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Eleven Great Thomas Sowell Quotes

Legendary economist, author, and social theorist Dr. Thomas Sowell submitted his final column Tuesday after 25 years in syndication.

“Even the best things come to an end. After enjoying a quarter of a century of writing this column for Creators Syndicate, I have decided to stop. Age 86 is well past the usual retirement age, so the question is not why I am quitting, but why I kept at it so long,” Dr. Sowell wrote.

For more than fifty years, Dr. Sowell has published books and journals on race, economics, cultures around the world, and government policy. He has inspired generations of conservative activists with his humor and ability to condense complex matters into relatable lessons learns.

A self-proclaimed Marxist in his twenties, Sowell served in the United States Marine Corps. (during the Korean War). He earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, his masters from Columbia University, and his Ph.D from the University of Chicago. It was at the University of Chicago, under the tutelage of Milton Friedman, and after his short stint as an economic analyst at the U.S. Department of Labor, where Dr. Sowell lost faith in government institutions’ ability to effectuate positive outcomes in society.

Dr. Sowell has taught economics at Cornell University and UCLA and has been a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University since 1980.

Dr. Sowell’s books, columns, and photography can be found at his website tsowell.com. Below are a handful of the most influential quotes from America’s great living philosopher.

1. The Welfare State:

The blacks in the West Indies had al sorts of experiences growing their own food, selling the surplus in the market, and, in fact, being responsible for budgeting what they had. Black [slaves] in the United States were deliberately kept from having that. Dependence was seen as the key to holding the slaves down. It’s ironic that that same principle comes up in the welfare state 100 years later.

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.

2. A Legacy of Liberalism:

Nearly a hundred years of the supposed “legacy of slavery” found most black children being raised in two-parent families in 1960. But thirty years after the liberal welfare state found the great majority of black children being raised by a single parent.

The murder rate among blacks in 1960 was one-half of what it became 20 years later, after a legacy of liberals’ law enforcement policies. Public housing projects in the first half of the 20th century were clean, safe places, where people slept outside on hot summer nights, when they were too poor to afford air conditioning. That was before admissions standards for public housing projects were lowered or abandoned, in the euphoria of liberal non-judgmental notions. And it was before the toxic message of victimhood was spread by liberals.

If we are to go by evidence of social retrogression, liberals have wreaked more havoc on blacks than the supposed “legacy of slavery” they talk about.

3. The Failure of Government Bureaucracy: A Personal Odyssey:

In the summer of 1959, as in the summer of 1957, I worked as a clerk-typist in the headquarters of the U.S. Public Health Service in Washington. The people I worked for were very nice and I grew to like them.

One day, a man had a heart attack at around 5 PM, on the sidewalk outside the Public Health Service. He was taken inside to the nurse’s room, where he was asked if he was a government employee. If he were, he would have been eligible to be taken to a medical facility there. Unfortunately, he was not, so a phone call was made to a local hospital to send an ambulance. By the time this ambulance made its way through miles of Washington rush-hour traffic, the man was dead.

He died waiting for a doctor, in a building full of doctors.

Nothing so dramatized for me the nature of a bureaucracy and its emphasis on procedures, rather than results.

4. The Conservative Vision Versus the Liberal Vision:

Liberal believe that the real problem with the world is that the institutions are wrong. If the institutions were right; there’s nothing in human nature that would cause us to be unhappy, it’s the fact that we have the wrong institutions.”

Conservatives believe man is flawed from day one. There are no solutions; there are only tradeoffs. Whatever you do to deal with one of man’s flaws, it creates another problem. But that you try to get the best tradeoff you can get. And that’s all you can hope for.

5. Three Questions to Destroy Liberal Arguments:

There a three questions that I think would destroy most of the arguments on the left. The first is, “Compared to what?” The second is, “At what cost?” And the third is, “What hard evidence do you have?”

6. The Age of Complaining Classes: The Thomas Sowell Reader:

This is the age of the complaining classes, whether they are lawyers, community activists, radical feminists, race hustlers or other squeaking wheels looking for oil. … No society ever thrived because it had a large and growing class of parasites living off those who produce.

7. Diversity:

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

8. Taxes:

Our tax system penalizes those who are producing wealth in order to subsidize those who are only consuming it.

9. Fake News:

The current hysteria over “fake news” — including hysteria by people who have done more than their own fair share of faking news — shows the continuing efforts of the political left to stifle free speech in the country at large, as they already have on academic campuses.

10. Immigration Reform:

Immigration laws are the only laws that are discussed in terms of how to help people who break them. One of the big problems that those who are pushing “comprehensive immigration reform” want solved is how to help people who came here illegally and are now “living in the shadows” as a result.

What about embezzlers or burglars who are “living in the shadows” in fear that someone will discover their crimes? Why not “reform” the laws against embezzlement or burglary so that such people can also come out of the shadows?

11. Multiculturalism:

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.

Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter @jeromeehudson.

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