The basic agenda of the left is to change external conditions. But what if the problem is internal? What if the real problem is the cussedness of human beings? Rousseau denied this in the 18th century, and the left has been denying it ever since. Why? Self-preservation.

If the things that the left wants to control — institutions and government policy — are not the most important factors in the world’s problems, then what role is there for the left?

What if it is things like the family, the culture and the traditions that make a more positive difference than the bright new government “solutions” that the left is constantly coming up with? What if seeking “the root causes of crime” is not nearly as effective as locking up criminals? The hard facts show that the murder rate was going down for decades under the old traditional practices so disdained by the left intelligentsia, before the bright new ideas of the left went into effect in the 1960s — after which crime and violence skyrocketed.

What happened when old-fashioned ideas about sex were replaced in the 1960s by the bright new ideas of the left that were introduced into the schools as “sex education” that was supposed to reduce teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases?

Both teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases had been going down for years. But that trend suddenly reversed in the 1960s and hit new highs.

One of the oldest and most dogmatic of the crusades of the left has been disarmament, both of individuals and of nations. Again, the focus of the left has been on the externals — the weapons in this case.

If weapons were the problem, then gun control laws at home and international disarmament agreements abroad might be the answer. But if evil people who care no more for laws or treaties than they do for other people’s lives are the problem, then disarmament means making decent, law-abiding people more vulnerable to evil people.

Since belief in disarmament has been a major feature of the left since the 18th century, in countries around the world, you might think that by now there would be lots of evidence to substantiate their beliefs.

But evidence on whether gun control laws actually reduce crime rates in general, or murder rates in particular, is seldom mentioned by gun control advocates. It is just assumed in passing that of course tighter gun control laws will reduce murders.

But the hard facts do not back up that assumption. That is why it is the critics of gun control who rely heavily on empirical evidence, as in books like “More Guns, Less Crime” by John Lott and “Guns and Violence” by Joyce Lee Malcolm.

National disarmament has an even worse record. Both Britain and America neglected their military forces between the two world wars, while Germany and Japan armed to the teeth. Many British and American soldiers paid with their lives for their countries’ initially inadequate military equipment in World War II.

But what are mere facts compared to the heady vision of the left?

[Thomas Sowell]
Senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.