Friday, December 30, 2016

Good Thing Coming to an End

Economist Thomas Sowell wrote his final column this week. Fortunately, he’s not dead; he’ll keep writing books, keep giving interviews. We just won’t have his frequent short pieces of wisdom to count on each week.

Thomas Sowell
image from here

He’s 86—and only retiring from the column. He said last spring he was on a photography trip to Yosemite with friends. For four days they had no access to news. And he really enjoyed that. While writing the column, he has felt obligated to keep current on news and events so he could comment intelligently about them. And now he’s letting that go.

I relate to that, since I write regularly here, and it does a good part of the time relate to current events. During this holiday season, surrounded by family, I’ve mostly tuned out radio and newspapers, and even much social media—and it is refreshing.

Thomas Sowell has me by nearly two decades, after an extraordinarily prolific career, so I think he’s entitled to the relief from news. Back before writing this blog, when I was writing a few pieces a year (mainly in defense of traditional marriage), I would take hours—weeks sometimes—to write a piece. I marveled at how Thomas Sowell could put out something so profound, well-researched, and well-reasoned a time or two a week.

Eventually I learned that there are differences in writing when you’re doing something quick and regular. I don’t polish as much. I don’t provide exhaustive footnotes as often. I just try to put out a complete thought. I think that’s what Thomas Sowell has done as well, compared to his books, which are longer, more polished, and more referential to specific research. It’s just that he has a huge body of research in his head, and all the thought connections he’s made over many thoughtful decades.
I mentioned his Basic Economics as a favorite influence in my very first blog post. I’ll probably continue to refer to his writings as a model and a resource.

In celebration of his column retirement, I thought I’d share some Thomas Sowell wisdom.
First, if you have half an hour, he did an interview on the Larry Elder radio show on Wednesday. Their conversation covers a wide range, and gives the flavor of his wit and wisdom:

I wrote about a Thomas Sowell interview on Uncommon Knowledge in 2015, following the publication of his book Wealth, Poverty, and Politics. Worth a re-read

Townhall put together a list of “12 Fantastic Thomas Sowell Quotes in Honor of His Retirement.”

And now I’ll share a few of the quotes I’ve saved in my Spherical Model quote file:

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

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

Character is what we have to depend on when we entrust power over ourselves, our children and our society to government officials.
We cannot risk all that for the sake of the fashionable affectation of being more non-judgmental than thou.—(article following resignation of NY governor Elliot Spitzer)

Someone once said that a con man's job is not to convince skeptics but to enable people to continue to believe what they already want to believe.—(article on Obama’s “faith” speech 3-19-08)

One of the biggest taxes is one that is not even called a tax—inflation. When the government spends money that it creates, it is transferring part of the value of your money to themselves. It is quiet taxation but often heavy taxation, falling on everyone, no matter how low their incomes might be.—(10-29-08)

How have intellectuals managed to be so wrong, so often? By thinking that because they are knowledgeable—or even expert—within some narrow band out of the vast spectrum of human concerns, that makes them wise guides to the masses and to the rulers of the nation.
But the ignorance of PhDs is still ignorance and high-IQ groupthink is still groupthink, which is the antithesis of real thinking.—(11-11-08)

The medical care stampede is about much more than medical care, important as that is. It is part of a whole mindset of many on the left who have never reconciled themselves to an economic system in which how much people can withdraw from the resources of the nation depends on how much they have contributed to those resources.—(8-19-09)

There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.—(9-29-09)

People who call differences "inequities" and achievements "privilege" leave social havoc in their wake, while feeling noble about siding with the less fortunate.—(5-4-2010)

Among people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, those who are likely to be most disappointed are those who thought that they were voting for a new post-racial era. There was absolutely nothing in Obama's past to lead to any such expectation, and much to suggest the exact opposite. But the man's rhetoric and demeanor during the election campaign enabled this and many other illusions to flourish.
Still, it was an honest mistake of the kind that decent people have often made when dealing with people whose agendas are not constrained by decency, but only by what they think they can get away with.
On race, as on other issues, different people have radically different views of Barack Obama, depending on whether they judge him by what he says or by what he does.—(7-19-2010)

Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.

The vocabulary of the political left is fascinating. For example, it is considered to be "materialistic" and "greedy" to want to keep what you have earned. But it is "idealistic" to want to take away what someone else has earned and spend it for your own political benefit or to feel good about yourself.—(3-22-2011)

Even if it could be proved that judges who are making rulings that go counter to the written law produce better results in those particular cases than following the letter of the law would have, that does not make society better off. When laws become unreliable and judges unpredictable, lawsuits become a bonanza for charlatans, who can force honest people to settle out of court, for fear of what some judge might do.—(3-22-2011)

The Obama administration seems to be following what might be called "the Detroit pattern"-- increasing taxes, harassing businesses, and pandering to unions. In the short run, it got mayors re-elected. In the long-run, it reduced Detroit from a thriving city to an economic disaster area, whose population was cut in half, as its most productive citizens fled.—(3-22-2011)

Since the government creates no wealth, it can only transfer the wealth required to hire people. Even if the government creates a million jobs, that is not a net increase in jobs, when the money that pays for those jobs is taken from the private sector, which loses that much ability to create private jobs.—(7-6-2011)

People who say they want a government program because "I don't want to be a burden to my children" apparently think it is all right to be a burden to other people's children.—(8-2-2011)

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

Like so many people, in so many countries, who started out to "spread the wealth," Barack Obama has ended up spreading poverty.—(10-17-2011)

Politicians can solve almost any problem—usually by creating a bigger problem. But, so long as the voters are aware of the problem that the politicians have solved, and unaware of the bigger problems they have created, political "solutions" are a political success.—(10-17-2011)

Let's stop and think, if only for the novelty of it.—(8-29-2012)

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. Most black children grew up in homes with two parents during all that time but most grow up with only one parent today.—(1-15-2013)

There are no magic solutions [to getting out of poverty], at least none that I know of. Common sense, common decency, work and honesty are about all I can come up with. These things are not fancy or new or politically correct. But they have a better track record than much that we are doing today.—(5-20-2014, “Poverty and Snowstorms”)

I am so old that I can remember when most of the people promoting race hate were white.—(“Who Is Racist?” 7-2014 National Review)

If you don’t understand the issues, but want to do your patriotic duty, then stay home on election night, whether in the primaries or in the national election in November. Uninformed voters turn elections into a game of playing Russian roulette with the future of America.—(1-30-2016)

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.”—(

No comments:

Post a Comment