Thomas Sowell

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Thomas Sowell is an American economist and social theorist who is currently a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Sowell was born June 30, 1930, in North Carolina, but grew up in Harlem, New York. He dropped out of Stuyvesant High School and served in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War.


Quotes of Thomas Sowell

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

"Would you bet your paycheck on a weather forecast for tomorrow? If not, then why should this country bet billions on global warming predictions that have even less foundation?" Thomas Sowell

"It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong." Thomas Sowell

"The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics." Thomas Sowell

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

"The black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow, but it has disintegrated in the wake of the liberals' expansion of the welfare state." Thomas Sowell

"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." Thomas Sowell

"If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today." Thomas Sowell

"The big divide in this country is not between Democrats and Republicans, or women and men, but between talkers and doers." Thomas Sowell

"Do countries with strong gun control laws have lower murder rates? Only if you cherry-pick the data." Thomas Sowell

"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.'" Thomas Sowell

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

"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." Thomas Sowell

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

"The word 'racism' is like ketchup. It can be put on practically anything - and demanding evidence makes you a 'racist.'" Thomas Sowell

"It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer it." Thomas Sowell

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

"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." Thomas Sowell

"Thinking Words Worst Liberalism is totalitarianism with a human face." Thomas Sowell

"Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good." Thomas Sowell

"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." Thomas Sowell

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

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

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

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

"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." Thomas Sowell

"Facts are not liberals' strong suit. Rhetoric is." Thomas Sowell

"The next time some academics tell you how important diversity is, ask how many Republicans there are in their sociology department." Thomas Sowell

"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 benefited them." Thomas Sowell



"Of all the tragic facts about the history of slavery, the most astonishing to an American today is that, although slavery was a worldwide institution for thousands of years, nowhere in the world was slavery a controversial issue prior to the 18th century. People of every race and color were enslaved – and enslaved others. White people were still being bought and sold as slaves in the Ottoman Empire, decades after American blacks were freed.
"Everyone hated the idea of being a slave but few had any qualms about enslaving others. Slavery was just not an issue, not even among intellectuals, much less among political leaders, until the 18th century – and then it was an issue only in Western civilization. Among those who turned against slavery in the 18th century were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and other American leaders. You could research all of the 18th century Africa or Asia or the Middle East without finding any comparable rejection of slavery there. But who is singled out for scathing criticism today? American leaders of the 18th century.
"Deciding that slavery was wrong was much easier than deciding what to do with millions of people from another continent, of another race, and without any historical preparation for living as free citizens in a society like that of the United States, where they were 20 percent of the population.
"It is clear from the private correspondence of Washington, Jefferson, and many others that their moral rejection of slavery was unambiguous, but the practical question of what to do now had them baffled. That would remain so for more than half a century.
"In 1862, a ship carrying slaves from Africa to Cuba, in violation of a ban on the international slave trade, was captured on the high seas by the U.S. Navy. The crew were imprisoned and the captain was hanged in the United States – despite the fact that slavery itself was still legal at the time in Africa, Cuba, and in the United States. What does this tell us? That enslaving people was considered an abomination. But what to do with millions of people who were already enslaved was not equally clear.
"That question was finally answered by a war in which one life was lost [620,000 Civil War casualties] for every six people freed [3.9 million]. Maybe that was the only answer. But don’t pretend today that it was an easy answer – or that those who grappled with the dilemma in the 18th century were some special villains when most leaders and most people around the world saw nothing wrong with slavery.
"Incidentally, the September 2003 issue of National Geographic had an article about the millions of people still enslaved around the world right now. But where is the moral indignation about that?" The Thomas Sowell Reader, chapter “Twisted History”



"There are an estimated 27 million men, women, and children in the world who are enslaved — physically confined or restrained and forced to work, or controlled through violence, or in some way treated as property.
"Therefore, there are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade [11 million total, and about 450,000, or about 4% of the total, who were brought to the United States]. The modern commerce in humans rivals illegal drug trafficking in its global reach—and in the destruction of lives." “21st Century Slaves“, National Geographic article, Thomas Sowell




Poisoning present by distorting slavery's past

Many years ago, I was surprised to receive a letter from an old friend, saying she had been told I refused to see campus visitors from Africa.

At the time, I was so bogged down with work that I had agreed to see only one visitor to the Stanford campus - and it so happens he was from Africa. He just happened to come along when I had a little breathing room from the work I was doing in my office.

I pointed out to my friend that whoever said what she heard might just as well have said that I refused to go sky-diving with blacks - which was true, because I refused to go sky-diving with anybody, whether black, white, Asian or whatever.

The kind of thinking that produced a passing misconception about me has, unfortunately, produced much bigger, much longer lasting, much more systematic and more poisonous distortions about the United States of America.

Slavery is a classic example. The history of slavery across the centuries and in many countries around the world is a painful history to read - not only in terms of how slaves have been treated, but because of what that says about the whole human species - because slaves and enslavers alike have been of every race, religion and nationality.

If the history of slavery ought to teach us anything, it is that human beings cannot be trusted with unbridled power over other human beings - no matter what color or creed any of them are. The history of ancient despotism and modern totalitarianism practically shouts that same message from the blood-stained pages of history.

But that is not the message that is being taught in our schools and colleges, or dramatized on television and in the movies. The message pounded home again and again is that white people enslaved black people.

It is true, just as it is true that I don't go sky-diving with blacks. But it is also false in its implications for the same reason. Just as Europeans enslaved Africans, North Africans enslaved Europeans; more Europeans than there were Africans enslaved in the United States and in the 13 colonies from which it was formed.

The treatment of white galley slaves was even worse than the treatment of black slaves picking cotton. But there are no movies or television dramas about it comparable to Roots, and our schools and colleges don't pound it into the heads of students.

The inhumanity of human beings toward other human beings is not a new story, much less a local story. There is no need to hide it, because there are lessons we can learn from it. But there is also no need to distort it, so that sins of the whole human species around the world are presented as special defects of "our society" or the sins of a particular race.

If American society and Western civilization are different from other societies and civilization, it is that they eventually turned against slavery, and stamped it out, at a time when non-Western societies around the world were still maintaining slavery and resisting Western pressures to end slavery, including in some cases armed resistance.

Only the fact that the West had more firepower than others put an end to slavery in many non-Western societies during the age of Western imperialism. Yet today there are Americans who have gone to Africa to apologize for slavery - on a continent where slavery has still not been completely ended, to this very moment.

It is not just the history of slavery that gets distorted beyond recognition by the selective filtering of facts. Those who go back to mine history, in order to find everything they can to undermine American society or Western civilization, have very little interest in the Bataan death march, the atrocities of the Ottoman Empire or similar atrocities in other times and places.

Those who mine history for sins are not searching for truth but for opportunities to denigrate their own society, or for grievances that can be cashed in today, at the expense of people who were not even born when the sins of the past were committed.

An ancient adage says: "Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." But apparently that is not sufficient for many among our educators, the intelligentsia or the media. They are busy poisoning the present by the way they present the past.

Poisoning present by distorting slavery's past Thomas Sowell, senior fellow at the Hoover Institute. website is tsowell.com.



"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. Thomas Sowell

"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." Thomas Sowell

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

"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." Thomas Sowell

"The real minimum wage is zero." Thomas Sowell

"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." Thomas Sowell

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

"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." Thomas Sowell

"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." Thomas Sowell

"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.'" Thomas Sowell

"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." Thomas Sowell


"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." Thomas Sowell

"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." Thomas Sowell

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


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

"The problem isn't that Johnny can't read. The problem isn't even that Johnny can't think. The problem is that Johnny doesn't know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling." Thomas Sowell

"There are few things more dishonorable than misleading the young." Thomas Sowell

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

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

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

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

"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." Thomas Sowell

"A moral monopoly is the antithesis of a marketplace of ideas." Thomas Sowell

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

"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." Thomas Sowell

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

"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." Thomas Sowell

"As for gun control advocates, I have no hope whatever that any facts whatever will make the slightest dent in their thinking - or lack of thinking." Thomas Sowell

"Stopping illegal immigration would mean that wages would have to rise to a level where Americans would want the jobs currently taken by illegal aliens." Thomas Sowell

"Brainy folks were also present in Lyndon Johnson's administration, especially in the Pentagon, where Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's brilliant 'whiz kids' tried to micro-manage the Vietnam war, with disastrous results." Thomas Sowell

"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." Thomas Sowell

"Even the Soviet Union, with its huge nuclear arsenal, was a threat that could be deterred by the prospect of retaliation. But suicide bombers cannot be deterred. They can only be annihilated - preemptively and unilaterally, if necessary." Thomas Sowell

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

"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." Thomas Sowell

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

"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." Thomas Sowell


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

"There is no question that liberals do an impressive job of expressing concern for blacks. But do the intentions expressed in their words match the actual consequences of their deeds?" Thomas Sowell


"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." Thomas Sowell

"President Obama seems completely unaware of how many of the policies he is trying to impose have been tried before, in many times and places around the world, and have failed time and again." Thomas Sowell

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

"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." Thomas Sowell

Charity

"Imagine a political system so radical as to promise to move more of the poorest 20% of the population into the richest 20% than remain in the poorest bracket within the decade? You don't need to imagine it. It's called the United States of America." Thomas Sowell


"Mystical references to society and its programs to help may warm the hearts of the gullible but what it really means is putting more power in the hands of bureaucrats." Thomas Sowell

"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." Thomas Sowell

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

"The biggest and most deadly 'tax' rate on the poor comes from a loss of various welfare state benefits - food stamps, housing subsidies and the like - if their income goes up." Thomas Sowell

"Being willing to donate the taxpayers' money is not the same as being willing to put your own money where your mouth is." Thomas Sowell

"People who identify themselves as conservatives donate money to charity more often than people who identify themselves as liberals. They donate more money and a higher percentage of their incomes." Thomas Sowell

"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." Thomas Sowell

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

"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." Thomas Sowell


War

"Like a baseball game, wars are not over till they are over. Wars don't run on a clock like football. No previous generation was so hopelessly unrealistic that this had to be explained to them." Thomas Sowell

"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." Thomas Sowell

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

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

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

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

"Over the generations, black leaders have ranged from noble souls to shameless charlatans." Thomas Sowell

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

"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." Thomas Sowell

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

"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." Thomas Sowell

"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." Thomas Sowell donat

"Few professors would dare to publish research or teach a course debunking the claims made in various ethnic, gender, or other 'studies' courses." Thomas Sowell

"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." Thomas Sowell

"Do all children have some inherent right to live in America if they have done nothing wrong? If not, then why should the children of illegal immigrants have such a right?" Thomas Sowell

"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." Thomas Sowell

People |
Abraham | John the Baptist | Jesus | Paul the Apostle | Plutarch | Polybius | Seneca |
Bastiat | Buddha | David Crocket | Herod | Melchizedek | Nimrod | Philo Judaeus‎ | Wycliffe‎ |
Ambrose | Constantine | Jerome | Augustine of Hippo | Augustine of Canterbury |
Alexis de Tocqueville | Thomas Sowell | Lady Godiva |