Thank you, Prof. Sowell
I first read Thomas Sowell in college. Reading Sowell was a subversive act in the early 1990s. It remains so today. Why? Because the prolific libertarian economist’s vast body of work is a clarion rejection of all the liberal intelligentsia hold dear.
Among the left’s most corrosive ideas is the concept of perpetual and permanent racial victimhood. Sowell’s academic analyses of these programs exposed how elites profit mightily at the expense of the alleged beneficiaries of affirmative action.
The grand rhetoric of diversity masks the true intent and actual impact of current racially discriminatory “solutions” to past racial discrimination: solidifying the power of the few over the many. As Sowell put it succinctly in one of the first pieces of his I came across in the journal “The Public Interest,” where Sowell explored the “mismatch” effect in the ivory tower. While prestigious schools congratulated themselves for manufacturing “wonderfully diverse” student bodies ostensibly to make up for the legacy of American slavery, he reported that 70 percent of black students at Berkeley didn’t graduate.
“What they’ve effectively done” in lowering academic standards by race in the name of social justice, Sowell explained, “is rented these bodies for window dressing for a few years, and then, when they’re through with them, they’re put aside and a new bunch of bodies are brought in.”
Who benefits? Not the students, but the bean-counting administrators and political correctness marketers who exploit minority students. The other vested interest? Tenured radicals in what Sowell called the “black studies establishment.”
Sowell, who grew up in Harlem, worked as a delivery man, is a Marine, graduated from Harvard Law School, earned his Ph.D. in economics at the University of Chicago, and fully realized the folly of Marxism during a stint as a federal government intern.
Chromosomes and skin color and partisan loyalty didn’t dictate his thinking. He embraced time-tested, transcendent principles grounded in the reality of how things really are — as opposed to the fantastical imaginings of what he trenchantly called the “Vision of the Anointed.” Sowell’s book on that subject the same year Barack Obama emerged on the national scene with his fabrication-filled memoir, “Dreams of My Father,” thoroughly dismantled the tyranny and tactics of self-described “progressives” whose control-freak narcissism is wrapped in good intentions and false narratives.
Sowell’s assessments were rooted not in fear or hatred or fanaticism or moral superiority, but in empirical evidence. He judged outcomes, not oration.
“In the anointed we find a whole class of supposedly ‘thinking people’ who do remarkably little thinking about substance and a great deal of verbal expression,” Sowell observed. “In order that this relatively small group of people can believe themselves wiser and nobler than the common herd, we have adopted policies which impose heavy costs on millions of other human beings, not only in taxes, but also in lost jobs, social disintegration, and a loss of personal safety. Seldom have so few cost so much to so many.”
In another giant contribution to contemporary political and policy analysis, Sowell’s 1999 tome, “The Quest for Cosmic Justice,” addressed the failures of those who seek to cure all inequities, inequalities, disparities and ills through government intervention. He summed up his findings thusly:
1. The impossible is not going to be achieved.
2. It is a waste of precious resources to try to achieve it.
3. The devastating costs and social dangers that go with these attempts to achieve the impossible should be taken into account.
The former leftist playwright David Mamet, in his 2008 manifesto, “Why I Am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal,” cited his exposure to Sowell, whom he dubbed “our greatest contemporary philosopher,” as a critical factor in his conversion.
Asked once how he would like to be remembered, Sowell responded: “Oh, heavens, I’m not sure I want to be particularly remembered. I would like the ideas that I’ve put out there to be remembered.” Mission accomplished. Thank you, Professor Sowell.