News Analysis

Collection: Thomas Sowell

Saying of Wisdom


>> = Important Articles; ** = Major Articles



**Random thoughts (, 050329)

**Random thoughts (, 050714)

**Random thoughts (, 050801)

**Random thoughts (, 051018)

**Random thoughts (, 051130)

Random thoughts (, 000803)

Random thoughts (, 001027)

Random thoughts (, 001221)

Random thoughts (, 010201)

Random thoughts (, 010308)

Random thoughts (, 010921)

Random thoughts (, 011221)

Random thoughts (, 020131)

Random thoughts about growing old (, 020308)

Random thoughts (, 020426)

Random thoughts (, 020705)

Random thoughts (, 020815)

Random thoughts (, 020912)

Random thoughts (, 021031)

Random thoughts (, 030214)

Random thoughts (, 030320)

Random thoughts (, 030411)

Random thoughts (, 030610)

Random thoughts (, 030727)

Random thoughts (, 030930)

Random thoughts (, 031127)

Random thoughts (, 040114)

Random thoughts (, 040225)

Random thoughts (, 040325)

Random thoughts (, 040415)

Random thoughts (, 040505)

Random thoughts (, 040624)

Random thoughts (, 040812)

Random thoughts (, 041206)

Random thoughts (, 050222)

Random thoughts (, 050920)

Random thoughts (, 060503)

Random thoughts (, 060613)

Random thoughts (, 060829)

Random thoughts (, 070322)

Random thoughts (, 070501)

Random thoughts (townhall.Com, 070903)

Random thoughts (, 071204)

Random thoughts (, 080408)

Random thoughts (, 080520)

Random thoughts (, 080729)

Random thoughts (, 080826)

Random Thoughts (, 091201)

Random Thoughts (, 091007)

Random Thoughts (, 091110)

Random Thoughts (, 090811)

Random Thoughts (, 090526)

Random Thoughts (, 090407)

Random Thoughts (, 090211)

Random Thoughts (, 081224)

Random Thoughts (, 100608)

Stupidity trickling down (, 050331)

April Fools’ party (, 050401)

Rich ideas (, 050510)

Sowell’s Rednecks (American Spectator, 050511)

The latest liberal crusade (, 050512)

A must read (, 050610)

Mind-changing books (, 051208)

The media’s war (Washington Times, 051215)

Point of no return (, 060207)

Myths of rich and poor (, 060208)

Are Facts Obsolete? (Townhall.Com, 060404)

Saving what from whom? (, 060720)

May I Wish You a Godless Christmas? Put Some Books Under That Tree. (National Review Online, 061220)

Say It Ain’t So (, 071214)

Random Events (, 080506)

Burke and Obama (, 090529)





[Kwing Hung: a black man full of wisdom; just read the “Random Thoughts” and you will agree]




**Random thoughts (, 050329)


Thomas Sowell


Random thoughts on the passing scene:


Nolan Ryan’s baseball career was so long that he struck out seven guys whose fathers he had also struck out. (Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonds, for example.)


Why do some people use a fancy mathematical term like “parameters” when all that they really mean is boundaries?


Teresa Heinz Kerry’s latest loony statement — that pro-Bush hackers could have gotten into the electronic voting machines during last year’s election — gave me my first misgivings about having criticized her. She may not be playing with a full deck. [Kwing Hung: !!!]


This must be the golden age of euphemisms. When people deliberately violate our laws by crossing our borders illegally, they are called “undocumented workers.” When people steal copyrighted material and exchange it among themselves, it is called “file swapping” instead of fencing stolen goods.


If people who commit sex crimes against children are so dangerous that they have to be registered for life after serving their sentences, why are they let out of prison in the first place?


Prince Charles’ complaints about the media’s “torturing” him with stories about his “private life” suggests that the Prince of Wales might better be called the Prince of Wails. If he wants a private life, he can do what the Duke of Windsor did — renounce the throne. But he wants to have it both ways.


It is fascinating to hear teachers say that having to “teach to the test” reduces their ability to engage in good teaching. What they call “good teaching” is the very reason our students do so badly in international comparisons and why colleges have to have large numbers of remedial courses to teach students what they didn’t learn in school.


One sign of the Democrats’ desperation is that some of them continue to try to tar the Bush administration with innuendoes of racism, even though its Cabinet members have included people of Hispanic, Japanese American, Jewish, and Chinese American ancestry, as well as two consecutive black Secretaries of State.


It is one of the sad signs of our times that the new bankruptcy legislation has been attacked as “favoring” a “special interest” because creditors now have more chance of getting paid what people owe them.


Why transfer what has been produced by some to others when you could spread the productivity that produced this wealth, making everyone better off? Knowledge is one of the few things that can be given to others without reducing the amount you have left.


One of the dumbest things you can do is have taxpayers supporting idle adolescents who have nothing but time on their hands to get into trouble. The money it costs is the least of the problems.


I do not like to see the future mothers of America becoming soldiers. There are plenty of men who are capable of becoming soldiers and who are not capable of becoming mothers.


In a market economy, the costs created by our decisions are explicit. In a government-controlled economy, those costs are not explicit. This is a great advantage for government officials and a great disadvantage for the general public, which ends up paying the costs, whether or not they are aware of what those costs are.


Flattery makes the most effective chains. Hitler told the Germans that they were a master race — and came very close to making them slaves.


People on the political left not only have their own view of the world, they have a view of the world which they insist on attributing to others, regardless of what those others actually say. A classic example is the “trickle down theory,” which no one has ever advocated, but which the left insists on fighting against.


After years of living in apartments, I complained to my brother about the problems of being a home owner. His reply was: “If you think being a home owner is tough, you should try being a business owner.”


A reader wrote that Terri Schiavo’s biggest mistake was that she did not kill anyone. If she were a murderer, she would not be allowed to be killed the way she is. Many of those who want her to die would be demanding that she live and many of those who want her to live would be demanding that she die.




**Random thoughts (, 050714)


Thomas Sowell


Usually I like four-star hotels better than five-star hotels. The four-star hotels tend to be comfortable and attractive places with amenities, but without the pretentiousness and fussiness of five-star hotels.


It is amazing how many problems are caused by the simple fact that somebody could not be bothered to listen.


Why do we keep pretending that we know how to control child molesters after they are released from prison? How many more children must be killed before we face the plain reality that, if it is dangerous to let child molesters out of prison, then they should be kept in prison.


Reading letters from liberals makes me fear that they are going to dislocate their shoulders from patting themselves on the back so much. The way they tell it, the reason they differ from others is that they are so much more compassionate, aware, concerned, nuanced, sophisticated and — yes — just plain smarter.


The recent Supreme Court decision expanding government’s power to seize private property gives added relevance to Steven Greenhut’s book “Abuse of Power: How the Government Misuses Eminent Domain.” If you think displaced homeowners actually get “just compensation” as the Constitution requires, this book should open your eyes to the painful reality.


Now that Samatha Brown on the travel channel is overseas doing programs about outstanding hotels in Europe, I hope she will continue on to Asia and do a program on my favorite hotel in the world, the Shangri-la in Singapore.


Will even the bloody terrorist attacks in London put a stop to the media’s hand-wringing because they don’t think we have been nice enough to some of the cut-throats who are locked up in Guantanamo? The media have never shown any such interest in how prisoners are treated anywhere else on the island of Cuba, such as in Castro’s prisons.


There have always been people without judgment but this is the first era in which being non-judgmental is considered good — though how anything can be considered good if you are non-judgmental is another puzzle.


The next time someone demands a timetable for the war in Iraq, ask them to name just one war — anywhere — that had such a thing.


It was said of liberal legend Senator Hubert Humphrey that he had more solutions than there were problems. But today’s liberals seem to have no solutions to anything, just carping, spin, and character-assassination.


None of the people who said that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction — and who said it before George W. Bush became President — is accused of lying. Neither are foreign leaders or foreign intelligence services that said the same thing before or during this administration.


Many people are so preoccupied with the notion that their own knowledge exceeds the average knowledge of millions of other people that they overlook the more important fact that their knowledge is not even one-tenth of the total knowledge of those millions. That is the crucial fallacy behind the repeated failures of central planning and other forms of social engineering which concentrate power in the hands of people with less knowledge and more presumption.


Those of us who believe in the two-party system regard voting for a third party as throwing away your vote. However, we could use two new parties to replace the Democrats and Republicans.


After so many media depictions of the “brilliance” of various liberals and the dullness or stupidity of conservatives, it should not be surprising that there was so little attention paid to the recent revelation that George W. Bush had a higher average at Yale than John Kerry did.


My thanks to the hundreds of people who sent me birthday greetings recently. Despite my 75 years, I usually feel pretty much the same as I did 30 years ago. On the other hand, I didn’t have to take a bunch of pills and visit medical specialists to feel that way then. Today I feel like an antique car that is being kept in running condition by high-priced mechanics.




**Random thoughts (, 050801)


Thomas Sowell


Sometimes I have so much to do that I don’t do anything.


As a result of “evolving standards” and “nuanced” judicial decisions, we no longer have clear-cut rights. We have a ticket to a crapshoot in a courtroom. That ticket is worth a lot more to those with slick lawyers than to ordinary citizens.


What is more frightening than any particular policy or ideology is the widespread habit of disregarding facts. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey put it this way: “Demagoguery beats data.”


If anyone ever doubts that Babe Ruth was the greatest baseball player of all time, ask him: How many shutouts did Ty Cobb or Barry Bonds ever pitch? Ruth still holds the American League record for shutouts in a season by a left-handed pitcher.


It is hard to see how people who are opposed to faith-based organizations can support the dogmas of the schools of education or the multiculturalists.


The government forces those who sell pharmaceutical drugs to list the possible side effects, even if only a few people will suffer those side effects. Unfortunately, the government itself never tells us about the bad side effects of the things it prescribes.


I can understand poor people who have to struggle to make ends meet. What I cannot understand are people who have plenty of money but who live so high on the hog that they have to struggle to make ends meet, just as if they were poor.


Everybody is for “fairness” — because we all use the same word to mean very different things. Some of the most confused and counterproductive policies — “fair trade” laws and the Fair Labor Standards Act, for example — have been built upon the shifting sands of fairness.


People used to say, “Ignorance is no excuse.” Today, ignorance is no problem. After all, you have “a right to your own opinion” — and self-esteem to boot.


One of the maddening things about computer programs and computerized products is their making you fight your way through a maze of complications to do simple things.


I never cease to be amazed at how often people throw around the lofty phrase “social justice” without the slightest effort to define it. It cannot be defined because it is an attitude masquerading as a principle.


Someone once said that a fool can put on his coat better than a wise man can put it on for him. The implications of that undermine most of the agenda of the political left.


People who say that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror are unaffected by the fact that the terrorists themselves obviously think otherwise, as they converge on Iraq from other countries.


Horses are supposed to be dumb animals. But they are smart enough not to bet on people.


One of the few encouraging signs to come out of France has been the ban on head scarves in schools there, despite protests that these are traditional among Islamic girls. No one has a right to come into someone else’s society and insist on playing by the rules of some other society. We in America need to understand that as regards language, among other things.


Some ideas seem so plausible that they can fail nine times in a row and still be believed the tenth time. Other ideas seem so implausible that they can succeed nine times in a row and still not be believed the tenth time. Government controls in the economy are among the first kinds of ideas and the operation of a free market is among the second kinds of ideas.


For reasons unknown, people on the left seem to take inordinate pride in being able to make verbal parallels — whether or not there is any parallel in substance.


With vastly more money available around the world as private investment than there is as foreign aid, why do Third World countries want or need foreign aid? Because private investors will seldom put their own money into projects that have no realistic chance of working or into countries too corrupt and unreliable to expect the money to be used responsibly, much less repaid.




**Random thoughts (, 051018)


by Thomas Sowell


Neither the depth of despondency nor the height of euphoria tells you how long either will last.


We are so easily deceived that many people think that the Senate Judiciary Committee is acting nicely if the Senators wear a genial expression while asking insulting questions or smile while they are lying about the nominee.


Virtually no idea is too ridiculous to be accepted, even by very intelligent and highly educated people, if it provides a way for them to feel special and important. Some confuse that feeling with idealism.


I usually read the Wall Street Journal before breakfast. I can’t take the New York Times on an empty stomach.


Homeschooling is not new. John Stuart Mill was homeschooled two centuries ago and never spent a day in a school or college.


People who think that they don’t owe anything to anybody should read David McCullough’s outstanding new book “1776,” to see what hell other people went through to create the freedom that we enjoy and abuse today.


Senator Dianne Feinstein asked Judge John Roberts whether his being Catholic would interfere with carrying out his duties on the Supreme Court but she would undoubtedly have felt insulted if anyone had asked her whether being Jewish would interfere with her carrying out her duties as a Senator.


One of the reasons for the poverty in the United States that is seldom mentioned by the left is that many poor people are coming here, both legally and illegally, from other countries.


I don’t know anything about Judge Consuelo Callahan but I love the name. Possibly she could be related to the economist Pedro Schwartz.


The Middle East “peace process” is an illusion. No one can make peace with others who is not at peace with himself — and the Arabs cannot be at peace with themselves so long as they lag so visibly far behind the rest of the world. No concessions from others can give them what would satisfy them, their own achievements and self-respect.


Economist Steven Levitt’s best-selling book “Freakonomics” is not really about economics. It is about applying systematic reasoning to all sorts of social problems. Systematic reasoning is needed even more than economics.


The controversies surrounding Bill Cosby should force more black leaders to decide whether their top priority is protecting the image of blacks or promoting the future of blacks, especially the younger generation.


If a word means everything, then it means nothing. Stretching words like “marriage” and “family” to include all sorts of things that they never meant before is reducing these words — and the institutions they represent — to nothing.


Any given writer might write in a vague, lofty, convoluted, and romantic style. But when all the people who write on a given subject write that same way, there is something else going on. Try to think of any defender of progressive education or judicial activism who writes in a plain, straightforward and factual style.


Some of the most vocal critics of the way things are being done are people who have done nothing themselves, and whose only contributions to society are their complaints and moral exhibitionism.


My brother recalled his younger days down South during the Jim Crow era, when he had a job working late. After work, he had a long walk back home in the middle of the night. But, he says, “When I got to the black neighborhood, I felt safe!” That speaks volumes about what has happened since then.


Two recent books tell about a million Europeans who were once enslaved by North African pirates. But these books (“Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters” by R.C. Davis and “White Gold” by Giles Milton) are largely ignored by people who claim to be outraged about slavery in the past.


Much as I enjoy most e-mails from most readers, even though I cannot answer so many, it is a waste to send me attachments. In this era of devastating viruses, I open attachments only from people I know personally.




**Random thoughts (, 051130)


by Thomas Sowell


Bumper sticker in Berkeley: “Animals are little people in fur coats.”


My tastes must be behind the times. When I see women in “before” and “after” advertisements, I often think they looked better before.


What enables ex-President Jimmy Carter to be taken seriously is that millions of people are too young to remember what a disaster the Carter administration was. He lost his bid for re-election in a landslide for a reason.


Who would have dreamed that “Merry Christmas” would become a controversial phrase? But increasingly schools and other institutions avoid it like the plague, in order to be politically correct.


Is there something about being rich that makes some people go off the deep end? The limousine liberals among the Democrats and the country club Republicans are the most unrealistic people in each party.


Cartoons in “The New Yorker” magazine used to make me burst out laughing but those in recent years don’t even produce a smile. Could it be that political correctness makes it impossible to see and portray the humor in the many absurdities all around us?


Nightmare for the 2008 Presidential election: Hillary Clinton versus John McCain. I wouldn’t know whether to vote Libertarian or move to Australia.


It apparently does not occur to some engineers who design products that most of the people who will be using those products are not engineers.


We are so much more rational about sports than we are about politics. No one considers it “unfair” that Tiger Woods does so much better than the average golfer, or resents him for it, or accuses him of “gouging” when he collects big bucks.


One of the many affectations of the political left and the intelligentsia is to disdain crass material things. But it is the increased production of crass material things which has released hundreds of millions of human beings from the curse of grinding poverty and endless toil, and given them longer lives.


British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher gave the best definition of “consensus”: Lack of leadership.


A liberal can be found standing over a dead body with a smoking gun in his hand and the media will remind us that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But the same media have for months been hyping insinuations that Karl Rove is guilty of something he has not even been charged with.


It is usually futile to try to talk facts and analysis to people who are enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their ignorance.


Since neither the creationists nor the evolutionists were there when the world began, why are our schools teaching either set of beliefs, when there are so many hard facts that the schools are failing to teach?


A recent e-mail from a man who says that my writings have changed his mind notes that this has not been all to the good. He says he was perfectly happy as a liberal but now he is frustrated when he hears the kind of nonsense that he used to accept without having to think about it.


Someone once said that the most important knowledge is knowledge of our own ignorance. Our schools are depriving millions of students of that kind of knowledge by promoting “self-esteem” and encouraging them to have opinions on things of which they are grossly ignorant, if not misinformed.


I have long suspected that there is a part of the male brain — perhaps most of it — which automatically shuts off at the sight of a good-looking woman.


Popularity can change very quickly in politics. During the boom times at the end of the 1920s, when Herbert Hoover was President, there were several times as many baby boys named Herbert as there were named Franklin. But just a few years later, after the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression, there were several times as many boys named Franklin as were named Herbert.




Random thoughts (, 000803)


by Thomas Sowell


How can “hate crimes” laws be constitutional, when the 14th Amendment specifies “equal protection of the laws” for all, not special protection for special groups?


Government officials have a lot of nerve to be sounding off about the “greed” of oil companies. The federal government alone gets several times as much in taxes from every gallon of gasoline as oil companies get in profit. But government is never considered greedy, not even when it takes over half the money of some people who have died, instead of letting it go to their children.


While American students go to school almost as many days as students in other countries, the number of hours they spend on core subjects like history, math and science in high school is less than half the hours spent on these subjects in Japan, Germany or France.


Liberals seemed happier about sending Elian Gonzalez back to Cuba than Elian himself seemed, judging from the photographs of him as he got off the plane in Havana.


Supporters of affirmative action tend to think in terms of “the rich” and “the poor.” But the history of the actual consequences of affirmative action indicates that the truly rich and the truly poor are the two groups least affected by it.


Those who have for years been pushing Israel to “trade land for peace” should admit that this has amounted to trading permanent land for temporary peace.


Some people in the media judge a Congress by how much legislation it passes. But we already have too many laws. Some future Congress can make a major contribution to this country by spending its time repealing legislation and impeaching federal judges who legislate from the bench.


They say we old-timers think that only the idols of the past were great. However, despite having recently passed the biblical threescore and ten years, I think Derek Jeeter is the best shortstop the Yankees have ever had, Pete Sampras is the greatest tennis player of all time and Tiger Woods the greatest golfer of all time.


There is nothing egalitarian about lower intellectual standards in our schools. Children from more fortunate homes will get higher standards in those homes. It is the other children who most need some outside source of the things necessary to realize their potential.


The law will not allow you to kill a dog in the way a newborn baby is killed in what is called a “partial birth abortion.” It is not even an abortion, except as a legal technicality, to avoid a murder charge. It is puncturing the brain of a newborn baby while he is not yet completely out of the birth canal.


Both Williams sisters have the potential to go down in history among the greatest tennis players of all time. They would do well to watch how Tiger Woods conducts himself with class. It would also help them to grow up if their loudmouth father grew up first.


Our national problems usually do not cause nearly as much harm as the solutions. World War II films on the history channel show the desperate courage of the men who fought then. What a painful contrast with the cheap cowardice of the politicians who got them into such a mess in the first place.


With bigger baseball players and smaller ballparks, it is not surprising that there are so many home runs nowadays. However, despite baseball scores that look like football scores, that is not the whole story, because there are still pitchers who give up less than two runs per game. But expansion has brought in dozens of new pitchers who are not yet of major league caliber.


We used to have day care centers back in my time. We called them homes.


Many people see huge stakes in this election because the next president — whoever he might be — can nominate enough federal judges and Supreme Court justices to shape the direction of American law for the next generation. He can also either unify or polarize this country by playing or not playing the race card, scaring or not scaring older Americans, or pitting other Americans against each other with demonization campaigns.


When the history of grossness is written, our times may well be called its golden age. If a politician had a coat of arms, it would probably be a weasel on a background of waffles and mush.




Random thoughts (, 001027)


by Thomas Sowell


Sometimes the hardest thing about paying the monthly bills is finding them in the first place, under all the junk mail.


Nobody would put as little thought and effort into buying an automobile as they put into deciding who to elect as President of the United States.


A friend from India told me that a countryman of his said: “I want to go to America. I want to see a country where poor people are fat.”


Our foreign aid may not have helped many Third World countries, but it has probably helped the economy of Switzerland, where many Third World despots keep their own bank accounts.


Dennis Miller is the worst commentator in the long history of Monday Night Football. Of all his tasteless “humor,” the worst was his making a cheap crack about the Statue of Liberty last Monday night, when the game was played in New York.


Chinese proverb: One joy scatters a hundred griefs. Regardless of who wins the next election, Congress should change the dates of the fiscal year to have it begin with the calendar year on January 1st and end on December 31st. When the government’s fiscal year ends only a month before election day, that leads almost inevitably to political maneuvering instead of fiscal responsibility — especially since there are Congressional elections every two years.


Australia does not have as large a population as California, and New Zealand does not have as large a population as New York City. Yankee pitcher Orlando Hernandez is just as much of a man as Fidel Castro. Who then was Castro to tell him where he could or couldn’t live, before El Duque defected from Cuba? And why are people who are so full of “compassion” so little concerned about a whole nation being held prisoner by a dictator?


It has long been said that the President of the United States — whoever he is— is president of all the people. But he is not president of all the fish, reptiles and other supposedly endangered species that are constantly taking precedence over human needs. After all of Al Gore’s “re-inventions” of himself, it would be good to be able to say: “Will the real Al Gore please stand up?” But there may not be any real Al Gore. When you peel away all the layers of an onion, there is nothing left, because the onion just consists of those layers.


Personally, I have nothing against the rich, but I do get tired of hearing about them during election years — as in “tax cuts for the rich.”


Fox News Network has serious and insightful journalists like Brit Hume, Tony Snow and Fred Barnes. Why then do they spoil it by having smart-alecky young newscasters who treat the news like some kind of joke?


Parents who want a sample of the kinds of indoctrination that go on in public schools behind their backs should visit the web site of the Parents’ Rights Coalition: (


Why does the government keep wasting tons of copper producing pennies, when decades of inflation have made them virtually worthless? This is shown by the fact that some stores leave dishes of pennies by the cash register, to help customers make change.


I am the same age as the Empire State Building, but it seems to be more trim and in much better condition.


A statistician referred to home-schooling parents as “conservative nuts” — until he did a study that showed home-schooled children scoring higher on tests than 70 to 80% of public school children.


It is amazing how many of the intelligentsia call it “greed” to want to keep what you have earned, but not greed to want to take away what somebody else has earned, and let politicians use it to buy votes.


Rush Limbaugh makes more serious points while clowning around than a whole page full of New York Times columnists make while being solemn and pompous.


Two of the best introductions to the realities of today’s politics are books by a liberal and a conservative — “The United States of Ambition” by Alan Ehrenhalt and “It’s My Party” by Peter Robinson. The latter is lighter and wittier but both are solid.


We have tears for when we have nothing else.




Random thoughts (, 001221)


by Thomas Sowell


An American flag is more likely to fly on a mobile home than on a mansion.


Someone said that the light at the end of the tunnel could be a freight train heading your way.


A new telephone scam has been reported. Someone phones you, pretending to be someone at the phone company who is conducting “tests” and asks you to touch certain keys on your phone. When you do, that authorizes the other phone to charge calls to your phone. People in jails and prisons have been said to be among the sources of this scam.


The media seem determined to portray George W. Bush as someone who is not very smart. But how many dummies do you know who have piloted jet planes?


As someone who has worked both in private industry and in academia, whenever I hear about academics wanting to teach ethics to people in business, I want to puke.


Big differences that can be worked out are less dangerous than small differences that can’t be.


Too many people in the media seem to think that being objective means criticizing “both sides,” when in fact it means an unbiased search for the truth. You can do objective research on the Nazis and then conclude that they were pretty rotten people.


The strongest argument for socialism is that it sounds good. The strongest argument against socialism is that it doesn’t work. But those who live by words will always have a soft spot in their hearts for socialism because it sounds so good.


Whatever you may think about the death penalty, it has the lowest recidivism rate of any of the ways of fighting crime.


A mother was surprised to hear her son say — disapprovingly — that he knew nothing about his high school math teacher’s personal life. All his other teachers discuss their personal lives in the classroom, so it is the math teacher who seems odd.


We are privileged to live in a time when we could see the greatest tennis player of all time, the greatest golfer of all time and the greatest basketball player of all time. On the other hand, we could also see the worst president of all time [KH: meaning Clinton], so perhaps it all evens out.


An item in the Chronicle of Higher Education shows how far academia has strayed from reality as a result of radical feminist dogma. It says: “Long silenced by our culture, female adolescents are now letting readers in on their inner lives in a number of recent books.” Have you ever known teenage girls to be silenced? The radical feminist movement is a monument to what can be achieved by sheer brass, ruthless intimidation and shameless lies.


Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor gloom of night has stopped me from watching Monday Night Football for more than 20 years. But Dennis Miller’s silly chatter has.


Some people drive through parking lots like they were driving out on a city street. They don’t seem to realize that some little kid can suddenly pop out from between parked cars at any time.


Although it was predicted in this column before the election that things would get “desperate and ugly,” I had no idea that it would get as desperate or as ugly as it did. Anyone who accurately predicted what would happen after the election would have to have had a warped mind and should be rushed to the nearest psychiatric hospital for observation.


If you are making New Year’s resolutions, you might want to include cutting people some slack — starting with yourself.


Conservatives are making a serious mistake when they try to get the public schools to teach abstinence and traditional values. Since the education establishment is firmly on the side of the counter-culture, and there is no realistic way to monitor what they are doing in the classrooms, that isn’t going to work. Instead, the schools should be forced to get out of the business of indoctrinating students or experimenting with their psyches.


This year’s cliffhanger election shows how unreliable statistical projections can be. The same kinds of projections that led the big television networks to give Florida to Vice President Gore and then take it back are used to predict “global warming” and other politicized alarms.


It can’t be the end of the year already. This must be another election-year trick.




Random thoughts (, 010201)


by Thomas Sowell


Merit is its own reward, but it’s also nice to get a pay raise.


The first big Washington scandal of the 20th century was the Teapot Dome scandal of 1921, which led three members of the Harding administration to commit suicide. Today, they would just consult their lawyers and spinmeisters, and then start making the rounds of the talk shows in order to confuse the issues.


If Yogi Berra actually said all the things that have been attributed to him, when did he ever have any time left to play baseball?


Because of the neglect of history in our educational system, most people have no idea how many of the great American fortunes were created by people who were born and raised in worse poverty than the average welfare-recipient today.


There are too many mush heads around these days for the law to continue to require unanimous jury verdicts.


The problem with trying to restore every group to its own historic “homeland” is that so many parts of the earth have been homelands to different groups at different periods of history. New Orleans, for example, has belonged to four different nations that we know about, not counting how often it may have changed hands before Europeans arrived in the hemisphere and began keeping written records.


As I get older, I can remember just as much as ever — though perhaps not as accurately as ever. Chris Matthews of “Hardball” is a throwback to the liberals of a bygone era, when more of them were decent and honorable people. Where were all those people who have been talking about “forgiveness” and “getting this all behind us” when Linda Tripp was fired on the last day of the Clinton administration?


Professional athletes get such huge salaries that fining them for misconduct is less than a wrist slap. For serious offenses, they should be ejected from the game and perhaps suspended from future games.


It is fascinating to watch glib “consumer advocates” on television trying to spin the California electricity crisis as a conspiracy to “profiteer” by the public utilities — which have gone billions of dollars into debt. You don’t need a conspiracy to go broke but you also don’t need to know what you are talking about to be a “consumer advocate.”


When Jennifer Capriati won the Australian Open, it was something that struck a responsive chord in many people because we have all needed a second chance in life at some point or other. But why do sports reporters keep dredging up her past? We have courts to deal with crime and gossip sheets like The National Enquirer to deal with scandals. People who tune in to the Australian Open want to know about tennis.


Anyone who writes about controversial issues should expect to get criticism. But I receive remarkably little criticism for the things said in this column — unless you equate name-calling with criticism.


After eight years of the Clintons, how can so many people be so surprised at his pardoning of a rich fugitive in response to a big-money contributor, at Hillary’s sleazy acceptance of big-money gifts just before being sworn in as senator (when such gifts would become illegal) or at the damage done to White House equipment by departing Clinton aides? The Clintons and those around them have been like this all the way back to their days in Arkansas.


Women’s tennis matches are decided by the winner of the best two out of three sets but men’s grand slam matches are decided by the best three out of five. The problem with five-set matches is that fatigue often reduces the level of play far below the usual level of the players before the match is over. Why watch top players who are playing like local duffers?


A terminally ill elderly woman went to live with her son’s family. The little boy in the family at first objected to having to give up his room for her. But when it was explained to him that the only alternative was to put her in a nursing home, he asked: “What is a nursing home?” Told that a nursing home was like an orphanage for old people, he immediately said, “No way!” and gave up his room. He had spent his earliest years in an orphanage before being adopted.




Random thoughts (, 010308)


by Thomas Sowell


In trying to get away from the pardon scandals, Hillary Clinton has said everything except “Bill who?”


After the tragic death of auto racer Dale Earnhardt, no one suggested banning the sport. Yet that is exactly what would have happened if he had been a boxer who died in the ring. Dangerous activities like sky diving or mountain climbing are never targeted for banning by “safety” advocates who want to impose restrictions or bans on activities that their prejudices or current fads condemn.


Secretary of State Colin Powell should be congratulated for finally saying what other officials should have said long ago: Ease up on sanctions against Iraqi civilians. For far too long, we have had an idiotic, feel-good prohibition against assassinating foreign leaders, but we don’t mind sanctions that increase death rates among civilians. What if we had concentrated during the Gulf War on killing Saddam Hussein? Maybe we would have gotten him — and a lot of other Iraqis would still be alive.


Conservatives and liberals alike who have dealt with Bill Clinton in person have been in awe of how charming he is. But have you ever heard of a con man who was anti-social?


The media continue to take seriously, and provide free publicity for, people who call themselves “consumer advocates” or “environmentalists,” even though there are no qualifications required for these roles. All it takes are a big mouth, a big ego, a disdain for inconvenient facts and an ignorance of economics.


If you had asked me whether singing “Sweet Georgia Brown” in Polish would be funny, I would have said “No.” But, when Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft sang it as a duet in Polish, I laughed so hard that my sides literally hurt. That is why Mel Brooks is a genius of comedy and I am not.


Most of us — if not all of us — are grossly incompetent at other people’s jobs. That is why it is so dangerous to have politicians telling doctors, farmers, bankers, entrepreneurs and others what to do.


The inescapable and brutal political reality is that the Democrats’ only chance of regaining power is to cause some groups of Americans to be hostile, fearful or resentful toward other Americans. That is why they are constantly trying to keep blacks fearful of “racists” everywhere and middle class people resentful of “the rich.” Little do those middle class people know that most of them are going to be among “the rich” at some point in their lives, as “rich” is loosely defined by liberals.


It is amazing how many of the horrors of the 20th century were a result of charismatic quacks misleading millions of people to their own doom. What is even more amazing is that, after a century that saw the likes of Hitler, Lenin and Mao, we still see no need to distrust charisma as a basis for choosing leaders, either in politics or in numerous organizations and movements.


Why are some people so shocked at the idea that campaign contributions bought presidential pardons, when they were not shocked at the idea that illegal campaign contributions from China bought a presidential release of American technology that can enable the Chinese Communists to incinerate American cities with nuclear missiles?


Since USA Today and the Miami Herald have just finished their own Florida recounts and concluded that Bush won, will the Democrats now follow the advice they have given to others in the past: “Get over it” and “Let’s move on”?


When Japan sells us enough cars to buy Rockefeller Center, that is just another even exchange. But accounting rules call it an international trade “deficit” because the cars crossed international borders, while Rockefeller Center stayed put. Yet the media, politicians and the intelligentsia spread alarms because they pay more attention to the word than to the reality.


A joke has it that members of the Clinton administration approach the Pearly Gates to ask Saint Peter to let them into heaven. When he checks his list and can’t find their names, they suggest that he go check with the Almighty, in case there is a later list. After Saint Peter checks and still can’t find their names, he returns to tell them — and then suddenly turns around and runs back to the Almighty. “They’re gone!” Saint Peter says. “The people?” “No. The Pearly Gates!”




Random thoughts (, 010921)


by Thomas Sowell


Will even our current catastrophe shock us into drilling our own oil, instead of relying so heavily on the volatile Middle East — and without wringing our hands over Caribou? Why are Caribou more important than the thousands of other animals that are killed every night on our highways?


Those who disdain wealth as a worthy goal for an individual or a society seem not to realize that wealth is the only thing that can prevent poverty. At the recent conference in Durban, South Africa, the president of Nigeria demanded an apology from Western nations for the slavery of centuries past — even though the continuing slavery of the present in Nigeria was reported in the New York Times of February 2, 1997 — more than a century after slavery ended in the West.


Have you ever known a time when there was so much talk about ethics — or so little practice of it? The great ideological divide is between those who believe that theories should be adjusted to reality and those who believe that reality must be adjusted to fit their theories. Many of the horrors of the 20th century were created by the latter. And such people are still with us, in many movements.


Some people go to desperate lengths to avoid making an estimate. They say that it all depends, that there are many factors, that there are no guarantees, that unforeseen things could happen. Don’t we already know all that? Isn’t that why we call it an estimate, rather than a guaranteed certainty?


Why does everything that the government does become so complicated? Because there are more than 500 members of Congress, each one of them with his or her own pet notions. Many of these notions have to be incorporated into legislation to get a majority in favor of any bill. The result is a complicated monstrosity.


Everyone is supposed to be “non-judgmental” these days. But how can it be wrong to judge, when such a statement is itself a judgment? We have all heard about the “mid-life crisis,” but did you know that there is now a book out titled “Quarterlife Crisis”? It is about how tough it is to turn 25. Apparently everybody has to whine about something.


Any politician who can be elected only by turning Americans against other Americans is too dangerous to be elected.


Pete Sampras can still make the great shots he made at his peak. He just messes up ordinary shots more often than he used to.


When Congressman Gary Condit is attacked by people who defended Bill Clinton, you have to wonder what the difference is. Apparently the difference is that they needed Clinton politically, while Condit is expendable.


Too many people fail to see the fatal difference between having a government create rules that apply to all — “a government of laws and not of men” — and having government officials choose the destinies of individuals and groups, whether through affirmative action, “targeted tax cuts,” or special subsidies or special taxes for those who happen to be in or out of favor in Washington.


No individual and no generation has had enough personal experience to ignore the vast experience of the human race that is called history. Yet most of our schools and colleges today pay little attention to history. And many of our current policies repeat mistakes that were made, time and again, in the past with disastrous results.


Some people seem to think that the answer to all of life’s imperfections is to create a government agency to correct them. If that is your approach, then go straight to totalitarianism. Do not pass “Go.” Do not collect $200.


One of the great cant phrases of our time is “troubled youths.” Many of these young hoodlums are having the time of their lives making trouble for other people.


Anyone looking for a worthy cause to which to contribute money can find one in the Foundation for Families of Late-Talking Children. It is headed by a man who does a lot of work for these children free of charge, Professor Stephen Camarata of Vanderbilt University.


Just what part of “Congress shall make no law” don’t politicians understand? The First Amendment forbids Congress from passing any law that will even “abridge” the freedom of speech. Yet campaign finance reform laws would flat-out forbid certain speech by certain organizations on the eve of elections.




Random thoughts (, 011221)


by Thomas Sowell


Doing the right thing is fun. If nothing else, it surprises people.


It took September 11th to get some people to remember December 7th. An earlier study showed that most students at big name universities like Harvard and Stanford did not know the date of the attack on Pearl Harbor.


You have to have a sense of humor if you follow politics. Otherwise, the sheer fraudulence of it all will get you down.


One of the most important reasons for studying history is that virtually every stupid idea that is in vogue today has been tried before and proved disastrous before, time and again. Do we need to keep repeating the same mistakes forever?


Time really does seem to speed up as you get older. Sometimes it seems as if every other day is the weekend.


The one big advantage of California’s outrageous housing prices is that, if things get really tough, you can always sell your California bungalow, go buy a mansion in some other state, and still have money left over.


When Western countries in the past were as poor as Third World countries are today, these Western countries nevertheless had one big advantage: There was no large and influential class of the intelligentsia to impede their progress with unsubstantiated theories and counterproductive propaganda.


Two things that seldom seem to go together are genius and common sense. When I try to think of people with both, the first name that comes to mind is Milton Friedman. But it is a struggle to try to come up with more names after that.


Politicians who are nailed by their own words often try to evade responsibility by saying that their statements were “taken out of context.” They should then be asked to explain just what those words meant when taken in context.


A successful businessman who graduated from a well-known university that has the usual anti-business bias says: “When called for donations to the undergrad or law school, I politely refuse, using the analogy of asking a Jew to finance the Nazi Ministry of Propaganda.”


People are not stupid. There are just certain things that they do not think about. And if you don’t think about those things, then it doesn’t matter whether you are a genius or a moron.


No one is more determined to maintain an ideological monopoly than those academics who talk most about “diversity” in a physical sense.


The “self-esteem” dogma has triumphed so completely in our educational system that you have all sorts of people spouting off about all sorts of things that they know little or nothing about. Just recently, letters have come to me from people diagnosing individuals they have never laid eyes on — saying that Andrea Yates was insane and that Einstein was autistic — even when there is nothing to indicate that they have any expertise for diagnosing anybody.


Wealth may provoke envy, but it seldom provokes the truly venomous levels of resentment provoked by achievement. There is no surer way for a minority group to become hated than to enter a country as destitute immigrants and then, through long hours of hard work, rise to a level of prosperity above that of the indigenous population. If you are going to travel halfway around the world, you may as well go all the way around the world, since it will take the same amount of time to get back home. And travel from east to west, because that means longer days and fewer of them — more sunshine and smaller hotel bills. Say it ain’t so! If Senator Phil Gramm and House Majority Leader Dick Armey retire from Congress at the end of their current terms, there will not be a single economist left in either House of Congress. The lawyers can then run amok unopposed. The last time the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, the winning pitcher in two of their four victories was Babe Ruth.




Random thoughts (, 020131)


by Thomas Sowell


One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain.


Sometimes it seems as if love songs are being replaced by sex songs.


I am going to stop procrastinating — one of these days.


Why are so many people who had nothing to say about the Soviet gulags now going ballistic because captured terrorists are not being treated like hotel guests? These terrorists are being treated better than they ever treated anyone.


Those who say that all cultures are equal never explain why the results of those cultures are so grossly unequal. When some cultures have achieved much greater prosperity, better health, longer life, more advanced technology, more stable government, and greater personal safety than others, has all this been just coincidence? Moreover, people from other cultures are constantly migrating to these cultures, which fashionable dogmas say are no better than any other.


Everyone is for “due process” in our courts. But the very concept of due process implies that there can be such a thing as undue process. Unfortunately, undue process is also found in our courts — perhaps more often than due process.


The scariest thing about politics today is not any particular policy or leaders, but the utter gullibility with which the public accepts notions for which there is not a speck of evidence, such as the benefits of “diversity,” the dangers of “overpopulation,” and innumerable other fashionable dogmas.


People who are very aware that they have more knowledge than the average person are often very unaware that they do not have one-tenth of the knowledge of all of the average persons put together. In this situation, for the intelligentsia to impose their notions on ordinary people is essentially to impose ignorance on knowledge.


The hallmark of the political left is its offering localized reasons for worldwide evils — “European” imperialism, “capitalist” pollution, “white” racism, and too many evils of “our society” to mention.


Immigration has become one of a growing number of issues that can no longer be discussed rationally, but must be discussed only in pious shibboleths.


Talking heads on TV are asking whom the United States will deal with if Yasser Arafat is no longer recognized as the leader of the Palestinians. That is a problem and a decision for Israel. American intervention in the past has not always made matters better and sometimes seems to have made things worse.


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. That is why the concept of “compassionate conservatism” utterly baffled them, as if there could not possibly be any other way of benefitting the less fortunate.


Watching CNN after watching Fox News Network is like drinking skim milk after you have gotten used to eggnog.


How many liberal lesbian writers have been praised by conservatives? Tammy Bruce may be the only one, because of her book, “The New Thought Police,” which details the tyranny of political correctness.


Whether the subject is art or architecture, forests or foreign policy, the top priority of many of the anointed is being one-up on other people. What is best for the country never seems to mean as much to them as what makes them feel superior to other Americans.




Random thoughts about growing old (, 020308)


by Thomas Sowell


Despite the problems that come with aging, I would not be a teenager again for $1,000 a day plus expenses.


I never really felt old until my younger brother retired. This is the period of life that Disraeli referred to as “anecdotage.”


Nothing is more ridiculous than discounts for senior citizens, when people in their 60s have far more wealth than people in their 30s.


These are my declining years. I decline all sorts of invitations and opportunities.


People who talk about “earlier and simpler times” are usually too young to remember those times — and how complicated they were.


An old body is like an old automobile, where the brakes need repairing today, the steering wheel next month and the transmission after that.


Looking at old photographs makes it hard for me to believe that I was ever that thin physically. And remembering some of the things I did in those days makes it hard to believe that I was ever that thin mentally.


You would think that young people, with decades of life ahead of them, would look farther ahead and plan for the future more so than older people. But it is just the opposite. The young tend to be oriented to right now, while old-timers think about the future of their children and grandchildren, and worry about where the country is heading in the years ahead.


They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But maybe the old dog already knows about tricks that only seem new to the young — and doesn’t think much of those tricks.


When I was young, age 40 seemed so ancient that I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be 40. Now I can barely remember what it was like to be 40. Age gives you an excuse for not being very good at things that you were not very good at when you were young.


An old saying is that we are once a man and twice a child. The difference is that we more or less automatically have parents to look after us the first time, but whether we will have someone to show us the same love and care when we are at the other end of life is another story.


It is amazing — and appalling — how many people who are walking with the elderly try to pull them along faster than they want to go, or perhaps faster than they are able to go. What does this accomplish, except to create needless tension and stress? And how urgent is it to save a few seconds here and there?


Like so many people who are getting on in years, I am fine — so long as I remember that I am not fine.


The old are not really smarter than the young. It is just that we have already made the mistakes that the young are about to make, so we already know that these are mistakes and what the consequences are.


Some people age like fine wine and others just turn into vinegar.


Someone asked a man in his 70s at what age he started to lose interest in women. “I don’t know,” he said. “But when it happens, I will tell you.”


I urge my fellow old-timers to write their memoirs, just so that “revisionist” historians will not be able to get away with lying about the past.


More than once, after I woke up some morning feeling like I was 20 again, I did something that ended up with me on crutches or otherwise being reminded emphatically by my body that I was definitely not 20 again.


Women may lie about their age to other people, but men lie about their age to themselves.


When old-time Brooklyn Dodgers pitching ace Don Newcombe was near the end of his career, someone asked him if he could still throw as hard as ever. “Yes, I throw the ball as hard as ever,” he said, “but it just takes longer to get to the plate.”


Oliver Wendell Holmes said it best: “If I could think that I had sent a spark to those who come after I should be ready to say Goodbye.”




Random thoughts (, 020426)


by Thomas Sowell


A reader writes: “I want to live in the country I grew up in. Where is it?”


If you talk to yourself, at least carry a cell phone, so that people won’t think you are crazy.


There have always been ignorant people, but they haven’t always had college degrees to make them unaware of their ignorance.


Some people imagine that they are well informed because they have memorized a whole galaxy of trendy dogmas and fashionable attitudes.


When you see a teenage girl nowadays, you are also likely to see her midriff.


Now that there have been two episodes in which terrorists on airplanes have been attacked by the passengers, maybe the word will get out that most Americans are not such weak-kneed jackasses as some might think from the statements of some of our intelligentsia and politicians.


When youngsters say that “everybody” does this or that, it probably never occurs to them that what they call “everybody” is probably less than one percent of the human race.


Some full professors could more accurately be described as empty professors.


People who say that Yasser Arafat should have a second chance have a point. It’s just that he had his second chance long ago and they have lost track of how many chances he has had since then.


For “Monday Night Football” fans, the good news is that John Madden will be broadcasting the games next season. The even better news is that Dennis Miller will be gone.


Why is there so much hand-wringing about how to keep track of violent sex offenders after they have been released from prison? If it is so dangerous to release them, then why are they being released, when laws can be rewritten to keep them behind bars?


People who think that they are being “exploited” should ask themselves whether they would be missed if they left, or whether people would say: “Good riddance”?


Putting cameras in the courtrooms is one of those ideas that sounds good — until you see how televising congressional hearings has led to politicians hamming it up for the folks back home, instead of doing the work in a sober, timely and thoughtful way.


An economic forecaster once pointed out that, in ancient times, predictions were based on reading the entrails of sheep. He added, “— and it still takes guts to make forecasts.”


What is scary about our times is how easy it is to get Americans to give up our most basic rights if you just use some pretty words. You can violate the “equal protection of the laws” provided by the 14th Amendment if you use the word “diversity” and you can violate the free speech protections of the First Amendment if you call it “campaign finance reform.”


If Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson were not different colors, you would have to wonder if they were twins separated at birth.


Both the Sicilian mafia and the criminal tongs in China began as movements to defend the oppressed, so perhaps we should not be so painfully surprised that venerable American civil rights organizations have begun to degenerate into extortion. The “slavery reparations” campaign is just one aspect of this and the recently published book “Shakedown” details Jesse Jackson’s exploits in this area.


The Middle East is the only place where the very existence of an existing state is controversial and the acceptance of its existence has to be negotiated.


Capitalism is not an “ism.” It is closer to being the opposite of an “ism,” because it is simply the freedom of ordinary people to make whatever economic transactions they can mutually agree to.


It is fascinating to see businesses accused of “greed” and “profiteering” while they are drowning in red ink.


Sometimes it seems as if I have spent the first half of my life refusing to let white people define me and the second half refusing to let black people define me.




Random thoughts (, 020705)


by Thomas Sowell


A magician was asked what had happened to the lady he used to saw in half in his act. “Oh, she’s retired,” he said. “Now she lives in Chicago — and Denver.”


Despite the rhetoric of the “haves” and the “have-nots” that is so dear to the heart of the political left, a more accurate description of most Americans today would be the “have-lots” and the “have-lots-more.”


Not since the days of Joe Louis has any athlete been so universally admired and respected as Tiger Woods.


More than half of all the tornadoes in the world occur in just one country — the United States. How often have you heard of a tornado striking England, Argentina or China?


Big business executives across the country are coming up with literally hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money to pay for low-income youngsters to attend private schools. But this doesn’t fit the media’s vision, so it isn’t called “compassion” and often it isn’t even considered to be news worth reporting.


The people I feel sorry for are those who do 90% of what it takes to succeed.


E-mail from a reader: “How come we need to understand the anger and resentment of Palestinian Arabs who strap dynamite to themselves and slaughter children eating pizza, but a white American who puts pipe bombs in mailboxes is casually dismissed as crazy?”


It is bad enough that so many people believe things without any evidence. What is worse is that some people have no conception of evidence and regard facts as just someone else’s opinion.


Why can’t baseball use the kinds of machines that are used in tennis matches to tell whether a ball is inside or outside of certain lines? That would put a stop to umpires calling pitches strikes when the ball doesn’t pass over any part of the plate. Why should each umpire have his own personal strike zone?


Trust is one of those things that is much easier to maintain than it is to repair.


I often wonder what happened to the first students I taught at Douglass College nearly 40 years ago, whom I remember more vividly than the much larger numbers of students that I taught at other places since then.


What are terrorists in general, and suicide bombers in particular, saying, except that they want to feel important and that all they have to contribute to the world is death?


It is self-destructive for any society to create a situation where a baby who is born into the world today automatically has pre-existing grievances against another baby born at the same time, because of what their ancestors did centuries ago. It is hard enough to solve our own problems, without trying to solve our ancestors’ problems.


I would love to see Pete Sampras win one more major tournament — and then retire.


Don’t you love it when the intelligentsia condemn the United States for responding “unilaterally” after we are attacked, instead of waiting for the approval of that confusion of voices known as “world opinion”?


I wish that some way could be found to add up all the staggering costs imposed on millions of ordinary people, just so a relative handful of self-righteous environmental cultists can go around feeling puffed up with themselves.


After rioters have been christened “demonstrators” by the media, it was perhaps inevitable that terrorists would be christened “militants.”


Is there some iron law that pitchers throwing to the plate can only be televised from one angle? There are cameras at other places, which can show the pitch from other angles on replays — but not live, for some reason.


The great curse of the 20th century was the inability of decent people to realize that what was unthinkable to them was both thinkable and doable by others — like Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. Are we to wait until Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and we wake up some morning to find a couple of American cities obliterated?




Random thoughts (, 020815)


by Thomas Sowell


Is Charlton Heston a class act or what?


According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, in the year 2000 median household income in the United States reached “the highest level ever recorded” up to that time. This included black and Hispanic incomes which “hit new all-time highs” for these groups. But did you hear this news reported in the media, amid all the gloom and doom?


I am so old that I can remember when other people’s achievements were considered to be an inspiration, rather than a grievance.


Imagine that a genie magically appeared and offered to grant you one wish — and, being a decent sort, you wished that everyone’s income would be doubled. That could bring down on you the wrath of the political left, because it would mean that the gap between the rich and the poor had widened. That is basically their complaint against the American economy.


Since when do the duties of the president of the United States include giving Israel a grade on everything it does?


For years, there have been various proposals for dividing the controversial 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers an enormous amount of territory. My own preference would be to cut each 9th Circuit judge in half, with a few exceptions like Alex Kozinski.


Nothing provokes more angry letters from schoolteachers than saying that most college students who go into teaching are from the bottom half of their class. But author Martin Gross says the bottom third and Professor Diane Ravitch of NYU, the leading historian of American education, says that many are from the bottom quarter.


It is one of the signs of our times that a bill had to be passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush to say that a baby born alive is a person. What else would he be? A salamander? A mosquito? An otter? Still, it was a setback for the pro-abortion crowd, which may be why it was largely ignored in the media.


People who oppose letting workers invest their retirement money in stocks, instead of in Social Security, like to point to such things as the recent plunge in stock prices. But can you name any reputable mutual fund that a worker could have invested in over the past 30 or 40 years and gotten as low a return as from Social Security — even if the worker retired on the day when the stock market reached its lowest point this year?


Anything that is “bipartisan” is almost certain to have mushy reasoning, if it has any reasoning at all.


Even parents who complain about low academic standards in the schools seem not to understand that academic achievement is not the real priority of today’s educators. Classroom brainwashing is the goal, though it is expressed in prettier and more pious words than this.


Would anyone seriously expect to find an American flag flying over the home of any leader of the organization that calls itself “People for the American Way”? The last thing that the left-wingers in that organization want to do is celebrate the American way of life.


There are more people of Irish ancestry in the United States than in Ireland and more Jews than in Israel.


Nobody will understand the hard-core political left who does not understand that their politics are not about other people’s well-being but about their own egos.


Why would anyone think that the way to end terrorism in the Middle East is to reward the terrorism that has already taken place there? Incidentally, when the Arabs controlled the territory that Israel is now being urged to turn over to the PLO as a Palestinian state, the Arabs never even considered doing any such thing.


One undeniable accomplishment of Bill Clinton’s presidency was that it kept Jimmy Carter from being the worst U.S. president in history. However, Carter is still the leading candidate for the title of worst ex-president, as he keeps injecting himself into dicey international situations that are no longer any of his business, while giving aid and comfort to our enemies.




Random thoughts (, 020912)


by Thomas Sowell


Say it ain’t so, Martha. 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.


One of the sure signs of full employment is bad service.


I am feeling healthier than I have in years. It is amazing how a few trips to the emergency room can convince you to get your act together.


Those who are demanding “proof” before the United States launches a pre-emptive strike against Iraq are demanding the impossible. By definition, a pre-emptive strike means that there is no proof of what you are trying to forestall — and that you are not going to wait until there is proof, like a mushroom cloud over some American city.


Do advertisers whose huge ads pop up suddenly and blot out most of the computer screens of people who are using the Internet really believe that this increases the probability that people who have been startled and intruded upon this way will buy their products?


You know you have a lot of junk when there is not enough room to park one car in a three-car garage.


Teachers’ unions often say that teachers deserve higher pay because they are doing an important job. But if you are doing an important job badly, you are doing more harm than if you were doing some minor job badly. Many teachers are overpaid for what they are actually doing, even if someone who did the job right would deserve far higher pay.


When someone is described as “independently wealthy,” I have to wonder if they really are. Some people do not have the courage to be independent, even if they have a million dollars, while others march to their own drummer from the moment when they have enough money to pay the rent a month in advance.


People who speak disdainfully of “menial” jobs probably have no idea how many millionaires and even billionaires began working in such jobs. The political left is so wedded to their assumption that people stay in their “class” that it would never occur to them to check out the hard facts.


Someone once said that many bad policies are just good policies that have been carried too far. For example, we have taken tolerance to such an extreme that we tolerate the immigration into our country of millions of intolerant people who hate millions of Americans who are already here.


Does anyone know how to find an old inspirational essay titled “Don’t die on Third” by sports writer Bert V. Dunne? It inspired me during a grim period in my youth.


It always seems to come as a big surprise to the media when the stock market goes up and down — even though stocks have been going up and down for centuries.


Few things are more cruel than the death of love. The next time somebody talks about how we should be guided by “world opinion,” just remember those Palestinians and Egyptians dancing in the streets after 3,000 Americans were murdered by terrorists. Remember all the young Americans buried under a sea of crosses on the beaches at Normandy because we had to rescue the terribly clever French, who had blundered their way into a war in which they surrendered after less than two months of fighting. Remember all the tinhorn despots and half-baked intellectuals around the world who constitute a large part of what is called “world opinion.”


Despite conservatives’ laments about the overwhelming liberal bias of the media, there are nevertheless more conservative publications than most people can find time to read. These include The Hoover Digest, City Journal, Insight magazine, The Weekly Standard, National Review, The American Spectator, Commentary, Policy Review, The American Enterprise, the Wall Street Journal, the national weekly edition of the Washington Times, and Human Events.




Random thoughts (, 021031)


by Thomas Sowell


People who cannot be bothered to learn both sides of the issues should not bother to vote.


Considering that we all enter the world the same way and leave in the same condition, we spend an awful lot of time in between trying to show that we are so different from other people.


It almost seems as if every time you see a teenage girl these days, you also see her navel.


“Anti-war” protesters seem not to understand that we are at war when others attack us. Our only choice then is whether to pretend that we are not at war, which would guarantee more and worse attacks.


Baseball fans who think that Pete Rose should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, despite having violated the rules, forget that Shoeless Joe Jackson is not in the Hall of Fame — and his lifetime batting average was more than 50 points higher than that of Pete Rose.


What are bond issues on the ballot except taxes on future taxpayers who cannot yet vote? It is taxation without representation.


How did the British survive the nightly bombings of London during World War II without an army of shrinks giving them “grief counseling”? More important, could they have survived if there had been armies of shrinks urging them to wallow in their emotions?


There are people who can neither find happiness in their own lives nor permit those around them to be happy. The best you can do is get such people out of your life.


I will not vote for anyone who talks about the Social Security “trust fund,” much less about preserving it in a “lockbox.” There is no Social Security trust fund — and never has been — except in the sense of clever accounting gimmicks like those used by Enron.


People who mistreat children seem to forget that children grow up — and that the children may not forget.


What is so terrible about “negative advertising” during political campaigns? If a candidate is lying, why shouldn’t those lies be exposed? And why shouldn’t a bad record be an issue?


The spectacular success of some people with no college degree, such as Bill Gates and Rush Limbaugh, may give college education a bad name — justifiably, in some cases.


Every time you watch Congress on C-SPAN, you are seeing millions of dollars worth of free advertising for incumbents, while those same incumbents vote restrictions on their potential rivals’ ability to raise money to pay for advertising, using the pretty phrase “campaign finance reform.”


I will not vote for anyone who talks about “troubled youth,” “open space” or “certified teachers.” Politicians who use these phrases are either confused themselves or are trying to take advantage of other people’s confusion.


People used to take pride in the reliability of their word. As one fellow said, “When I tell you that it’s raining, don’t go lookin’ out the window. Just get your umbrella.”


The first time I flew into London, I was stirred by the thought that, in these skies during World War II, a thousand men of the Royal Air Force saved Western civilization. Today, I wonder how many of our young people have any idea what that was all about, given how little time our schools devote to history, except as a source of grievances, whining and excuses.


The phrase “glass ceiling” is an insult to our intelligence. What does glass mean, except that we cannot see it? In other words, in the absence of evidence, we are expected to go along with what is said because it is said in accusatory and self-righteous tones.


Anyone who is serious about the evils of slavery should read the April 2 issue of Scientific American magazine — which discusses the slavery that is still going on at this very moment in other countries around the world.


It is appalling to hear some of our elected representatives say that we should wait to defend the lives of Americans until we have been given permission to do so by the United Nations. If someone punched you in the mouth, would you ask bystanders what to do or would you hit him back “unilaterally”?




Random thoughts (, 030214)


by Thomas Sowell


Everything is relative. In most of coastal California, Ted Kennedy would be politically middle of the road — and, in San Francisco, right of center.


A lot of what is called “public service” consists of making hoops for other people to jump through.


It is a great career for those who cannot feel fulfilled unless they are telling other people what to do.


The Empire State Building was built in less time than has already been spent debating what to build on the site of the World Trade Center.


One of these days the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals may declare the Constitution unconstitutional.


I hate listening to smoothies who talk about “implementing,” “funding,” and “empowerment.”


Everything depends on what you are used to. There is a story about a man from Los Angeles who went up to a mountaintop, took a deep breath of the clear fresh air and said: “What’s that funny smell?”


The end of the Cold War now reveals that many on the far left who were thought of as pro-Communist were in fact anti-American — as they have remained, even as our enemies have changed.


Trying to explain inequality is like trying to explain why people don’t flap their arms and fly. There was never any reason to expect people to fly and there was never any reason to expect people’s performances to be equal, when there are innumerable influences at work differently for each individual and group.


Much of the agenda of the political left consists of self-dramatization, masquerading as concern for other people or for whales, climate or peace.


There is no such thing as the “best” camera. If I could have only one camera, it would be a Linhof. But if I could have three cameras, none of those three would be a Linhof, because there are other cameras which can do particular things better, even though none can do as many things well as a Linhof.


A district attorney opposes televising trials because of “the pressure the jury feels when there is a camera in the courtroom. All of a sudden ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt’ becomes ‘proof beyond any doubt’” and “the jury feels an added pressure to do what they perceive they ‘should’ do rather than what the evidence and the law require them to do.”


Best talk-show theme song: “Let Freedom Ring” on the Shawn Hannity radio talk show.


Now that various nations in the Middle East have offered at least some cooperation with the American military forces assembling for a possible invasion of Iraq, if the attack is called off and Saddam Hussein survives as dictator, those nations will be in jeopardy of retaliation. More important, the willingness of other nations to stick their necks out to help us in future crises will be in jeopardy. I hate to think that someday Americans will be looking at the ruins of their cities and saying that this happened because their leaders were afraid of the word “unilateral.”


There is no excuse for sending grossly abused children back to their abusive parents, when there are plenty of people who want to adopt a child — and who are being put through the wringer by the same social workers who want to give terrible parents second, third, and fourth chances.


The biggest difference between people is between those who are trying to do the right thing — whether or not they succeed — and those for whom the only question is how much they think they can get away with.


Once I realized how expensive funerals are, I began to exercise and watch my diet.


While discrimination is the pat explanation for differences between blacks and whites, whether these gaps are in income, test scores, or rates of unemployment, infant mortality, or approval of mortgage loan applications. Yet Asian Americans have the same advantage over whites that whites have over blacks — and the pat explanation of discrimination cannot explain that.




Random thoughts (, 030320)


by Thomas Sowell


Never before in history has the word “unilateral” been thrown around so gratuitously when the issue was war. Only in recent years has there been any question that a sovereign nation takes the solemn step of going to war unilaterally. What a farce to have Cameroon or Portugal deciding whether it is OK for the United States to go to war.


Maybe there wouldn’t be so many lawyers suing doctors for malpractice if the lawyers could be sued for legal malpractice for bringing frivolous lawsuits.


I hate it when some stranger phones me and asks who I am, instead of telling me who he is. After all, he is calling me, I am not calling him.


Will the United Nations get into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most times issuing final warnings?


If CBS had had Dan Rather during World War II, instead of Edward R. Murrow, perhaps it could have broadcast an interview with Adolf Hitler, who would have explained how he had been misunderstood and how he and FDR should debate their differences publicly instead of having all those troops landing at Normandy.


The constant whining and complaining of today’s snivel rites “leaders” may be a passing annoyance to some whites but the real — and tragic — victims are those in the younger generation among blacks who buy the idea that the deck is so stacked against them that there is no point doing their best in school or on the job. They will be paying a huge price for that attitude for the rest of their lives.


Why do actors — people whose main talent is faking emotions — think that their opinions should be directing the course of political events in the real world? Yet it is a mistake that they have been making as far back as John Wilkes Booth.


Although rank-and-file terrorists are sent out on suicide missions, the leaders who send them out have been captured alive. I wonder if this will cause some second thoughts — or perhaps first thoughts — among their followers.


Those who are wringing their hands over how the war on terrorism can restrict our freedoms are often the same liberals who favored the loose immigration laws that have put so many terrorists inside our borders, thereby necessitating restrictions on everyone’s freedoms in order to deal with people who should not have been here in the first place.


Much of what is promoted as “critical thinking” in our public schools is in fact uncritical negativism towards the history and institutions of America and an uncritical praise of the cultures of domestic minorities and of foreign countries.


We are all anti-war — and American troops in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf represent the kind of protest that terrorists can understand.


Most people do not realize that Winston Churchill was a pariah in the 1930s, for telling people what they didn’t want to hear — namely that Britain needed to build up its military forces to deal with the threat that Hitler and the Nazis represented. What we are seeing today in the attempts to ridicule or demonize President Bush is nothing new.


The last desperate defense of group preferences and quotas by people who have run out of serious arguments is that there are other kinds of preferences besides racial preferences. The logic of this kind of argument is that nothing should be corrected until everything else is perfect.


Too many critics of missile defense start the argument in the middle, with enemy missiles already in the air. But, if a missile defense system simply creates enough serious doubt in an enemy’s mind as to whether his missiles will get through, then it has done its job.


We can only hope that whoever had the bright idea of dealing with Iraq through the United Nations will be leaving the administration “to pursue other interests,” as they say.


After a cardiologist read me the riot act, I finally got serious about diet and exercise. Now my blood pressure has come down so much that, if some liberals knew about it, their blood pressure might go up.




Random thoughts (, 030411)


by Thomas Sowell


Even though Saddam Hussein’s regime has been toppled, there are still pockets of resistance — not only in Iraq but in Paris, Berkeley, and in the editorial offices of the New York Times. These die-hards may hold out for years.


The many richly deserved tributes to the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan focussed on his rise from a poor shoe-shine boy to the highest pinnacles of government. What also needs to be said is that America is a very fortunate country to be able to tap the brainpower, talents, and insights of people in all walks of life, instead of limiting itself to what is thought and believed by some narrow elite, whether of money, blood, or ideology.


Sometimes life seems like Italian opera music — beautiful but heart-breaking.


It is amazing what complicated lies some people will believe, even when the truth is simple and obvious. Indeed, the truth is often rejected as “simplistic” by those who are dedicated to some complicated lie.


While it was heartening to see Iraqis waving American flags in Baghdad and in Dearborn, Michigan, I have still never seen an American flag on a single home in all my visits to Berkeley.


France has never gotten over the fact that it was once a great power and is now just a great nuisance.


The political left often acts as if it has discovered and exposed the evils of our times and our society, when what they have really done is twisted and distorted the evils of the ages and of the whole human race to make them seem like something peculiar to our times and our society — even when these evils have been far worse elsewhere.


What impressed me most about the American bombardment of Baghdad were not the many huge explosions but the residential neighborhoods that remained unscathed while Iraqi government facilities were devastated.


All of us are ignorant, if not misinformed, on vast numbers of things. What makes experts different is that they dare not admit it. That is also what makes experts dangerous.


Anyone who cannot understand why the United States could not have waited before going into Iraq should read “The Gathering Storm” by Winston Churchill. It is not about Iraq. It is about what happens when you allow a ruthless dictator to keep violating the treaties that were meant to keep his growing power in check.


While it is true that you learn with age, the down side is that what you learn is often what a damn fool you were before.


There has probably never been a war that was so successful on the battlefield and at the same time so criticized in the media. It took years of futility before criticism of the Vietnam War reached the level reached in the first two weeks of success in Iraq.


From all my years of living in New York and following the Yankees religiously, I cannot remember an opening day at Yankee Stadium that was cancelled because of snow. Yet there is not a word out of those who have been hysterical about “global warming.” Incidentally, recent studies indicate that the world was warmer during the Middle Ages — and nothing terrible happened.


As far as the liberal media are concerned, there are only two ways that the police respond to riots — either they let the situation “get out of hand” or they “over-react” and use “excessive force.” Nothing that the cops can do will fall in between, as far as the editorial office heroes are concerned.


Ask anyone who is suffering the agonies of some terrible disease whether he believes that there is such a thing as reality, or whether he thinks it is all just a matter of “perceptions.” The pompous but silly notion that it is all a matter of how you choose to look at things is an indulgence for those who are insulated from suffering, from accountability, and from reality.


Although I seem to be one of the few people around who is not a military expert, I find it hard to believe that the Pentagon’s war strategy went according to plan. Did they really plan to be in control of Baghdad in three weeks?




Random thoughts (, 030610)


by Thomas Sowell


If there was affirmative action in golf, nobody would give Tiger Woods half the credit he gets — and deserves.


Would you prefer to have a “compulsory” health care system imposed on you and your doctor or to have “universal” health care? Or do you realize that they are the same thing in different words?


Name three things coming out of the Middle East today besides oil and terrorism. If you can’t do that, try naming one thing.


If I were to get to heaven, I would probably find an exhausted guardian angel who had been getting me out of trouble all these years.


You can fail to achieve any of the things you planned and still live a happy and fulfilled life, because of opportunities that come along that you never planned for. But these opportunities can be missed if you stick doggedly to your preconceived blueprint.


People have a right to their own cultures — even Americans. Those who come here and say that they cannot follow some of our laws that conflict with their culture are free to leave.


Much of what are called “social problems” consists of the fact that intellectuals have theories that do not fit the real world. From this they conclude that it is the real world which is wrong and needs changing.


Some of the questions on the California High School Exit Exam are the kinds of questions whose answers you would have been expected to know before you got into high school in past generations.


I don’t care whether professional golf is coed or single-sex but I am sick and tired of third party busybodies trying to tell everybody how to run their business or live their lives.


Bob Hope’s 100th birthday recalls a comedy skit from some years ago. The setting is in 1776. Someone tells an eagle that someday he will be the symbol of America. The eagle replies: “You mean I’ll be Bob Hope?”


It is heartbreaking to watch people — especially young people — throw away gold and go for brass.


In baseball, football, and tennis, an official can turn to other officials who may have been in a better position to see something that is disputed. But, in boxing, a foul not seen by the referee is just a foul that one of the fighters gets away with.


Although my wife and I live a modest life, I am amazed at the bills that come in each month — and I can’t help wondering how people who live it up manage to make ends meet.


The political left seems to regard economic policy issues as litmus tests for whether you are a good person, rather than as questions of facts about what works and doesn’t work.


Tony Snow of Fox News seems to be the only one in the media who has pointed out what a farce it is for people to be talking about a tax cut in terms of so many billions of dollars. Government can only change the tax rates. How much the tax revenue will change — and in which direction — will be known only after the fact.


Thank heaven human beings are born with an ability to laugh at absurdity. Otherwise, we might go stark raving mad from all the absurd things we encounter in life.


It is amazing how many people act as if the right to free speech includes the right to be free of criticism for what you say — which means that other people should not have the same right to free speech that they claim for themselves.


Do those “citizen of the world” types who think we should open our borders to free immigration leave their front doors open at night when they go to sleep, with a “Welcome Neighbor” neon sign blinking over it? Yet their neighbors are probably more similar to themselves than many people who are immigrating here from around the world.


Insurance companies are in the business of reducing given risks and transferring them, for a price. Non-profit advocacy groups are in the business of maximizing fears from given risks, in order to attract the donations that keep them going. Yet because the latter’s income is not called by the dreaded word “profit,” they are considered to be doing something more noble.




Random thoughts (, 030727)


by Thomas Sowell


Have you ever heard a single hard fact to back up all the sweeping claims for the benefits of “diversity”?


Some people were upset, not by Dusty Baker’s off-hand remark that races differ in their responses to hot weather, but by the fact that the media would have gone ballistic if some white person had said the same thing. Maybe the way to avoid a “double standard” is to stop going ballistic at anyone’s off-hand remarks.


Gun control laws are like OSHA for criminals. When criminals have guns and their victims don’t, crime becomes a safer occupation. In some countries with strict gun-control laws, burglars enter houses while people are still at home several times as often as that happens in the United States.


Ask ten people what “fairness” means and you can get eleven different definitions. Expecting government to promote “fairness” is just giving politicians more arbitrary power.


On my 73rd birthday, I received the latest issue of my favorite magazine, The Economist — which was celebrating its 160th birthday. It made me feel like a kid.


A reader expressed a sense of futility in writing to public officials and getting back obvious form letters. But the real purpose of writing is not to get a reply but to affect policy. When most of the mail favors one policy over another, politicians pay attention, whether or not they answer everyone individually.


We seem to be getting closer and closer to a situation where nobody is responsible for what they did but we are all responsible for what somebody else did.


Nothing will protect an illogical idea from criticism like calling it “practical.”


As long as human beings are imperfect, there will always be arguments for extending the power of government to deal with these imperfections. The only logical stopping place is totalitarianism — unless we realize that tolerating imperfections is the price of freedom.


A look at the mediocre academic backgrounds of most of those who become public school teachers should make it obvious why they bend over backwards to protect today’s mediocre students from stress or embarrassment, while being bitterly opposed to letting gifted students have their own classes or schools.


Why is the welfare state so successful politically? (1) It is always easy to rob Peter to pay Paul — and later rob Paul to pay Peter, in order to win both votes; (2) it is easy to hide costs and call that “reducing” costs; and (3) the easiest place to hide costs is in the future, which is invisible.


A reader writes: “National tests aren’t going to correct any of the defects in our educational system and here’s why: the assessments do not test students’ knowledge of academic content. Rather, they do what they are intended to do: evaluate the degree of compliance with authorized values, attitudes and beliefs, and pry into children’s personal background.”


The people I feel sorry for are those who insist on continuing to do what they have always done but want the results to be different from what they have always been.


For decades, American governments have tried to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli problem as if it were a labor dispute, with negotiations and concessions. The difference is that employers and employees know that, in the end, they cannot get along without each other, but nothing would please the Palestinians more than getting along without Israel.


Liberals’ attempts to create a left-wing Rush Limbaugh demonstrate their basic misconception of the world. The Rush Limbaugh program was not created by big government, big business, or big media. It was one of those spontaneous things that happens in the real world of individual initiative that liberals are so out of touch with — and so hostile to.


People who complain about a “Eurocentric” view of the world have the most Eurocentric view of human evils. Do they know — or care — that freed blacks had begun to serve in the Congress of the United States while white slaves were still being bought and sold in the Ottoman Empire?




Random thoughts (, 030930)


by Thomas Sowell


If you have a right to respect, that means other people don’t have a right to their own opinions.


My computer operating system is so out of date that people don’t even write viruses for it any more.


If the debate among candidates for governor of California did nothing else, it gave a demonstration of what political “experience” means, as Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante did a smooth, soft-shoe dance away from tough questions. It is “experience” like this that has led to the mess that California is in.


Our children and grandchildren may yet curse the day we began hyping race and ethnicity. There are countries where that has led to slaughters in the streets but you cannot name a country where it has led to greater harmony.


There are basically only two ways of reducing a deficit — cut spending or collect more taxes. When you see liberals in politics and in the media going ballistic about the deficit, you know that they are not thinking about cutting spending.


The most distinctive face on television: Financial analyst Maria Bartiromo. She would be a photographer’s delight and a caricaturist’s dream.


“Injustice in Guantanamo” is the title of a New York Times editorial about prisoners being held at the American naval base there. It is amazing how many liberals who complain about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo have no interest in the treatment of prisoners on the rest of the island, controlled by Castro.


Before joining any movement, you should read “The True Believer” by Eric Hoffer.


Some people refuse to think in terms of incentives. San Francisco leaders are baffled by the fact that they have not reduced the homeless problem despite (!) spending so much money on the homeless. Others are disappointed that they have not reduced suicide bombings in Israel despite (!) having made so many concessions to the Palestinians in response to previous terrorism.


Liberals seem to believe that blacks should be represented proportionally everywhere — except in conservative organizations.


If there is anything worse than outliving your money, it is outliving all your loved ones.


Some of the most popular words and phrases in politics are undefined and undefinable. That is what makes them popular and what makes them politically effective in rallying support. People who mean wholly different things by “fairness” or “social justice” can be brought together by politicians to serve their own ends.


An organization exists to promote some particular principle or to serve some specific purpose or constituency. For an organization to be all-inclusive would be a contradiction in terms.


It is curious to have someone send you a bill with a zero balance. Once I received such a bill, along with a threat to take legal action if I didn’t pay it! The company later explained that it was a computer error.


What the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called “defining deviancy downward” is all too apparent in the choice of words used in the media. Illegal aliens have long since been called “undocumented” immigrants. Rioters have been re-christened “demonstrators.” Now Palestinian terrorists have been redefined as “militants.”


Do people on the left ever wonder why we do not suffer the poverty of India, the oppression of North Korea, the anarchy of Liberia, the slaughters of Rwanda, etc., etc.? Would it ever occur to them that it might have anything to do with those very values and traditions which they are striving so hard to undermine or dismantle?


No matter how old I get or how sophisticated I think I have become, I still find it hard to deal with betrayal.


Are you one of that small number of people who would just as soon let a jury decide the guilt or innocence of Scott Peterson and Kobe Bryant, instead of seeing the media try these cases around the clock, day after day?


I wonder whatever happened to: Raphael Perez, Marjorie Love, “Sergeant Major” Hansberry, and Yolande Brower.




Random thoughts (, 031127)


by Thomas Sowell


Impractical men especially need to get married. The problem is that practical women may have better sense than to marry them.


I hate old has-been hotels, stuffy over their former glory and usually inefficient.


A careful definition of words would destroy half the agenda of the political left and scrutinizing evidence would destroy the other half.


When you see a four-year-old bossing a two-year-old, you are seeing the fundamental problem of the human race — and the reason so many idealistic political movements for a better world have ended in mass-murdering dictatorships. Giving leaders enough power to create “social justice” is giving them enough power to destroy all justice, all freedom, and all human dignity.


Cowards identify themselves by attacking those who cannot fight back. CBS struck a new low in cowardice by producing a dramatization of Ronald Reagan’s career that puts hateful words in his mouth that he never said. Selling it to another channel was another sign of their gutlessness.


As I try to clear out the paper jungle in my office, my wife has suggested using dynamite. But I am saving that as Plan B.


Too many people do not distinguish the vagaries of fate from the sins of man. There are plenty of both but they are fundamentally different — and what can be done about them is very different.


Has the travel channel become the gambling channel?


Do people who react negatively to the word “profits” have any speck of evidence or any hint of logic to support their reaction? Or are they prepared to admit that they have been conditioned to react to sounds, much like Pavlov’s dog?


Recently, as I was driving home in my nine-year-old car, I saw someone in a new Lexus turn into my driveway ahead of me. It turned out to be my assistant, bringing some material from the office. Only in America.


Most people who read “The Communist Manifesto” probably have no idea that it was written by a couple of young men who had never worked a day in their lives, and who nevertheless spoke boldly in the name of “the workers.” Similar offspring of inherited wealth have repeatedly provided the leadership of radical movements, with similar pretenses of speaking for “the people.”


You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing. If you have been living in a world where outcomes are everything, you may have a very hard time understanding bureaucratic thinking or practices.


Can one person make a difference? I hate to think where we would be if James Q. Wilson had not written about crime or if Milton Friedman had not written about markets, much less where we would be if Winston Churchill had not been prime minister when Britain faced seemingly hopeless odds against the Nazis.


Some people believe in limited government as a principle. Others see limited government as simply a fact — that there are only a limited number of things that government can do more effectively than individuals or other organizations can do.


How anyone can argue in favor of being non-judgmental is beyond me. To say that being non-judgmental is better than being judgmental is itself a judgment, and therefore a violation of the principle.


The death penalty for the D.C. sniper was said to be because he “showed no remorse.” When the law gives a price list for committing various crimes, why should there be a discount for acting ability?


One of the reasons psychology is so popular on the left may be that it enables them to do an end run around facts and logic, and attribute other people’s disagreements with them to unworthy motives or irrational drives.


As a rule of thumb, Congressional legislation that is bipartisan is usually twice as bad as legislation that is partisan.


Whenever people talk glibly of a need to achieve educational “excellence,” I think of what an improvement it would be if our public schools could just achieve mediocrity.




Random thoughts (, 040114)


by Thomas Sowell


Some people’s jobs will allow them to be important only by being a pain.


Politics is the art of making your selfish desires seem like the national interest.


One of the people I am glad I trusted is someone who got angry and told me off. The people to beware of are those who hide behind a smile and wait for a chance to put a knife in your back. If you surround yourself with yes-men, you are asking for it.


The distinguished British magazine The Economist calls San Francisco: “A place in America where the only challenge to the left is from further left.”


President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office saying, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” The economic history of the 1930s shows that we had nothing to fear but FDR himself. (Those who doubt this should read “FDR’s Folly” by Jim Powell).


If navel-gazing, hand-wringing or self-dramatization helped with racial issues, we would have achieved Utopia long ago.


In the midst of California’s big budget deficit crisis comes a local announcement of various government goodies for an upscale community where the average home price is more than half a million dollars. It offers various subsidized programs for everything from tennis to ice skating and an adult softball league.


As a black man, I am offended when white people take the likes of Al Sharpton seriously — or pretend to.


Just as any village idiot can destroy a priceless Ming vase, so the shallow and fad-ridden people in our public schools can undermine and ultimately destroy a civilization that took centuries of effort and sacrifice to create and maintain.


Those who want to take our money and gain power over us have discovered the magic formula: Get us envious or angry at others and we will surrender, in installments, not only our money but our freedom. The most successful dictators of the 20th century — Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao — all used this formula and now class warfare politicians here are doing the same.


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


Let’s face it. Most of us are not very original. Virtually every stupid idea in vogue today was thought of by somebody in the past — and has led to disaster, again and again. That is why it is dangerous to neglect the study of history, so that we have to keep on learning what is wrong with clever ideas the hard way.


People sometimes ask me what is my best book. Intellectually, either “Say’s Law” or “A Conflict of Visions.” But, as something useful to other people, “Late-Talking Children” or “Basic Economics.”


It may be expecting too much to expect most intellectuals to have common sense, when their whole life is based on their being uncommon — that is, saying things that are different from what everyone else is saying. There is only so much genuine originality in anyone. After that, being uncommon means indulging in pointless eccentricities or clever attempts to mock or shock.


Can’t liberals afford arches? All sorts of people are referred to as arch-conservatives but almost never do you hear anyone referred to as an arch-liberal.


At one time, I could tear a Washington phone book in half. Not only was I a lot younger, the Washington phone book was a lot smaller.


This is an age when people who are contributing nothing to society gain fame and fortune by denouncing those who are contributing something, because those who are contributing something are not doing so the way idle on-lookers would wish, or in a way that those ignorant of the process would consider right.


What is called an educated person is often someone who has had a dangerously superficial exposure to a wide spectrum of subjects.


One of the strongest arguments for the death penalty is that it means what it says — unlike “life” sentences that can mean that the criminal will be back on the streets after a few years behind bars. Even “life without the possibility of parole” does not mean life without the possibility of escaping or without the possibility of electing a liberal governor who will set murderers free.




Random thoughts (, 040225)


by Thomas Sowell


People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.


My New Year’s resolution is to stop trying to reason with unreasonable people. This should reduce my correspondence considerably.


Benedict Arnold was a war hero, wounded in battle — before he turned against his country. Hitler was likewise a decorated and wounded veteran of the First World War. Being a war hero is not a lifetime “get out of jail free” card, exempting you from responsibility for what you do thereafter.


E-mail from the mother of a late-talking child: “We didn’t know Ryan could read letters and numbers until one day when he was two-and-a-half years old and I held up a number 9 and asked him what it was. He turned his back to me, bent over, looked between his legs and said, ‘6.’ Then he stood up, faced me and said, ‘9’!”


Activism is a way for useless people to feel important, even if the consequences of their activism are counterproductive for those they claim to be helping and damaging to the fabric of society as a whole.


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 “universal health care.”


When the president suggested sending a man to Mars, do you suppose he had Paul O’Neill in mind?


Let me seize a rare opportunity to recommend a book written by New York Times reporters: “Thunder from the East” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It is a very readable, enlightening and insightful account of life in various Asian countries, blending the factual, the personal, the historical and the cultural.


People who defended a draft dodger running for president a dozen years ago are now trying to make an issue out of President Bush’s National Guard service. People who have been saying that everyone is “innocent until proven guilty” are now saying that whatever information is released about Mr. Bush’s service “still leaves questions unanswered.” The Encyclopedia Britannica leaves questions unanswered!


Whenever I am struggling to find space to put more research material into my 10 filing cabinets or to put more books into my 20 bookcases, I think of those irate readers who write in to say that I just make things up when I write something that conflicts with their beliefs. Wouldn’t life be easier if that were true?


There are few talents more richly rewarded with both wealth and power, in countries around the world, than the ability to convince backward people that their problems are caused by other people who are more advanced.


Heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis’ retirement is as welcome as it is rare. In other sports, playing too long risks only embarrassment. But in boxing it risks damage to the brain.


No matter how much people on the left talk about compassion, they have no compassion for the taxpayers.


I have a terrible feeling that mush-headed judges are going to let so many people get away with so much for so long that we may eventually see the return of vigilante justice. Fortunately, I am old enough that I will probably be spared seeing it happen.


Intellectuals may like to think of themselves as people who “speak truth to power” but too often they are people who speak lies to gain power.


Conservatives who despair should read an article titled “We’re Not Losing the Culture Wars Anymore” in the Autumn 2003 issue of City Journal.


Here is a verse titled “Talk Show Host”: “When he speaks, it is not shyly. His words just seem to billow wryly.”


To liberals, “compassion” means giving less productive people the fruits of the efforts of more productive people. But real compassion means enabling less productive people to become more productive themselves. That way, the poor have not only more material things but also more self-respect, as well as more respect from others, and the society as a whole has a higher standard of living and less internal strife.




Random thoughts (, 040325)


by Thomas Sowell


The old adage about giving a man a fish versus teaching him 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.”


It is almost impossible to go to a shopping mall these days without seeing some teenage girl’s navel. There was a time when a guy was not likely to see a girl’s navel except on some more memorable occasion than a visit to a mall.


Voters in the Democratic primaries in different states have split various ways for Kerry, Edwards, Dean, etc. But, in the part of California where I live, none of these candidates was far enough to the left for local Democratic voters. All the signs I saw in my neighborhood were for Kucinich.


For baseball fans, the good news is that the 2004 Baseball Encyclopedia is out. The bad news is that it lists Grover Cleveland Alexander as having pitched more shutouts in his career than any other pitcher, with 90 — even though their own statistics on Walter Johnson’s career lists him as pitching 110 shutouts.


Some California legislators have proposed lowering the voting age to 14 — as if California politics are not immature enough already.


People who send me letters or e-mails containing belligerent personal attacks probably have no idea how reassuring their messages are, for they show that critics seldom have any rational arguments to offer.


Many people who are for stricter government-imposed “fuel efficiency” standards for cars are adamantly against drilling for oil in Alaska. This means that avoiding inconvenience to some caribou trumps the loss of human lives when people are forced to drive flimsier cars, so that the lighter weight will lead to more miles per gallon.


Some seem to think it is wonderful when super-rich people say that high taxes are not so bad. True, taxes are not so bad if you already have more money than you can spend in your lifetime, especially if you inherited it. But most people had to work for what they have and have things that they want to spend it on, rather than have politicians grab it to use to buy votes.


The idea of providing black students with “role models” is counterproductive because it insinuates the notion that you can be inspired only by people who look like you. How in the world did the Nisei generation of Japanese American children ever learn, when their fathers were mostly farmers and these children seldom, if ever, saw a Japanese American teacher, much less Japanese American engineers, scientists or other professionals in fields in which these children went on to excel?


My weight is 15 pounds lighter than last year this time. That’s a net loss of 15 pounds. Altogether, I must have lost between 50 and 100 pounds going up and down during the course of the year. My diet can be summarized by saying: “If it’s edible, I am not supposed to eat it.”


Considering how often throughout history even intelligent people have been proved to be wrong, it is amazing that there are still people who are convinced that the only reason anyone could possibly say something different from what they believe is stupidity or dishonesty.


The fraudulence of the left’s concern about poverty is exposed by their utter lack of interest in ways of increasing the nation’s wealth. Wealth is the only thing that can cure poverty. The reason there is less poverty today is not because the poor got a bigger slice of the pie but because the whole pie got a lot bigger — no thanks to the left.


Being smart is what keeps some people from being intelligent.


I don’t want to give false hope to anyone with medical problems. But I remember a doctor telling me, after the end of my finger had been smashed by a powerful machine and looked like hamburger: “I will try to save your finger but you should never expect to see a fingernail there again.” Six months later, a fingernail began to grow back.




Random thoughts (, 040415)


by Thomas Sowell


A reader has suggested that elections be held on April 16th — the day after we pay our income taxes. That is one of the few things that might discourage politicians from being big spenders.


Just before France surrendered to the invading Nazi armies in 1940, French Premier Paul Reynaud broadcast an appeal to America — which was not in the war at that time — to send planes and tanks to enable France to fight on. He didn’t ask that we consult other countries or go to the League of Nations. He wanted unilateral American help.


The latest Census data (P60-221, for you skeptics) shows that in 2002 the average white household had an income of just under $47,000, while the average Asian American household had an income of just over $52,600. Does that prove discrimination against whites?


Florida is one of the few states in which felons are banned from voting for life. However, felons in that state are appealing to be allowed to vote — and Florida Democrats are supporting their appeal. If enough felons are allowed to vote and enough military absentee ballots are prevented from being counted, the Democrats might carry Florida this time.


Although it has long been dogma on the political left that the death penalty does not deter, statistical studies have shown the opposite. One of the most recent studies appeared in the October 2003 issue of the Journal of Law & Economics, indicating that there are several murders deterred for every execution.


The older I get, the more I realize that arguing on the basis of facts and logic only gets you labeled as someone who is out of step with the times, if not lacking in compassion.


People who have no idea that Africans enslaved Europeans, just as Europeans enslaved Africans, should read “Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters” by Professor Robert C. Davis of Ohio State University. For personal accounts of white Americans enslaved by pirates in North Africa, read “White Slaves, African Masters,” edited by Paul Baepler of the University of Minnesota. The Marine anthem says “to the shores of Tripoli” because Marines were in a naval force sent to rescue Americans from bondage.


Judges should ask themselves: Are we turning the law into a trap for honest people and a bonanza for charlatans?


As someone who gets a headache from being around people who are smoking, I still do not see the banning of smoking on California beaches as anything more than the totalitarian mindset of the left.


Adolescence is a relatively recent thing in human history — a period of years between the constraints of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. This irresponsible period of adolescence is artificially extended by long years of education, much of it wasted on frivolities. Tenure extends adolescence even further for teachers and professors.


Many disastrous mistakes, in both public and private life, are not due to people thinking stupidly but to their not bothering to think at all. If you don’t stop and think, then it doesn’t matter whether you are a genius or a moron.


I am still trying to figure out how I am any worse off if Rush Limbaugh takes painkillers or Martha Stewart gets an inside tip.


It is truly a triumph of rhetoric over reality when people can believe that going into politics is “public service,” but that producing food, shelter, transportation, or medical care is not. In California, producing shelter gets you condemned as a “developer” — especially by those in “public service.”


There is a difference between the “Baseball Encyclopedia” and the “Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball.” One difference is that the former lists Grover Cleveland Alexander as number one in lifetime shutouts with 90, while the latter — accurately — lists Walter Johnson as number one with 110.


It is painful to watch Serena Williams dressing like a street walker. The Williams sisters are going to go down in tennis history and you don’t want to be remembered looking cheap. You certainly wouldn’t want your grandchildren seeing you looking that way.




Random thoughts (, 040505)


by Thomas Sowell


Australian economist Wolfgang Kasper has figured out the day on which the average citizen has earned money enough to pay his taxes, so that he can then begin earning money for himself instead of for the government. For Singapore, that date is March 31st, for the United States April 21st, for Germany July 1st and for Sweden August 5th.


Jay Leno says that, if John Kerry is elected, he will become the first President who can deliver both the State of the Union address and the rebuttal.


The next time you hear an alarming speech about “global warming” on Earth Day, just remember that the first Earth Day featured alarms about the danger of a new ice age.


Too often what are called “educated” people are simply people who have been sheltered from reality for years in ivy-covered buildings. Those whose whole careers have been spent in ivy-covered buildings, insulated by tenure, can remain adolescents on into their golden retirement years.


Just as members of American teachers’ unions often send their own children to private schools, so unionized workers at government-run hospitals in Britain have insurance that allows them to go to private hospitals. In both cases, those on the inside realize how bad these institutions are, regardless of what they say to those on the outside.


California is where people go ballistic over having to spend a few dollars to use ATM machines, but have no problem with having to pay inflated home prices that are more than ten times what it costs to build a home, because of innumerable government restrictions that cause land prices to skyrocket.


Some ideas sound so plausible that they can fail nine times in a row and still be believed the tenth time. Other ideas sound so implausible that they can succeed nine times in a row and still not be believed the tenth time. Government controls in the economy are among the first kinds of ideas and the operation of a free market is among the second kind.


People who oppose the death penalty like to flatter themselves that they are taking a moral stance. But, since empirical studies show that executions do deter murders, contrary to liberal dogma, there is nothing moral about sacrificing the lives of more murder victims because of your own squeamishness.


It is a little much when people who are doing nothing for the poor, either here or in the Third World, complain loudly that others are not doing enough — especially when those others are providing the poor with jobs and their communities with taxes.


During a phone conversation, I mentioned to my brother in Ohio that all the posters in my neighborhood during the Democratic Party primaries were for Dennis Kucinich. He burst out laughing and said that there were no Kucinich posters where he lived. Kucinich used to be mayor of Cleveland, where he was a disaster.


It is amazing how many people seem to think that the government exists to turn their prejudices into laws.


One of the sad signs of our times are the twisted metal “sculptures” put in front of public buildings at the taxpayers’ expense — obviously never intended to please the public, and in fact constituting a thumbing of the artist’s nose at the public.


Recently I learned of yet another boy whose parents had once been urged to put him into a class for retarded children, and who now — years later — has done so well in school that he is being assigned to a class for very bright children.


“Tell all” autobiographies sometimes tell more than all.


The easiest way to get people to accept nonsense — and even to sacrifice themselves for it — is to flatter their egos. Hitler called Germans a “master race” and made them virtually his slaves. Race hustlers today likewise salve the egos of those blacks who follow them and sacrifice their interests just as ruthlessly.


Under the terrible stresses of war, there are some in every country who commit atrocities. The difference is that Americans are upset, ashamed, or angry when their troops do it, while people in some Middle Eastern countries danced in the streets on 9/11 and when the bodies of dead American civilians were dragged through the streets in Iraq.




Random thoughts (, 040624)


by Thomas Sowell


The best thing about buying a house is that it puts an end to the exhausting process of house-hunting.


Although Ronald Reagan was the only actor to become President, he was one of the few politicians who was not acting.


Do the people who make computerized products with a zillion features ever stop to consider whether the feature that many people want most is uncomplicated use?


A recently reprinted memoir by Frederick Douglass has footnotes explaining what words like “arraigned,” “curried” and “exculpate” meant, and explaining who Job was. In other words, this man who was born a slave and never went to school educated himself to the point where his words now have to be explained to today’s expensively under-educated generation.


Too many in the media act as if decency is a violation of the First Amendment.


If the same number of people who have been killed in terrorist attacks in Iraq over the past year had been killed on the battlefield in one month, it would not have been nearly as big a news story in the media. Terrorists get more bang for the buck when papers like the New York Times make each individual murder front page news, day after day.


People sometimes ask if I have tried to convince black “leaders” to take a different view on racial issues. Of course not. I wouldn’t spend my time trying to persuade the mafia to give up crime. Why should I spend time trying to convince race hustlers to give up victimhood? It’s their bread and butter.


Egalitarians create the most dangerous inequality of all — inequality of power. Allowing politicians to determine what all other human beings will be allowed to earn is one of the most reckless gambles imaginable. Like the income tax, it may start off being applied only to the rich but it will inevitably reach us all.


To too many teachers, social workers and others in occupations with pretensions of being “professional,” what being a professional means is not having to listen to common sense from ordinary people, much less develop any of their own.


Great Predictions Department: “I do not mind saying I think they are taking a gamble.” That was Red Sox owner Harry Frazee after selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees.


The same people who were urging us to “get over it” and “move on” during the Clinton scandals have themselves still not gotten over the presidential election four years ago. They are still bitter that the U.S. Supreme Court would not allow the Florida Supreme Court to illegally interfere with the election process.


Those who are preoccupied with “making a statement” usually don’t have any statements worth making.


Why can’t anyone get the University of California system or the University of Texas system to reveal the graduation rates of black students, now that affirmative action has been ended in these institutions? Are they afraid the statistics would show an increased rate of graduation, as critics of affirmative action have long predicted?


Before women’s fashions began to feature exposed navels, I had no idea how many gals had unattractive midriffs.


Everybody is an environmentalist in the sense of not wanting to breathe polluted air or drink polluted water. But in practice the term has come to refer to a pagan nature worship cult that readily sacrifices other human beings on the altar to their dogmas.


Of all the theories that persist despite tons of hard evidence against them, the champion is the theory of “overpopulation.” The evidence was against it in Malthus’ time and has been for two centuries since then. The next time someone tries to sell overpopulation hysteria, ask them to name just one country that had a higher standard of living when its population was half of what it is today.


I have always been offended by the song that says, “Everything is beautiful in its own way.” If everything is beautiful, then the word “beautiful” has no meaning. If everything were purple, there would be no word “purple” in the language because it would not distinguish one thing from another.




Random thoughts (, 040812)


by Thomas Sowell


I don’t even like campaign oratory that I agree with.


Alaska is much larger than France and Germany — combined. Yet its population is less than one-tenth that of New York City. Keep that in mind the next time you hear some environmentalist hysteria about the danger of “spoiling” Alaska by drilling for oil in an area smaller than Dulles Airport.


Of all ignorance, the ignorance of the educated is the most dangerous. Not only are educated people likely to have more influence, they are the last people to suspect that they don’t know what they are talking about when they go outside their narrow fields.


Prosecutors in the Scott Peterson murder trial look like they could end up creating a worst case scenario, with jurors (and the public) believing that Scott Peterson is guilty — but not beyond a reasonable doubt.


If walking is good for your health, then Barry Bonds must be the healthiest ballplayer of all time.


The media often mention “ultra-conservatives” but never “ultra-liberals.” Have ultra-liberals become extinct, gotten lost, or met with foul play? We cannot ignore the fate of fellow human beings, even if we differ with them politically. At the very least, we can report them as missing persons.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has been called “Stalin lite.”


One of the many problems with envy is that you have no real way of knowing that someone is more fortunate than you until you are both at the end of your lives — and then it is too late.


If the continuing carnage in Iraq accomplishes nothing else, it should silence the “national greatness” bunch who have been pushing the idea that we should be creating democracies around the world.


Bad credit affects many things, including your chances of getting a job that requires responsibility. On the other hand, if your credit is too good, you get inundated with junk mail.


People do not become either “brilliant” or “stupid” just because the media keep describing them that way. The high correlation between people’s supposed brilliance or stupidity and their agreement or disagreement with liberal ideology should warn us against taking such characterizations seriously.


Before this year, had you ever heard anyone claim that four months in combat makes someone qualified for four years as President of the United States — with no questions asked about what they did in the intervening decades?


The harm that divorce does to children is not limited to the children of parents who get divorced. Children whose parents never divorce nevertheless see their friends’ and classmates’ parents getting divorced and have something to worry about whenever their own parents have a disagreement.


Both egalitarians and those who think they have a blanket superiority to the rest of us have missed the point. We are all superior to each other — and are all inferior to each other. It all depends on when and what. The economic disasters of socialism and communism come from assuming a blanket superiority of those who want to run a whole economy.


If there is anything easier than being a Monday morning quarterback, it is promising to do great things in the future. Yet these two themes constitute most of Senator Kerry’s campaign.


People used to say, “Ignorance is no excuse.” Today, ignorance is no problem. Our schools promote so much self-esteem that people confidently spout off about all sorts of things that they know nothing about.


Why would anyone buy anything from a company that is inconsiderate enough to plant pop-up ads in their computer? Anything these ads are selling can be bought from somebody else.


It is a shame that the broadcast networks did not provide gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Democratic convention, the way C-SPAN did. If the public had seen the parade of weirdos and hustlers on stage, it would have given a far clearer picture of the Democratic Party than any of the party’s official pronouncements gave.




Random thoughts (, 041206)


by Thomas Sowell


The very people who were telling us to “get over it” and “move on” during the Clinton scandals of the 1990s have been completely unable to get over the 2004 elections — and some of them haven’t even gotten over the 2000 elections yet.


A church in Monterrey, Mexico, has installed equipment that jams cell phone calls, so that church services will not be disturbed by phones ringing. This equipment should be installed in every school, restaurant, auditorium, etc. Incidentally, the equipment used by this church was manufactured in Israel. Let’s hear it for interfaith cooperation and the Judaeo-Christian tradition.


Anyone who grew up in the South is bound to have heard the phrase “poor white trash.” Teresa Heinz Kerry has given us a new category — rich white trash.


During his long tenure as NBC News anchorman, Tom Brokaw took that program from last place among the big three broadcast networks to first place. But he had more viewers when he was in last place, more than 20 years ago, than he had in first place this year. That is because fewer people now watch NBC, ABC, or CBS News. Good!


Imagine that everyone in the older age brackets had to write two books — “Smart Things I Have Done in My Life” and “Dumb Things I Have Done in My Life.” Be frank. Which book do you think would be bigger? Even some of the smart things we did were a result of having done dumb things before and suffered the consequences.


If the next time a President of the United States sees a mortal danger to this country looming on the horizon, he decides to wait for iron-clad proof in order to avoid political critics, we can be in truly big trouble.


A couple of readers in Michigan ask: Since death is defined by the cessation of brain waves, why shouldn’t life be defined by the beginning of brain waves?


I am so old that I can remember when we called illegal aliens illegal aliens, when people paid their own medical bills, and when New Yorker cartoons were funny.


It is fascinating to watch politicians come up with “solutions” to problems that are a direct result of their previous solutions. In many cases, the most efficient thing to do would be to repeal their previous solution and stop being so gung-ho for creating new solutions in the future. But, politically, that is the last thing they will do.


If people are free to do as they wish, they are almost certain not to do as we wish. That is why Utopian planners end up as despots, whether at the national level or at the level of the local “redevelopment” agency.


Why are we spending the taxpayers’ money to allow ex-Presidents to build monuments to themselves? Whatever the historical value of material stored in Presidential Libraries, that same material can be stored in the National Archives, so that people doing research on former Presidents can go to one place, instead of having to run all over the country.


Fears that the Iraq war would be seen in the Middle East as a clash between Islam and the West are being blunted to some extent by the actions of the terrorists themselves, who are killing far more Moslems than they are killing Americans or other members of the military coalition.


People who believe in judicial activism often cite “good” policies imposed by judges and “bad” policies created by elected officials. But you could just as easily cite the reverse. It was the Supreme Court which enhanced the rights of slaveowners in the Dred Scott case and it was elected officials — the President and Congress — who abolished slavery.


If we become a people who are willing to give up our money and our freedom in exchange for rhetoric and promises, then nothing can save us.


It is amazing how many people think that they can answer an argument by attributing bad motives to those who disagree with them. Using this kind of reasoning, you can believe or not believe anything about anything, without having to bother to deal with facts or logic.




Random thoughts (, 050222)


by Thomas Sowell


How many other species’ members kill each other to the same extent as human beings?


How can you be an “insurgent” in someone else’s country? Yet despite the fact that the wave of terrorism in Iraq is led by an outside terrorist who is murdering Iraqis, our media still calls his terror campaign an “insurgency.”


It is amazing how many people who phone ask to know who you are instead of telling you who they are.


Raising Social Security taxes today will not leave a dime more to pay pensions to future retirees. Right now there is more money coming into the system than is going out — and the difference gets spent on other things. Higher taxes now would mean a bigger excess to be spent on other things, leaving nothing more for the future.


Time and again, over the centuries, price controls have produced three things: shortages, quality deterioration and black markets. Why would anyone want any of those things with pharmaceutical drugs?


What “eminent domain” laws mean in practice is that politicians have a right to seize your property and turn it over to someone else, in order to gain campaign contributions and win votes.


Don’t you get tired of seeing so many “non-conformists” with the same non-conformist look?


Everyone is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty — in a court of law. But we cannot just mindlessly repeat words outside the context in which they apply. If you discovered that your spouse had been secretly checking into motels with someone else, would you presume innocence until proven guilty?


It is amazing how many people think that the government’s role is to give them what they want by overriding what other people want.


Automobiles are getting to look so much alike that it is hard to tell some cars apart, even when they are made by different manufacturers or even made in different countries. Recently, I was embarrassed to realize that I was trying to get into someone else’s German-made car on a parking lot, thinking it was my own Japanese-made car.


In honor of George Washington’s birthday, you might want to read an excellent little book about his life. It is titled “Founding Father” by Richard Brookhiser.


Some words that are said cannot be unsaid. The most you can do is avoid saying them in the first place.


A check of official records shows that my property line extends farther than I thought — but laws prevent me from using that additional land. However, I can probably be sued if anyone gets injured while trespassing on it. In other words, I am worse off for owning more land than I thought I had.


Sign on a monument to people who served in the military: “All gave some. Some gave all.”


People who look at the Islamic world of the Middle East and ask, “Why do they hate us?” may be surprised to discover that such hatred goes back long before the Bush administration or even the founding of Israel in 1947. Eminent scholar Bernard Lewis has written a very readable little book titled “What Went Wrong?” that traces the internal problems of that region, which led to such hatred and fanaticism.


If sanity ever returns to our society and we stop taking pretentious elites seriously, one of the signs will be that the public will force the removal of those ugly pieces of twisted metal that are called “art” in front of government building.


If the government gave a $5,000 subsidy to anyone who buys an automobile, do you doubt that the price of automobiles would go up — perhaps by $5,000? Why then does no one see any connection between government subsidies to college students and rising tuition?


People who oppose the privatization of Social Security call it “a risky scheme.” But is anything more risky than turning money over to politicians and hoping that they won’t spend it before you retire? They have been spending the “trust fund” for decades.




Random thoughts (, 050920)


by Thomas Sowell


Different people have different ideas about humility. One man said: “I don’t think I’m half as good as I know I really am.”


What can we be certain of from history? That human beings have been wrong innumerable times, by vast amounts, and with catastrophic results. Yet today there are still people who think that anyone who disagrees with them must be either bad or not know what he is talking about.


Each day, as I take various pills, I realize that without those pills I might not be alive — and, if I were, life would not be worth living. Yet those who produce these medications are under constant attack from people who produce nothing.


Students can graduate from even the most prestigious colleges and universities wholly unaware that there are not simply different opinions about particular issues but a whole comprehensive framework of ideas and analysis through which those issues can be seen in a way that leads to very different conclusions from the ones their professors have taught or insinuated.


Do the people who are making so much noise about the difficulties of creating a constitution in Iraq have any awareness that it was 13 years after the Declaration of Independence before the Constitution of the United States was created?


When Ronald Reagan said that the government was spending money like a drunken sailor, he apologized to the sailors, who were after all spending their own money.


Sometimes marriages break up, not because there are any big problems, but because every little problem becomes a confrontation and an impasse.


Not only does the passage of time produce knowledge, it also produces ignorance. You would have to be about 50 years old to remember what the situation was like before Roe v. Wade. As the passage of time removes people with first-hand knowledge of an earlier era, they are replaced by people ignorant of those times and therefore easy targets for demagogues.


In this era of political correctness, some people seem unaware that being squeamish about words can mean being blind to realities.


One of the consequences of such notions as “entitlements” is that people who have contributed nothing to society feel that society owes them something, apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence.


Sports are the reason I am out of shape. I watch them all on TV.


A husband should not teach his wife to drive and a wife should not teach her husband to drive. Driving lessons are a lot cheaper than a divorce.


E-mail from a reader: “Here is Washington, we are looking at another round of teacher strikes because they want us to pay them more. And the literature they give us explaining their views contains so many errors in grammar and spelling that it really makes you wonder why we pay them at all.”


I hate having some recorded voice telling me how much my phone call is valued, while they send me through a maze of numbers to push, and keep me waiting forever, before I can reach a human being.


It is a shame that ancient history is seldom taught in our schools. Finding out that people thousands of years ago were basically pretty much the way they are today — people of every race, color, creed, national origin, political ideology and sexual orientation — would reduce our chances of having Utopian hopes for big changes any time soon.


Is there a music video of “The Grand Canyon Suite”? This music seems ideal for a video, since it was written to depict things happening at the Grand Canyon.


With various people complaining about “price gouging” as gasoline prices rise and as higher prices are charged for other things in areas struck by hurricanes, economist Walter Williams has coined a new term: “Tax gouging.” But government is never accused of either “greed” or “gouging” — not even when they bulldoze people’s homes in order to turn the land over to businesses that will pay more taxes.




Random thoughts (, 060503)


by Thomas Sowell


Some people think they have bad luck when the real problem is that they took bad chances.


Parents who are both conscientious and realistic discover sooner or later that they cannot do the job to their own complete satisfaction, much less to their children’s complete satisfaction.


In a democracy, we have always had to worry about the ignorance of the uneducated. Today we have to worry about the ignorance of people with college degrees. [KH: after their liberal education]


Helen Thomas has been called “the dean of White House correspondents.” After some of her recent remarks, someone suggested that she should be called the Howard Dean of White House correspondents.


I love cheap watches. For no other product are the cheapest versions just as effective for their basic purpose as versions costing ten or a hundred times as much.


Does it tell you something about our times when a representative of the Taliban is welcome on the Yale University campus but representatives of our own military forces are not?


President Bush says that it is “unrealistic” to think that we can deport 12 million illegal immigrants. It is also unrealistic to think that we can catch all murderers, but does that mean that we should de-criminalize murder? Or turn loose the murderers we do catch?


The political left loves to depict its ideas as “new” — a practice which is itself centuries old on the left, as are the ideas themselves.


As rising rates of intermarriage erode race as a biological reality, political hype makes it an increasingly heated issue.


How can people who say we don’t have enough troops in Iraq advocate that we intervene militarily in Darfur?


The biggest enemy of real equality is make-believe equality. Some peoples, such as the Scots and the Japanese, lagged far behind for centuries before moving to the forefront of achievement. Pretending that they were equal during the centuries when they were not might have prevented the changes that developed their ability.


Speakers at big rallies urging “guest worker” status for illegal immigrants remind me of no guest I have ever seen, except Sheridan Whiteside, the overbearing title character in “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”


Compromising by splitting the difference may solve many immediate problems by creating bigger long-run problems. Splitting the difference rewards the side with the most extreme and most intransigent position, guaranteeing continuing unreasonable demands and the continuing strife this generates.


I am so old that I was on Jeopardy before Alex Trebek was on Jeopardy and on Meet the Press before Tim Russert.


Many of the same people who claim that mental tests are not valid for college admissions decisions, or for employment decisions, nevertheless consider these tests valid for deciding that a murderer cannot be executed when he scores low on such tests — even though he has no incentive to score high.


People who go ballistic over the high pay of some CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation seldom bother to figure out whether, if that CEO agreed to work for nothing, that would be enough to bring the price of a one-dollar product down to 99 cents.


Some people say it is “name-calling” if you refer to someone as a liberal. There is nothing inherently negative about the word “liberal.” If it has acquired negative overtones, that is because of what liberals have done and the consequences that followed.

A number of the nation’s leading colleges — including Harvard, Amherst, the University of Chicago and the Naval Academy — will admit students who have not finished high school. Many outstanding students would do well to get out of high schools that are wasting their time and go straight into college.


One of the few encouraging signs in the current political scene is that Senator John McCain finished behind several other candidates in a Republican straw poll for Presidential candidates. Apparently his self-centered opportunism has not gone unnoticed, despite the good press he has gotten by pandering to the media.




Random thoughts (, 060613)


by Thomas Sowell


Random thoughts on the passing scene:


When you have 90% of what you want, think twice before insisting on the other 10%.


I have never understood stuttering. Once I heard a well-known economist who stuttered spend 45 minutes singing humorous, tongue-twister songs without a slip. Yet, after he finished — to rousing applause — he could barely get out the words “Thank you.”


The beauty of doing nothing is that you can do it perfectly. Only when you do something is it almost impossible to do it without mistakes. Therefore people who are contributing nothing to society except their constant criticisms can feel both intellectually and morally superior.


Do you ever feel like you must be invisible when you are in one of those restaurants where waiters and waitresses walk past you repeatedly without taking your order?


“We are a nation of immigrants,” we are constantly reminded. We are also a nation of people with ten fingers and ten toes. Does that mean that anyone who has ten fingers and ten toes should be welcomed and given American citizenship?


Equal treatment of individuals does not mean equal treatment of behavior. That is why a polygamist is on the FBI’s “most wanted” list. He is not allowed to redefine marriage to suit himself any more than the advocates of “gay marriage” are.


It is fascinating to see politicians who express outrage that the government is intercepting phone calls to and from terrorists express no outrage that all kinds of organizations on the Internet are getting all kinds of information from our personal computers all the time without our knowledge.


An e-mail from a reader says that he is going to try to pass as Mexican, adding “I don’t want to pay taxes either” and “I can speak a little Spanish.”


If politics were like baseball, the Republicans would be smart to trade Senator John McCain to the Democrats for Senator Joseph Lieberman, even if they had to throw in a future draft choice.


There is no substitute for love, not even sex.


At least half of the popular fallacies about economics come from assuming that economic activity is a zero-sum game, in which what is gained by someone is lost by someone else. But transactions would not continue unless both sides gained, whether in international trade, employment, or renting an apartment.


Neither your money nor your complexion makes you automatically guilty of anything. This seems so obvious that it is painful to see how many people believe otherwise, as some of the responses to the rape charges against Duke University lacrosse players make all too clear.


Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “If you wait till you see the whites of their eyes, you will never know what hit you.” Similarly if you wait until you get “world opinion” on your side at the United Nations before preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons.


If you read all the fine print in all the documents you have to sign, you would have no time left to live a life.


A headline in the San Francisco Chronicle offered this prescription for California’s problems: “The Golden State needs big, bold ideas to solve the puzzle its future presents.” But big bold ideas have been behind many — if not most — of California’s problems, as well as disasters in countries around the world.


The idea that other people don’t have the same rights that you do was once the mark of the ignorant. But today it is the mark of too many of our elite universities, where those who disagree with the prevailing political correctness are either silenced by speech codes or shouted down if they are speakers invited on campus to present a different viewpoint.


It is amazing how many people mistake a certain hip snideness for sophistication.


More than half of all people filing income tax forms use someone else to prepare the forms for them. Then they have to sign under penalty of perjury that these forms are correct. But if they were competent to determine that, why would they have to pay someone else to do their taxes for them in the first place?




Random thoughts (, 060829)


By Thomas Sowell


Random thoughts on the passing scene:


Someone said that good judgment comes from experience — which in turn comes from bad judgment.


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., addresses a crowd on healthcare issues in Woonsocket, R.I., in this file photo from June 23, 2006. House Republicans are targeting Pelosi by warning their supporters that she is in line to become Speaker should the Democrats take control of the House in the November elections. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)


When I see people dealing lovingly with small children, it makes me feel that there may be hope for us, after all.


Some people are so busy being clever that they don’t have time to be intelligent.


A public opinion poll back in 1964 asked if America was worth fighting for — and 87% of blacks said “yes.” Today, it is doubtful if any segment of the population would give that answer that often.


Climate statistics show that, with all the “global warming” hysteria today, our temperatures are still not as high as they were back in medieval times. Those medieval folks must have been driving a lot of cars and SUVs.


Doing 90% of what is required is one of the biggest wastes because you have nothing to show for all your efforts. But doing 110% of what is expected is one of the smartest investments because it can pay off with a big reputation for just a little more effort.


For university presidents, as for politicians at all levels, one of the most valuable talents for the success of their careers is the ability to say things that make no sense, with a straight face and a lofty tone.


I have never seen a skinny cook.


Republicans have good reasons to be disappointed in their Congressmen, especially with their runaway spending and amnesty bill for illegal aliens. However, before Republican voters decide to stay home at the next election, or perhaps to vote for the Democrats, they might repeat one phrase to themselves: “Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.”


Little kids can be adorable when they are asleep. Or maybe we are just so glad that they are asleep that this biases our feelings.


Increasing numbers of people seem to think that it is “name-calling” if you refer to someone as a liberal. There are no inherently negative connotations to the word “liberal.” If it has acquired negative overtones, that is because of what liberals have done and the consequences that have followed.


Dorothy Parker’s sharp-witted writings used to cut through a lot of nonsense. Ann Coulter is the Dorothy Parker of our time — an industrial strength Dorothy Parker.


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., addresses a crowd on healthcare issues in Woonsocket, R.I., in this file photo from June 23, 2006. House Republicans are targeting Pelosi by warning their supporters that she is in line to become Speaker should the Democrats take control of the House in the November elections. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)


I must confess to a tinge of envy when I saw Jean-Francois Revel’s obituary. His death meant that he would be spared seeing the ultimate result of the confusion, degeneracy, and cowardice of the west, which he had written about — and which I might not be spared seeing.


Can you cite one speck of hard evidence of the benefits of “diversity” that we have heard gushed about for years? Evidence of its harm can be seen — written in blood — from Iraq to India, from Serbia to Sudan, from Fiji to the Philippines. It is scary how easily so many people can be brainwashed by sheer repetition of a word.


The criminal justice system cannot be regarded as serious so long as there are such things as concurrent sentences and sentences of community service.


There is nothing so good that politicians can’t make it bad and nothing so bad that politicians can’t make it worse. Compassion is good but politicians have turned compassion into the welfare state. Crime is bad but politicians have made it worse by going easy on criminals.


Too many intellectuals act as if they are press agents for blacks — who do not need press agents but who do need the truth. Wherever we are going, and wherever we want to go, we have to get there from where we are right now. Not where we wish we were or where we want others to think we are but where we are in fact.


It is staggering that anyone could be so self-infatuated as to single out their own particular policy preferences as “anti-war.” Anyone who is not a sadist or an idiot is anti-war. The only serious issue is how best to limit, deter or conclude war. But responsibility for confronting this issue is evaded by those preoccupied with the moral preening of being “anti-war.”




Random thoughts (, 070322)


By Thomas Sowell


Random thoughts on the passing scene:


A reader asks: “Why do we drive on the parkway and park on the driveway?”


You can fall in love with an individual but you marry into a whole family.


It is fascinating to hear subprime lenders being accused of “exploitation” while they are losing millions of dollars and some of them are going bankrupt.


Will those who are dismantling this society from within or those who seek to destroy us from without be the first to achieve their goal? It is too close to call.


One of the many fashionable excuses of our time is that some words or actions were “taken out of context.” Those who say this seldom, if ever, bother to say what these words or actions mean when taken in context.


No music moves me like the third movement of the Grieg Concerto. Am I not supposed to appreciate it because I am not Norwegian?


According to a report from a news agency in Kuwait, deaths of American troops are down since the recent “surge” in U.S. troop strength. But the mainstream American media apparently do not consider that news, since it goes against their political grain.


“Women’s Liberation” and the “sexual revolution” have not liberated women. They have liberated the sort of man who is a “love and leave ‘em” kind of guy, who lets the woman deal with the consequences, including pregnancy.


Amid all the media hysteria over the price of gasoline and the profits of “Big Oil,” one simple fact has been repeatedly overlooked: The oil companies’ earnings are just under 10% of the price of a gallon of gas, while taxes take 17%. Yet who ever accuses the government of “greed”?


After President Bush fired a handful of U.S. attorneys, it has become a big scandal in the media. But when President Clinton fired all the U.S. attorneys in the country — including those who were investigating him for corruption in Arkansas — it was no big deal. Yet many in the media still claim that there is no bias.


Where are all the beautiful movie actresses? There are some better looking women on television news programs.


Why did special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald put a reporter in jail and ruin a government official’s life in an “investigation” of things he already knew, including the fact that it was Richard Armitage who revealed that Joe Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA? Perhaps it was the corrupting influence of unbridled power.


Despite political spin about “tax cuts for the rich,” cuts in tax rates have led to increases in tax revenues — not only in this administration, but in the Reagan administration before that, and the Kennedy administration before that, not to mention in India and Iceland as well.


When the Constitution’s protection of private property was disregarded, so that politicians could rob from the rich to give to the poor, that also gave politicians the power to rob from the poor and give to the rich — such as seizing homes in low-income neighborhoods and turning that property over to developers.


Whenever I see the kinds of expressions on the faces of people in high-fashion ads, I feel lucky that I never met them.


When the University of California system and the California State University system raised their tuitions, the headline in the San Francisco Chronicle read: “UC, CSU Reach Again for Students’ Wallets.” Apparently you are only supposed to reach for the taxpayers’ wallets.


A reader says that he had a T-shirt made that said: “Stop Continental Drift!” It made as much sense as “Stop Global Warming.”


When Democrats are criticized, they counter-attack. When Republicans are criticized, they apparently believe in “the soft answer which turneth away wrath.” In politics, however, a soft answer is like blood in the water that provokes piranhas to more vicious attacks.


At a recent debate over global warming sponsored by National Public Radio, the audience was polled beforehand and was solidly on the side of the hysterical predictions. Afterwards, they switched to a slight plurality against those predictions. Don’t look for the global warming crusaders to risk doing any more debates. [KH: !!!] Why should they, when they have virtually a monopoly in the media, in schools and colleges, and among politicians?




Random thoughts (, 070501)


By Thomas Sowell


Random thoughts on the passing scene:


Sometimes it seems as if everybody is trying to rip off his own little piece of America, until we are all torn apart.


A reader writes: “Liberals hold us individually responsible for nothing but collectively responsible for everything.”


The last time I saw a Republican express outrage was 1991, when Clarence Thomas told the Senators what he thought of the smear tactics used against him. Before that, it was Ronald Reagan saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Before that, it was probably Teddy Roosevelt.


Too many people in positions of responsibility act as if these are just positions of opportunity — for themselves. The ones who simply steal money probably do less harm than teachers who propagandize their students, media who slant the news or politicians who sell out their country’s interests in order to get re-elected.


A reader wrote: “Have you ever noticed that opinion polls ask the opinions of people who have no expertise in the subject on which they are being polled and publish these opinions as if they were gospel truth instead of group ignorance?”


Judging by the polls, Republican voters’ memories do not seem to be as short as Senator John McCain may have thought. Judging by press coverage, the media’s memory does not seem to have been as long as he may have thought when he played to that gallery.


A sign of the times: A full-page ad for an Alaska cruise in the left-wing New York Review of Books says, “See Alaska’s Glaciers Before They’re Gone!” Shipmates listed include Ralph Nader and the editor of The Nation magazine.


The people who are scariest to me are the people who don’t even know enough to realize how little they know.


A reader sent the following message, quoting his nephew: “Calling an illegal alien an ‘undocumented worker’ is like calling a drug dealer an ‘unlicensed pharmacist.’”


Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.


Our education system, our media, and our intelligentsia have all been unrelentingly undermining the values, the traditions, and the unity of this country for generations and, at the same time, portraying as “understandable” all kinds of deviance, from prostitution to drugs to riots.


The home run records that made Babe Ruth famous have been broken but one of his records will probably never be broken — pitching the longest shutout in World Series history, 14 innings. Few pitchers go even 9 innings these days.


“Global warming” seems to be joining “diversity,” “gun control,” “open space” and a growing list of other subjects where rational discussion has become impossible — and where you are considered a bad person even for wanting to discuss it rationally.


Is your employer poorer by the amount of money he pays you? Probably not, or you would never have been hired. Why then should we assume that a corporation or its customers are poorer by the amount paid to its chief executive officer?


A review of one of the many environmentalist books says that even if you can’t do all you would like toward “living green,” you can at least “congratulate yourself on taking small steps to improve the planet.” That is what environmentalism — and much else on the political left’s agenda — is really all about, self congratulation.


Just watching Suze Orman for a few moments while channel surfing is enough to make me feel exhausted.


When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup.


In his book “Income and Wealth,” economist Alan Reynolds says that people often form “strong opinions” based on “weak statistics.” Unfortunately, that is also true of a wide range of other issues, from “global warming” to “gender bias.”


I am so old that I can remember a Democrat, at his inauguration as President, say of our enemies: “We dare not tempt them with weakness.”




Random thoughts (townhall.Com, 070903)


By Thomas Sowell


 I can’t get as fiercely involved as some other people do in controversies about the origins of human life on earth. I wasn’t there.


One of the painful signs of years of dumbed-down education is how many people are unable to make a coherent argument. They can vent their emotions, question other people’s motives, make bold assertions, repeat slogans— anything except reason.


Barack Obama is the newest face on the political scene, expressing some of the oldest notions. Virtually everything he says is vintage 1960s rhetoric, as if he has learned nothing from the many disasters that 1960s notions have led to in the decades since then.


People who lament the small percentages of women in some high-end jobs seem unaware that top jobs often involve 70 or 80 hours of work per week. A mother may work that many hours at home taking care of a family, without adding the same number of hours at the office.


A recent study showed the median income of major corporate CEOs to be about $8 million a year. That’s less than a third of what Alex Rodriguez earns and less than one-thirtieth of what Oprah Winfrey makes. But no one is denouncing them for “greed.”


It is amazing how many people who want us to get out of Iraq want us to go into Darfur.


A joke says that a poll was taken in California, asking if people thought illegal immigration was a serious problem. The results showed that 29% said, “Yes, there is a serious problem.” But 71% said, “No es una problema seriosa.”


People who refuse to face the reality of hard choices are forever coming up with some clever “third way”— often leading to worse disasters than either of the hard choices.


Sometimes it looks as if the Democrats are out to win at all costs, while the Republicans are out to compromise at all costs.


Although I am ready to defend what I have said, many people expect me to defend what others have attributed to me.


A reader says that Connecticut’s “Three Strikes” law is so weak that it is more like “30 strikes and we’ll think about it while you strike again.”


Wise people created civilization over the centuries and clever people are dismantling it today. You can see it happening just by channel surfing on TV or hear it in rap music or read it in the pompous nonsense of academics and judges.


Tennis star James Blake never seems to be relaxed during a match. Maybe he would be ranked even higher if he could relax. Most sports require some combination of concentration and relaxation— and too much of either is a big handicap.


Many on the political left are so entranced by the beauty of their vision that they cannot see the ugly reality they are creating in the real world.


With all the old movie favorites being shown again and again on television, it is remarkable that the old movie classic “Alfie” is seldom shown. Could it be fear that the scene where cold-blooded Alfie breaks down and cries at the sight of an aborted baby is something that would unleash the furies of the feminazis?


It is amazing how many people see no problem with having pay levels determined according to what third parties would like to see, instead of according to supply and demand.


One of the great non sequiturs of the left is that, if the free market doesn’t work perfectly, then it doesn’t work at all— and the government should step in.


Despite people who speak glibly of “earlier and simpler times,” all that makes earlier times seem simpler is our ignorance of their complexities.


We all believe that people are innocent until proven guilty. Some on the left believe that they are innocent even after being proven guilty.


Chutzpah department: When disbarred former D.A. Michael Nifong mailed his Bar card back to his state Bar Association, he included a note decrying “the fundamental unfairness” with which the Bar had treated him. This from a man who was ready to ruin three lives and polarize a community, in order to win an election.




Random thoughts (, 071204)


By Thomas Sowell


Since electricity is generated mostly by burning coal, has anyone calculated how much pollution is created by electric cars, even though none of that pollution comes out of their tailpipes?


You may scoff at the Tooth Fairy if you like. But the Tooth Fairy’s approach has gotten more politicians elected than any economist’s analysis.


Is there anyone so willing to suffer as to watch all the political “debates” of both parties?


Now that Congress has violated the First Amendment by restricting free speech with “campaign finance reform” laws, in the name of getting the influence of money out of politics, have you noticed any less influence of money in politics?


The next time somebody in the media denies that there is media bias, ask how they explain the fact that there are at least a hundred stories about the shrinking arctic ice cap for every one about the expanding antarctic ice cap, which has now grown to record size.


Those who are looking forward to a second Clinton administration should remember what they say about movies — the sequel is seldom as good as the original. And the original Clinton administration was not all that great.


Being murdered is not painless, so why all the hand-wringing about trying to make the execution of murderers painless?


Maybe the reason Senator John McCain’s campaign has failed to get any traction is that the debates show him to be the kind of arrogant and condescending know-it-all who would be the most dangerous kind of president.


The more I learn about “ethics” programs and ethics “experts,” the more I think ethics has become a pious word for imposing the arbitrary notions of third parties on others, who are forced to pay the price for whatever has caught the fancy of self-congratulatory elites.


Teaching is very easy if you don’t care about doing it right and very hard if you do.


Hillary Clinton’s main claim to the Democratic nomination is that she is invincible. But that claim cannot survive the first primary in which she gets vinced.


Whenever I buy some expensive photographic equipment, I assure my wife that it costs less than a Hasselblad digital camera. So do a lot of things, including some well-known models of automobiles.


The culture of this nation is being dismantled, brick by brick, but so gradually that many will not notice until the walls start to sag — just before they cave in.


When there are people with multiple convictions for child molestation, what does that say about what wimps we have become that we cannot bring ourselves to put people away, even when they are a continuing danger to children?


The way our current presidential “debates” are conducted, both Lincoln and Douglas must be turning over in their graves.


I believe in libertarian principles but not in libertarian fetishes. In any context, the difference between principles and fetishes can be the difference between night and day.


Now that the British television documentary, “The Great Global Warming Swindle” is available on DVD, will those schools that forced their students to watch Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth” also show them the other side? Ask them.


Of all the presidential candidates in both parties, Barack Obama is the best performer on stage. He has the most presence, the most command of his words, the most quietly dramatic style. What he actually says, however, is mostly warmed-over 1960s ideas that have been failing ever since the 1960s.


When people have to resort to words like “greed” or “exploitation,” it is hopeless to try to have a rational discussion with them.


Why does Fred Thompson go around with his collar open, as if he were Harry Belafonte? It doesn’t make him look younger. It makes him look like an old man trying to look young. It is as if Hillary Clinton tried to look young by wearing a mini-skirt. A bad image can overshadow good ideas.




Random thoughts (, 080408)


By Thomas Sowell


Random thoughts on the passing scene:


Most of the problems of this country are not nearly as bad as the “solutions” — especially the solutions that politicians come up with during election years.


Some people actually think that televising Congress gives us information. What it really does is give politicians millions of dollars worth of free advertising, while they play charades on camera to fool the rest of us.


Alfred E. Neuman of Mad magazine said: “What, me worry?” During election years, Democrats running for office say: “What, me liberal?”


Senator John McCain could never convince me to vote for him. Only Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama can cause me to vote for McCain.


What is more scary than any particular candidate or policy is the gullibility of the public and their willingness to be satisfied with talking points, rather than serious arguments.


One way to reduce illegal immigration might be to translate some of our far left publications into Spanish and give everyone in Mexico subscriptions. After they read how terrible this country is, many may want to stay away.


Whenever I see one of Barack Obama’s smooth performances, it reminds me of a saying from my old neighborhood in Harlem: “An eel is like sandpaper compared to you.”


Most people on the right have no problem understanding people on the left because many, if not most, were on the left themselves when they were younger. But many, if not most, people on the left find it inexplicable how any decent and intelligent person could be on the right.


It is amazing to me that there are people who still take seriously claims by some candidates that they are against “special interests.” All politicians are against their opponents’ special interests and in favor of his own special interests.


Nothing is more fraudulent than calls for a “dialogue on race.” Those who issue such calls are usually quick to cry “racism” at any frank criticism. They are almost invariably seeking a monologue on race, to which others are supposed to listen.


The same people who have gone ballistic when some prominent figure is found to belong to some all-male social club are full of excuses for why Barack Obama remained a member of a racist and anti-American church for 20 years.


Among the many wise things said by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was that you are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts. Yet an incredible number of people make up whatever “facts” are needed to support whatever they choose to believe.


Rachael Ray is showing up in so many places on various television programs, on magazine covers, on boxes of crackers that the question must be asked: Are we sure that she is not twins, or perhaps triplets?


The way to get people’s votes is to say that all their problems are caused by other people, and that you will stop those other people from giving them trouble. But if you really want to help, then you can tell them the truth and risk losing their votes.


The idea behind giving professors lifetime tenure is that this will enable them to speak out freely. But it would be hard to name any other occupation with a more cowardly record than academics, who have been giving in to politically correct campus bullies ever since the 1960s.


There is no question that Barack Obama is a clever and glib fellow. There is also no question that some of the most foolish, dangerous and horrific things done around the world in the past hundred years have been done by clever and glib fellows.


When someone is brutally murdered, the media often defuse our shock by focusing on praise of the victim, instead of focusing on what can be done to keep the murderer from ever doing this again. In the midst of all this emotional venting, it is galling to realize that chances are the murderer will eventually be put back on the street again.





Random thoughts (, 080520)


by Thomas Sowell


Seeing the Pope driven around in a bullet-proof vehicle reminds me of how much times have changed over the years. I can remember when President Franklin D. Roosevelt rode through Harlem in an open car.


A reader’s response to my column about the mandated change from incandescent light bulbs to CFL bulbs: “It would be far better to exchange the corrupt hacks in Congress for some winos from the Bowery. Such a transition should open a new bright era for America.”


Even if you think our presidential choices this election year are between disgust and disaster, anyone who has ever been through a real disaster can tell you that this difference is not small. It is big enough to go vote on election day.


One of the ways in which people are similar is in the lengths to which they will go in order to show that they are different.


Over the years, slowly but surely, we have painted ourselves into a corner on a whole range of issues, where we can no longer say or do what makes the most sense to us, but only what is considered to be politically correct.


The great Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that a good catchword could stop people from thinking for 50 years. The big catchword this election year is “change”— and it has already stopped many people’s thinking in its tracks.


It would be hard to think of a more ridiculous way to make decisions than to transfer those decisions to third parties who pay no price for being wrong. Yet that is what at least half of the bright ideas of the political left amount to.


Unlike most politicians, Barack Obama does not waffle. He comes out boldly, saying mutually contradictory things.


At one time, to call someone “green” was to disparage them as inexperienced or immature. Today, to call someone green is to exalt them as one of the environmentalist saviors of the planet. But it is amazing how many people are green in both senses. Some people who think it is wrong to tell children to believe in Santa Claus nevertheless think it is all right to tell adults to believe that the government can give the whole population things that we cannot afford ourselves. Believing in Santa Claus is apparently bad for children but OK for adults.


 The best explanation I have heard as to why Hillary Clinton is continuing to campaign, at a cost of millions of dollars a month, is that she wants to damage Obama enough for him to lose the general election this fall, leaving her as the obvious front-runner for the Democrats’ nomination in 2012.


Even drugs which have been used safely for years in Europe or elsewhere cannot be sold in the United States without the approval of the Food and Drug Administration— which can take years, while people suffer and die from a lack of that drug. Why not allow such drugs to be sold with a bright red label that says: “THIS DRUG IS NOT APPROVED BY THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. NOR IS IT DISAPPROVED”?


The phrase “war on terror” is an unfortunate choice of words. It is the terrorists who openly declared war on us. Whatever the reasons for going into Iraq, that is where international terrorists have converged to fight their war against the United States. Pulling out of Iraq will not stop the terrorists’ war on us, but only give them a huge victory as the war shifts to another front.


If Barack Obama had given a speech on bowling, it might well have been brilliant and inspiring. But instead he actually tried bowling and threw a gutter ball. The contrast between talking and doing could not have been better illustrated.


“McCarthyism” is a term used to dismiss the threat of internal subversion and espionage. But whatever the sins of Senator Joe McCarthy, the efforts of others showed that Alger Hiss was not a figment of anyone’s imagination, nor was the espionage of the Rosenbergs that turned American atomic secrets over to Stalin, or the espionage networks to which Michael Straight, once editor of the New Republic, belatedly admitted being part of.


Whoever said that overnight is a lifetime in politics knew what he was talking about. Just 6 months ago, the big question was how Hillary and Giuliani would do against each other in this year’s presidential elections.




Random thoughts (, 080729)


Government bailouts are like potato chips: You can’t stop with just one.


Anyone who is honest with himself and with others knows that there is not a snow ball’s chance in hell to have an honest dialogue about race.


I wonder what radical feminists make of the fact that it was men who created the rule of “women and children first” when it came to rescuing people from life-threatening emergencies.


Barack Obama’s motto “Change you can believe in” has acquired a new meaning— changing his positions is the only thing you can believe in. His campaign began with a huge change in the image he projects, compared to what he was doing for 20 years before.


Despite the New York Yankees’ awesome record over the years, no one has ever made 3,000 hits in his career as a Yankee, nor has any pitcher ever had 300 lifetime victories with the Yankees. Despite their well-deserved reputation as “the Bronx Bombers,” there is only one Yankee among the top ten career homerun hitters.


After getting DVDs of old “Perry Mason” TV programs and old “Law & Order” programs, I found myself watching far more of the “Perry Mason” series. The difference is that too many “Law & Order” programs tried to raise my consciousness on social issues, as if that is their role or their competence.


What is amazing this year is how many people have bought the fundamentally childish notion that, if you don’t like the way things are going, the answer is to write a blank check for generic “change,” empowering someone chosen not on the basis of any track record but on the basis of his skill with words.


With all the big-name entertainers who have put on shows in prisons, why have so few put on shows for our troops in Iraq?


To me, the phrase “glass ceiling” is an insult to my intelligence. What does the word “glass” mean, in this context, except that you can’t see it? Yet I am supposed to believe it without evidence because, otherwise, I will be considered a bad person and called names.


When New York Times writer Linda Greenhouse recently declared the 1987 confirmation hearings for Judge Robert Bork “both fair and profound,” it was as close to a declaration of moral bankruptcy as possible. Those hearings were a triumph of character assassination by politicians with no character of their own. The country is still paying the price, as potential judicial nominees decline to be nominated and then smeared on nationwide television.


Some of the most emotionally powerful words are undefined, such as “social justice,” “a living wage,” “price gouging” or a “fragile” environment, for example. Such terms are especially valuable to politicians during an election year, for these terms can attract the votes of people who mean very different— and even mutually contradictory— things when they use these words.


It may not be possible to have machines call balls and strikes in baseball, since the vertical strike zone depends on the height of each batter. But a machine can tell whether any part of the ball passed over any part of the plate, so that umpires won’t be able to call their own “wide strikes” any more.


It is hard to get the supporters of Barack Obama to give a coherent reason for their support. The basis for their support seems to be guilt, gullibility or— in the case of some conservatives— a hatred of John McCain.


It is heart-warming to see the Williams sisters maturing as people. They made tennis history from the beginning but they had a lot to learn about human relations— and now they seem to have learned it.


How many in the media have expressed half as much outrage about the beheading of innocent people by terrorists in Iraq as they have about the captured terrorists held at Guantanamo not being treated as nicely as they think they should be?


Although most of the mainstream media are still swooning over Barack Obama, a few critics are calling the things he advocates “naive.” But that assumes that he is trying to solve the country’s problems. If he is trying to solve his own problem of getting elected, then he is telling the voters just what they want to hear. That is not naive but shrewd and cynical.




Random thoughts (, 080826)


 If you took all the fraud out of politics, there might not be a lot left.


The reason so many people misunderstand so many issues is not that these issues are so complex, but that people do not want a factual or analytical explanation that leaves them emotionally unsatisfied. They want villains to hate and heroes to cheer— and they don’t want explanations that do not give them that.


Has anyone noticed Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain’s facial resemblance to Babe Ruth? If he can be anywhere near as good a pitcher as Ruth was, he will have a great career. The Babe could have made the Hall of Fame if he had remained a pitcher and never hit a home run. He still holds a couple of pitching records.


Although you can block unwanted phone calls from commercial sources, you cannot block automated phone calls from politicians, which will be inundating us this election year. Apparently the courts think that the right of “free speech” includes the right to impose that speech on an unwilling audience. Maybe we need a new Constitutional Amendment, guaranteeing “freedom from speech.”


One of the problems with successfully dealing with threats is that people start believing that there is no threat. That is where we are, seven years after 9/11, so that reminding people of terrorist dangers can be dismissed as “the politics of fear” by Barack Obama, who has a rhetorical answer for everything.


There are countries in Europe that would love to have their unemployment rate fall to the 5.7% unemployment rate to which ours has risen. Yet those who seem to want us to imitate European economic and social policies never seem to want to consider the actual consequences of those policies. “Unacceptable” is one of the big weasel words of our time— almost always said when the person who says it has no intention of doing anything, and so is accepting what is called “unacceptable.”


Republicans won big, running as Republicans, in 2004. But once they took control of Congress, they started acting like Democrats and lost big. There is a lesson in that somewhere but whether Republicans will learn it is another story entirely.


When we hear about rent control or gun control, we may think about rent or guns but the word that really matters is “control.” That is what the political left is all about, as you can see by the incessant creation of new restrictions in places where they are strongly entrenched in power, such as San Francisco or New York.


 Now that the Senator with the furthest left voting record in the Senate and the Senator with the third furthest left voting are the Democrats’ nominees for President and Vice President, there will be great expressions of indignation over being “negative” if anyone dares call them “liberals.” Actually, leftists would be more accurate.


G.K Chesterton said: “I defy anybody to say what are the rights of a citizen, if they do not include the control of his own diet in relation to his own health.” But California citizens and citizens of New York City have tamely accepted their politicians’ decisions to forbid restaurants to serve certain foods, even when citizens want those foods.


The recent death of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn should make us recall what he said when he was awarded the Nobel Prize: “The timid civilized world has found nothing with which to oppose the onslaught of a sudden revival of barefaced barbarity, other than concessions and smiles.” What would a Barack Obama presidency mean, other than more concessions and broader smiles, while Iran goes nuclear?


Right after liberal Democrats, the most dangerous politicians are country club Republicans.


Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says that what he admired about FDR was his willingness to experiment in order to help the economy. That experimentation helped prolong the Great Depression, since people tend to hang onto their money when the government creates uncertainty by constantly changing the rules.


At one time, it was said “The truth will make you free.” Today, there seem to be those who think that rhetoric and hype will make you free. It might even be called the audacity of hype.




Random Thoughts (, 091201)

by Thomas Sowell


Sometimes we seem like people on a pleasure boat drifting down the Niagara river, unaware that there are waterfalls up ahead. I don’t know what people think is going to happen when a nation that already sponsors international terrorism has nuclear bombs to give to terrorists around the world.


Since this is an era when many people are concerned about “fairness” and “social justice,” what is your “fair share” of what someone else has worked for?


Here is a math problem for you: Assume that the legislation establishing government control of medical care is passed and that it “brings down the cost of medical care.” You pay $500 a year less for your medical care, but the new costs put on employers is passed on to consumers, so that you pay $300 a year more for groceries and $200 a year more for gasoline, while the new mandates put on insurance companies raise your premiums by $300 a year, how much money have you saved?


I seldom read fiction— and I tend to regard autobiographies as fiction.


In response to news of President Obama receiving the Nobel Prize for peace, an e-mail from a reader recalled a black classmate’s comments upon graduating from high school many years ago. When asked to list the advantages and disadvantages of being black, the black student facetiously listed as an advantage “being praised for infinitesimal accomplishments.” [KH: !!!]


Many colleges claim that they develop “leaders.” All too often, that means turning out graduates who cannot feel fulfilled unless they are telling other people what to do. There are already too many people like that, and they are a menace to everyone else’s freedom.


Some people are so busy being clever that they don’t have time enough to be wise.


No one likes to admit having been played for a fool. So it will probably take a mushroom cloud over some American city before some Obama supporters wake up. Even so, the true believers among the survivors will probably say that this was all George Bush’s fault.


Stepping beyond your competence can be like stepping off a cliff. Too many people with brilliance and talent within some field do not realize how ignorant— or, worse yet, misinformed— they are when talking like philosopher-kings about other things.


There has probably never before been as drastic a decline in the quality of vice presidents as there has been when Dick Cheney was replaced by Joe Biden. Yet the New York Times is lionizing Biden as a wise counselor to President Obama. When you support the liberal agenda, that makes you brilliant ex-officio in the media, whether or not you are vice president— and whether or not you have even common sense.


Government pressures on mortgage lenders to accept less than the full amount they are owed may win votes for politicians, since there are far more borrowers than lenders. But how much future lending can be expected when the lenders know that politicians are ready to intervene at any time to prevent them from getting their money back?


Some people think that the Obama administration is going to get rid of Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, making him the scapegoat for its economics failures. This would be consistent with the President’s acting as if the people under him are not carrying out his policies. But if they get rid of Geithner too early, that will not help if things still do not get better after he is gone and before the 2010 elections.


People who are urging us to do things to win the approval of other countries seem to put an excessive value on other country’s approval, as distinguished from their respect that we can lose by such bowing to “world opinion.” Do the world champion New York Yankees try to curry favor with teams that are also-rans?





Random Thoughts (, 091007)

by Thomas Sowell


Upon learning that the Constitution requires a president to be a natural born citizen, a college student said: “What makes a natural born citizen any more qualified than one born by C-section?”


Airlines that keep passengers trapped for hours in planes sitting on the runway should be prosecuted for unlawful imprisonment.


When politicians propose some hugely expensive new program and are asked how the government is going to pay for it, a standard ploy over the years has been to claim that they will pay for it by eliminating “waste, fraud and abuse.” At a recent town hall meeting, a citizen raised the obvious question: If you can do that, why haven’t you done it already?


Marxism is an ism that has become a wasm.


What is called “universal health care” can turn out to be universal “don’t care” medical treatment, when Washington bureaucrats can over-rule what you and your doctor want to do.


The older I get, the more I learn to tolerate human shortcomings— and the less I tolerate bad attitudes.


After political crusades for “affordable housing” ended up ruining the housing market and much of the economy with it, many of the same politicians are now carrying on a crusade for “affordable health care.” But what you can afford has absolutely nothing to do with the cost of producing anything. Refusing to pay those costs means that you are just not going to continue getting the same quantity and quality— regardless of what any politician says or how well he says it.


Want to win an easy bet? Bet someone that Babe Ruth had a lower lifetime earned run average than Cy Young, Whitey Ford or Sandy Koufax. During his early years with the Red Sox, Ruth pitched nine shutouts in a season, which is still the American League record for a left-handed pitcher. He would have made the baseball hall of fame, even if he had never hit a home run.


Congressman Joe Wilson got into more trouble for telling the truth than President Barack Obama got into by telling a demonstrable lie about adding millions of people to the insurance rolls without adding a dime to the deficit. As regards providing medical insurance for illegal immigrants, I doubt that the president will do that. More likely, he will legalize them first and then give them medical insurance.


The way Hollywood elites have sprung to the defense of Roman Polanski to keep him from being extradited to the United States, despite the heinous crime he is accused of, suggests that— like other egalitarians— they consider those who are “one of us” to be more equal than others. [KH: exactly the problem of liberals]


When I contemplate the direction in which this government and this society are moving, my biggest consolation is that economists’ predictions are often wrong. I can only hope that my expectations are wrong by miles.


What is most frightening about the political left is that they seem to have no sense of the tragedy of the human condition. All problems seem to them to be due to other people not being as wise or as noble as they are.


Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Think things, not words.” In words, many see a need for “social justice” to override “the dictates of the market.” In reality, what is called “the market” consists of human beings making their own choices at their own cost. What is called “social justice” is government imposition of the notions of third parties, who pay no price for being wrong.


Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Muammar Qaddafi and Vladimir Putin have all praised Barack Obama. When enemies of freedom and democracy praise your president, what are you to think? When you add to this Barack Obama’s many previous years of associations and alliances with people who hate America— Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, Father Pfleger, etc.— at what point do you stop denying the obvious and start to connect the dots?





Random Thoughts (, 091110)

by Thomas Sowell


If politicians stopped meddling with things they don’t understand, there would be a more drastic reduction in the size of government than anyone in either party advocates.


It was fascinating to see Barack Obama warning us not to leap to conclusions about the killings at Fort Hood, Texas— after the way he leaped to conclusions over the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, when he knew less about the facts than we already know about the massacre at Fort Hood.


My first column, more than 30 years ago, was titled “The Profits of Doom.” Recent news stories about the millions of dollars that Al Gore has made out of his “global warming” hysteria suggest that some things haven’t changed much in three decades.


Although the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation backs up bank accounts, a recent audit suggests that the FDIC does not have enough money in its own account to do its job. No doubt more money will be printed in Washington if necessary. But what this means is that even the record-breaking federal deficit understates the government’s real financial liabilities, because agencies like FDIC and the Federal Housing Authority are likely to need increased amounts of money to keep going.


An e-mail from a reader says that liberals like to take the moral high ground, even though their own moral relativism means that there is no moral high ground.


I doubt whether the man responsible for the massacre at Fort Hood will pay with his life for the lives that he took. He may well be free again someday. We can only hope that he does not get a hero’s welcome when he arrives in some terror-sponsoring country, the way the Lockerbie bomber did.


A recent study by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights showed that, after the housing boom and bust, blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asian Americans and American Indians all reduced their subprime mortgage loans. Only politicians seem not to have learned anything from the economic disaster, and to persist in the reckless policies that brought it on.


Baseball has too many close plays and too many judgment calls to have wholesale instant replay that could add hours to a game. However, there is no reason why there can’t be some device to show automatically whether any part of a ball went over any part of the plate, before an umpire can call it a strike. How wide the strike zone is shouldn’t depend on what umpire is behind the plate.


Among the many infirmities of age is omniscience.


What I most remember about the late Irving Kristol, aside from his wisdom— which is much rarer among intellectuals than one might expect— was that I never saw him angry, either in person or in the media. And he lived in a time when there was much to be angry about. Those of us who are getting along in years are unlikely to see another like him, and even those who are younger will be lucky if they do.


No statement is more unnecessary than the statement that the government should “do something” about some issue. Politicians are going to “do something,” whether or not something needs to be done, and regardless of whether what they do makes matters better or worse. All their incentives are to keep themselves in the public eye.


There is no point dwelling on all the foolish mistakes we have made in our lives. For one thing, it can be very time-consuming.


One of the few advantages to the country in having Congress overwhelmingly in the hands of one party is that the lack of need to compromise lets the leaders of that party reveal themselves for what they are— in this case, people with unbounded arrogance and utter contempt for the right of ordinary people to live their lives as they see fit, much less the right to know as citizens what laws are going to be passed by their government. The question is whether voters will remember on election day in 2010.


Even if this country can survive intact and unharmed after the Obama administration— or, heaven help us, two terms of Obama— the gullibility that led to his being elected in the first place will still be there for some other slick demagogue to come along and get the power to put the American way of life, and even our physical safety, at risk again.





Random Thoughts (, 090811)

by Thomas Sowell


Different people have very different reactions to President Barack Obama. Those who listen to his rhetoric are often inspired, while those who follow what he actually does are often appalled.


New York and Chicago have both recently had their coldest June in generations. If they had had their hottest month, it would have been trumpeted from the media 24/7 by “global warming” zealots. But the average surface temperature of the earth has not changed in more than a decade, according to the Cato Institute.


Many years ago, there was a comic book character who could say the magic word “Shazam” and turn into Captain Marvel, a character with powers like Superman’s. Today, you can say the magic word “diversity” and turn reverse discrimination into social justice.


I would rather see politicians hanged than see their children smeared.


Someone pointed out that blaming economic crises on “greed” is like blaming plane crashes on gravity. Certainly planes wouldn’t crash if it wasn’t for gravity. But when thousands of planes fly millions of miles every day without crashing, explaining why a particular plane crashed because of gravity gets you nowhere.


Neither does talking about “greed,” which is constant like gravity.


Political ideologies are fairy tales for adults.


What did we learn from the “beer summit” on the White House lawn, except that Vice President Joe Biden doesn’t drink alcoholic beverages? Considering the many gaffes that the vice president has made while cold sober, the thought of an intoxicated Joe Biden boggles the mind.


Seeing children repeating the cant they have been taught is not only depressing in itself, it provides a depressing preview of the future, when those children become voting adults, with a habit of reaching conclusions after hearing only one side of an issue.


Since no one seems overly concerned about putting a racist on the Supreme Court— provided it is a politically correct racist— the moral of the story seems to be that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, that doesn’t matter if it coos like a dove at Senate confirmation hearings.


I hate seeing a referee keep giving warnings to a boxer for low blows. Taking a point away is the only kind of warning that is likely to make the low blows stop. The rules of boxing don’t say you are entitled to one free low blow, much less repeated low blows.


Perhaps the scariest aspect of our times is how many people think in talking points, rather than in terms of real world consequences.


Over the years, unions in the private sector have been declining, while unions in the public sector have been thriving. The United Automobile Workers are getting a big return on their investment in the election of Barack Obama because the government takeover of General Motors makes the UAW more like a public sector union, whose demands can be met at the taxpayers’ expense.


Recently I was foolish enough to try to reason with an environmentalist. But it became obvious that he had his mind made up and didn’t want to hear any evidence to the contrary. The Pope is more likely to have read Karl Marx than an environmentalist is to have read even a single book that criticized environmentalism.


With Velcro and other modern adhesives available, can’t someone design a boxing glove that doesn’t require fights to be stopped in the middle of a round so that loose tape can be repaired? Often the break in the action changes the whole tempo of the fight and can affect the outcome.


How long will it be before the public gets tired of the little know-it-all sermonettes by Barack Obama— especially since nothing that he is doing is actually working?


The 150-year prison sentence for Bernie Madoff has implications that go far beyond this particular swindler. There was a time when a simple life sentence would have kept him behind bars. But today the practice of over-stating the sentences that will actually be served— in order to soothe the public— has gotten so widespread that a ridiculous sentence like 150 years has to be given, in order to try to make sure he won’t be back on the streets again.




Random Thoughts (, 090526)

by Thomas Sowell


They say that people mellow with age. However, the older I get, the less patience I have with cleverness.


If increased government spending with borrowed or newly created money is a “stimulus,” then the Weimar Republic should have been stimulated to unprecedented prosperity, instead of runaway inflation and widespread economic desperation that ultimately brought Adolf Hitler to power.


Just days after Colin Powell informed us that the American people were willing to pay higher taxes in order to get government services— and that Republicans therefore needed to stop their opposition to taxes— California voters resoundingly defeated a bill to raise taxes in order to pay for the many government services in that liberal state.


Who was it who said: “I cannot tell what powers may have to be exercised in order to win this war”? George W. Bush? Dick Cheney? Donald Rumsfeld? Actually it was Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a “fireside chat” broadcast on September 7, 1942. He understood that survival was the number one right, without which all other rights are meaningless.


They say adversity concentrates the mind. Now that Republicans have been badly beaten in two consecutive Congressional elections, what Republican leaders in Congress are saying today makes more sense than what they said when they were in power.


When my sister’s children were teenagers, she told them that, if they got into trouble and ended up in jail, to remember that they had a right to make one phone call. She added: “Don’t waste that call phoning me.” We will never know whether they would have followed her advice, since none of them was ever in jail. [KH: !!!]


One of the most important talents for success in politics is the ability to make utter nonsense sound not only plausible but inspiring. Barack Obama has that talent. We will be lucky if we escape the catastrophes into which other countries have been led by leaders with that same charismatic talent.


When I think of the people with serious physical or mental handicaps who nevertheless work, I find it hard to sympathize with able-bodied men who stand on the streets and beg. Nor can I sympathize with those who give them money that subsidizes a parasitic lifestyle which allows such men to be a constant nuisance, or even a danger, to others.


How surprising is it that Barack Obama, who spent decades hanging out with people who spewed out their hatred of America, did not say anything in the presence of foreign rulers like Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega, when they spewed out their hatred of America?


We seem to be moving steadily in the direction of a society where no one is responsible for what he himself did but we are all responsible for what somebody else did, either in the present or in the past.


Why let discussions with visiting celebrities be a constant distraction during a televised tennis match or baseball game?


If we each sat down and wrote out all the mistakes we have made in our lives, all the paper needed would require cutting down whole forests.


Much discussion of the interrogation of captured terrorists ignores the inescapable reality of trade-offs. The real question is: How many American lives are you prepared to sacrifice, in order to spare a terrorist from experiencing distress?


Governments should govern, not micro-manage the economy. A government unrealistic enough to think it can micro-manage is likely to do a worse job than most.


Inspiring as it is to study the history of the struggles and sacrifices that created and preserved America, it is also painful to see how all those investments of efforts and lives are being frittered away today for short-sighted and self-centered reasons.


Why the mere relocation of imprisoned terrorists from Guantanamo to prisons in the United States is a moral issue in the first place is by no means clear, since morality deals with behavior, rather than location. But putting them within the jurisdiction of liberal circuit court judges who can find reasons to turn them loose is a much more serious issue.





Random Thoughts (, 090407)

by Thomas Sowell


I am so old that I can remember when music was musical.


Now that the federal government says that it will stand behind the warranties on General Motors’ automobiles, does that make you more likely or less likely to buy a car from GM? If you were a rising young executive with a promising future, would you be more likely or less likely to go to work for a company where politicians can fire you?


We have become such suckers for words that politicians can spend our tax money like a drunken sailor, provided they call it “investment.” At least the drunken sailor is spending his own money but people look down on him because he doesn’t call it “investment.”


Barack Obama seems determined to repeat every disastrous mistake of the 1930s, at home and abroad. He has already repeated Herbert Hoover’s policy of raising taxes on high income earners, FDR’s policy of trying to micro-manage the economy and Neville Chamberlain’s policy of seeking dialogues with hostile nations while downplaying the dangers they represent.


We seem to be moving steadily in the direction of a society where no one is responsible for what he himself did but we are all responsible for what somebody else did, either in the present or in the past.


The famous editorial cartoonist Herblock could write as well as draw. In one of his books, he said something like: “You too can have the soothing feeling of nature’s own baby-soft wool being pulled gently over your resting eyes.” I think of that every time I see Barack Obama talking.


It has long been said that uncertainty is the hardest thing for a market to adjust to. No one can generate uncertainty as much as the government, which can change the rules in midstream or come out with some new bright idea at any time, as the current administration has already demonstrated.


We have now reached the truly dangerous point where we cannot even be warned about the lethal, fanatical and suicidal hatred of our society by Islamic extremists, because to do so would be politically incorrect and, in some European countries, would be a violation of the law against inciting hostility to groups.


Perhaps the scariest aspect of our times is how many people think in talking points, rather than in terms of real world consequences.


Barack Obama’s favorable reception during his tour in Europe may be the most enthusiastic international acclaim for a democratic government leader since Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich in 1938, proclaiming “peace in our time.”


How a man who holds the entire population of a country as his prisoners, and punishes the families of those who escape, can be admired by people who call themselves liberals is one of the many wonders of the human mind’s ability to rationalize. Yet such is the case with Fidel Castro.


What does “economic justice” mean, except that you want something that someone else produced, without having to produce anything yourself in return?


Perhaps the way President Obama will reduce the deficit is by making more presidential appointments of people who will pay the back taxes they owe, in order to get confirmed by the Senate.


Liberals seem to think that they are doing lagging groups a favor by making excuses for counterproductive and self-destructive behavior. The poor do not need press agents. They need the truth. No one ever said, “Press agents will make you free.”


If I were Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, I would not sign any long-term lease on a home in Washington.


Socialists believe in government ownership of the means of production. Fascists believed in government control of privately owned businesses, which is much more the style of this government. That way, politicians can intervene whenever they feel like it and then, when their interventions turn out badly, summon executives from the private sector before Congress and denounce them on nationwide television.





Random Thoughts (, 090211)

by Thomas Sowell


One of the most important skills for political success is the ability to make confident assertions of absurdities or lies.


The adage “follow the money” will be hard to apply in the current administration, when there is so much money going in all directions that it is doubtful whether anybody can follow it.


I hate to hear about “partnerships” between government and business, or between government and other organizations. When there is a partnership between an ant and an elephant, who do you suppose makes the decisions?


There are too many people, especially among the intelligentsia, who will never appreciate the things that have made this country great until after those things have been destroyed— with their help. Then, of course, it will be too late.


How can a President of the United States be re-elected in a landslide after four years when unemployment never fell below 15% for even one month during his first term? Franklin D. Roosevelt did it by blaming it all on the previous administration. Barack Obama may be able to achieve the same result the same way.


Can you name the only baseball player to bat .382 in his last year in the major leagues? The first five readers who can will receive a free copy of my new book, “Applied Economics.”


Do you want to have to jump through bureaucratic hoops when you are sick? If not, why would you be in favor of government-run medical care?


The “Wall Street Journal Report” is one of the few things on television worth watching. It is worth it just to see the sardonic smile of Kimberly Strassel whenever she discusses politics.


Democrats could sell refrigerators to Eskimos before Republicans could sell them blankets.


Anyone who wants to understand the housing crisis without getting a headache from reading economic jargon should read the new book “Financial Shock” by Mark Zandi.


Human beings are going to make mistakes, whether in the market or in the government. The difference is that survival in the market requires recognizing mistakes and changing course before you go bankrupt. But survival in politics requires denying mistakes and sticking with the policies you advocated, while blaming others for the bad results.


I know that there are still voices of sanity around because I have counted them— on one hand.


More frightening to me than any policy or politician is the ease with which the public is played for fools with words. The latest example is the “Employee Freedom of Choice Act,” a bill that will do away with secret ballot elections among workers voting on whether to be represented by a union. It is an open invitation to intimidation— which is to say, loss of freedom of choice.


Our economic problems worry me much less than our political solutions, which have a far worse track record.


One of the wonders of our times is how much more attention is paid to the living conditions of a bunch of cut-throats locked up in Guantanamo than to the leading international sponsor of terrorism getting nuclear weapons.


The great sense of urgency of the Obama administration to get legislation to authorize slow-moving spending projects may seem inconsistent. But the urgency is real, even if the reasons given are not. The worse case scenario for the administration would be to have the economy begin to recover on its own before this massive spending bill is passed, reducing their chances of creating the kind of politically directed economy they want.


I realized how far behind the times I am when I saw a TV commercial for some weight-loss product, showing Marie Osmond “before” and “after.” I thought she looked great “before.”


War should of course be “a last resort”— but last in terms of preference, not last in the sense of hoping against hope while dangers grow, and wishful thinking or illusory agreements substitute for serious military preparedness— or, if necessary, military action. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “If you wait until you see the whites of their eyes, you will never know what hit you.”





Random Thoughts (, 081224)

by Thomas Sowell


Maybe the current bailout fever is Congress’ way of getting into the spirit of the season— saying in effect, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” They will undoubtedly also be saying, “Yes, New Jersey, there is a Santa Claus... Yes, Ohio, there is a Santa Claus. . .”


A reader suggests that members of Congress should wear uniforms, like NASCAR drivers, so that we will know who their corporate sponsors are. Many of those in Congress should also wear logos representing the teachers’ unions, environmentalist extremists and other special interests.


They say we live and learn. Often what we learn is what damn fools we have been.


If there are still any educators or others who think that both sides of an issue should be presented, the non-profit Heartland Institute has put together Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” and the British Channel 4 program “The Great Global Warming Swindle” in one package with two DVDs.


People who are impressed by how many of Barack Obama’s advisors have Ivy League degrees seem not to remember how many people with Ivy League degrees mismanaged the Vietnam war and how many people with Ivy League degrees mismanaged economic policy during the Great Depression of the 1930s.


The fact that sales at Starbucks are going down, while sales at McDonald’s are going up, shows that people are adjusting to economic adversity by cutting back their spending. Only in Congress do people adjust to economic adversity and growing deficits by spending more money.


Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke seems to be pretty popular thus far. My own preference is for Federal Reserve chairmen who are unpopular. When Paul Volcker was chairman of the Fed back in the 1980s, he was hated like poison, but his policies finally broke the back of the inflation that had been out of control for years— not without some painful costs, but few benefits can be gotten without costs.


It is fascinating to see that politicians whose interventions in mortgage lending have created a disaster in financial institutions are now moving on to intervene in the automobile industry.


After the San Francisco 49ers’ interim head coach Mike Singletary has breathed some new life into that team, if the 49ers do not make him their regular head coach some other team probably will. What happens to Singletary may tell us more about the 49ers management than about Singletary.


Wal-Mart has done more for poor people than any ten liberals, at least nine of whom are almost guaranteed to hate Wal-Mart.


Ronald Reagan had a vision of America. Barack Obama has a vision of Barack Obama.


One of the signs of how easily we are bullied by small and vocal groups is how many universities, among other institutions, dare not even refer to the Christmas vacation but instead refer to “the winter holiday.”


As American incomes have risen over the years, liberals have kept changing the definition of “poverty.” Otherwise, the dwindling numbers of people who could be called “poor” would take away the liberals’ main claim to influence and power.


If you didn’t know that Governor Rod Blagojevich was a Democrat, you are unlikely to find out from the mainstream media. But, if you didn’t know that recently convicted Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska was a Republican, the media made sure to tell you.


An e-mail from a reader whose job requires him to take urine tests, to make sure he is drug-free, wonders why he is taxed to provide money to people on welfare who are also on drugs. He thinks they should have to take urine tests too, before they get his money.


Recent covers on Time magazine and Newsweek— as well as the stories inside— suggest that these magazines are as giddy as teenagers are over some rock stars, when it comes to Barack Obama.


Governor Rod Blagojevich may have inadvertently done us a big favor by discrediting the idea that we should look up to politicians as our protectors and saviors.




Random Thoughts (, 100608)

by Thomas Sowell


Random thoughts on the passing scene:


All sorts of “global warming” advocates have all sorts of ideas for cooling the planet. I would be happy if they would just cool the rhetoric.


A newspaper headline said: “U.S. Growing Impatient with Iran.” Boy, won’t that scare them to death? If they keep going, and make enough nuclear bombs to blast us to smithereens, we will go to the United Nations and get a resolution passed, condemning their actions— or, if the U.N. won’t go that far, deploring their lack of cooperation.


Contrary to what has been widely believed, scholars say that Neanderthals had bigger brains than we have. Why did they become extinct then? Maybe they got too smart for their own good.


When someone in New York says, “Excuse me, sir,” you know that you are really old.


Umpire Jim Joyce, who publicly admitted that his wrong call cost pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game, and Galarraga himself both exhibited grace in the way they reacted to the situation. How long has it been since anyone has done anything that called for the word “grace”?


When you consider what an enormous windfall gain it is to be born in America, it is painful to hear some people complain bitterly that someone else got a bigger windfall gain than they did.


After North Korea torpedoed a South Korean ship, killing 46 sailors, was there even one-tenth the outrage that is ringing out loudly around the world because of 9 deaths that resulted from Israeli commandoes intercepting a ship heading for the Gaza strip?

In political rhetoric, “comprehensive immigration reform” means amnesty up front and promises of border control later— promises that have not been kept in the past and are unlikely to be kept in the future. Anyone who is serious, as distinguished from political, knows that you have to control your own borders before you can even have an immigration policy that means anything in practice.


Even though some people say we are living in a “knowledge economy,” we are living in a political atmosphere in which ignorance has more power than ever. Washington politicians who have never run any business are telling all kinds of businesses— from automobile companies and banks to hospitals and insurance companies— how they have to run their businesses. This is the golden age of ignorance in power.


Electrical cords seem to be very sociable. Whenever there are two that are near each other, they almost always seem to get intertwined.


It is one of the signs of our times when people in the media ask how some of our home-grown terrorists could “turn against their own country.” This was never their country— and giving them citizenship papers will never make them or anybody else a real citizen, in the sense of someone loyal to this country.


Even experienced politicians would have a hard time coming up with a more grossly misleading phrase than “the Middle East peace process.”


We cannot recapture the past, but sometimes it can recapture us— if we are not careful.


Just as the American left has adopted blacks as mascots, so the international left has adopted Palestinians as mascots. In both cases, the actual well-being of the mascots is not the point.


Mascots exist to be symbols for others. In all the years when the Arab states controlled the area that Israel took over after the 1967 war, nobody cared what happened to the Palestinians, much less offered them a homeland.


Whether Barack Obama is simply incompetent as President or has some hidden agenda to undermine this country, at home and abroad, he has nearly everything he needs to ruin America, including a fool for a Vice President.


We have now reached the truly dangerous point where we cannot even be warned about the lethal, fanatical and suicidal hatred of our Islamic extremist enemies in our midst, because to do so would be politically incorrect here and, in some European countries, would be a violation of laws against inciting hostility to groups.




Reflections on the Passing Scene (, 101221)

Thomas Sowell


Random thoughts on the passing scene:


Let’s face it, most of us are not half as smart as we may sometimes think we are— and for intellectuals, not one-tenth as smart.


One of the biggest obstacles to economic recovery is that politicians and the media are both focused on how government can MAKE the economy recover, rather than on how it can LET the economy recover. One of the biggest deterrents to investments, and the jobs they could create, is uncertainty as to what new bright idea will come out of Washington to change the rules in midstream.


Is there some reason why football helmets have to be hard? Wouldn’t a thick rubber helmet provide protection without being itself an injury-producing weapon?


The History Channel has some very good programs when it sticks to history. But it keeps going off on tangents, with all kinds of contemporary activities and even weird speculations that are not history.


One of the telling signs carried in a Tea Party demonstration said: “Spread my work ethic, not my wealth.” It may be better to teach people how to fish, rather than giving them fish, but too many politicians give them fish, in order to get their votes. Among the things that have come out in the WikiLeaks documents is that the king of Saudi Arabia has a more realistic understanding of the enormous dangers of an Iranian nuclear bomb than does the President of the United States.


Before this National Football League season began, I wished that my favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys, would fire Wade Phillips as head coach and replace him with Mike Singletary of the San Francisco 49ers. Fortunately, only one of my two wishes came true.


An amazing example of invincible ignorance is the widespread assumption that lower tax rates automatically mean lower tax revenues. Tax rate cuts have often been followed by higher tax revenues, not only in the United States, but also in India, Iceland and 19th century German principalities, among other places.


A chilling account of how the Justice Department operates in the Obama administration appeared in the November issue of “The American Spectator,” under the title “Justice, Denied.” It should open the eyes of all but the true believers in the Obama cult.


Many of those in the so-called “helping professions” are helping people to be irresponsible and dependent on others.


University students rioting against tuition increases on both sides of the Atlantic are painful signs of the degeneracy of our times. The idea that taxpayers owe it to you to pay for what you want suggests that much of today’s education fails to instill reality, and instead panders to a self-centered sense of entitlement to what other people have earned.


Neither the Bible, the Torah nor the Koran mentions Christmas trees. Yet some secular zealots try to ban Christmas trees on government property, based on the doctrine of “separation of church and state”— a doctrine found nowhere in the Constitution.


More disturbing than any of the issues of our time are the many people who debate those issues as contests in talking points, rather than as attempts to get at the truth. Too many people debate as if the point is to show who is smarter, rather than which conclusion is correct.


When the attempt to get wholesale amnesty for illegal immigrants through Congress failed, that just led to new legislation seeking to get retail amnesty, for selected sets of illegals, under the so-called “Dream Act.” In other words, we are now supposed to buy disaster on the installment plan.


Many parents of college-bound students wonder whether there are still any places where most of the professors are teaching instead of indoctrinating. Actually, there are more than 50 colleges with a “green light” rating on that score in the huge college guide, “Choosing the Right College.”


When arguing against the tax compromise, Senator Bernie Sanders castigated “the rich,” asking “When is enough enough?” and saying that “reckless uncontrollable greed is like a disease.” Such statements are far more applicable to government big spenders and big taxers, who confiscate not only the earnings of today’s citizens, but the earnings of generations yet unborn, who will be left a record-breaking national debt.




Random Thoughts (, 110809)

Thomas Sowell


Random thoughts on the passing scene:


The next time a member of the British royal family gets married, I hope they elope and spare us all another 24/7 media orgy.


Does the “not guilty” verdict in the Casey Anthony child murder trial mean that the jury succumbed to the confusion between “beyond a reasonable doubt” and “beyond any conceivable doubt”? The word “reasonable” is not put in there just for decoration.


We seem to be living in an age when nobody can be bothered to answer their telephone, but everybody has a recorded message telling us how important our phone call is to them.


President Obama often talks about wanting to raise taxes on “millionaires and billionaires” but — in his actual tax proposals — higher taxes usually begin with couples earning $250,000 between them. Apparently that makes you a millionaire or a billionaire.


It doesn’t seem very scientific to have a good-looking nurse taking a man’s blood pressure.


As the British have lost their empire and, more important, lost their respect for laws and standards, Britannia has gone from ruling the waves to waiving the rules.


The difference between mob rule and democracy was never more sharply demonstrated than by labor unions’ attempts to prevent the Wisconsin voters’ elected representatives from carrying out their official duties at the state Capitol. What would it matter what the voters want if any mob can stop it from happening?


My favorite birthday card this year said on the outside, “Ageing is Inevitable” — and, on the inside: “Maturity is optional.”


Theodore Roosevelt said that his foreign policy was to speak softly and carry a big stick. Barack Obama’s foreign policy in Libya has been to speak loudly and carry a little stick. Too often Obama’s foreign policy around the world looks like children happily playing with fire.


Class-warfare politics is bad enough when it is for real. But often it is as phony as a three-dollar bill, when the same politicians pass high tax rates on “the rich” to win votes — and then get financial support from “the rich” to create loopholes that enable them to avoid paying those high tax rates.


It is amazing how many people seem to think that, if you give them your phone number or e-mail address, this means that they are authorized to pass them on to others.


Three little words — “We the people,” the opening words of the Constitution of the United States — are the biggest obstacle to achieving the political goals of the left. For that, they must move decisions away from “We the people” — from individuals to government; from elected officials to unelected judges; and from national institutions to international institutions like the United Nations — all safely remote and insulated from “We the people.”


Some hotels have been called “historic.” But to me that just means old. I don’t like staying in old-fashioned hotels. There is usually a reason why those fashions went out of fashion.


Learned scholars still debate the reasons for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Learned scholars of the future, looking back on our decline and fall, may simply be baffled as to how we could have been so stupid.


Awkward and uncomfortable hospital gowns for patients just add a needless complication to the problems of people who are already sick. Surely someone could design something less bothersome.


I have never believed for a moment that Barack Obama has the best interests of the United States at heart.


Many liberals who consider themselves friends or allies of blacks are usually friends or allies of those particular blacks who are doing wrong things, often at the expense of other blacks.


At one time, it was well understood that adversity taught valuable lessons, which reduce the probability of repeating foolish decisions. But, today, the welfare state shields people from the consequences of their own mistakes, allowing irresponsibility to continue and to flourish among ever wider circles of people.


Amid all the concerns about the skyrocketing government debt, a front-page headline in the Wall Street Journal said: “Families Slice Debt to Lowest In 6 Years.” It is remarkable how differently people behave when they are spending their own money compared to the way politicians behave when spending the government’s money.




Stupidity trickling down (, 050331)


Thomas Sowell


As much as I enjoy most of the messages from readers, there is no way that I can answer more than a small fraction of them.


The messages I don’t reply to at all are those from obviously ignorant people who offer insults instead of arguments. However, a recent column has brought forth more than the usual number of uninformed denunciations, so it may be useful to other readers to explain why they should not take such nonsense seriously when they encounter it.


What I said that set off the crazies was that there is no such thing as “trickle-down” economics. Supposedly those who believe in trickle-down economics want to give benefits to the rich, on the assumption that these benefits will trickle down to the poor.


As someone who spent the first decade of his career researching, teaching and writing about the history of economic thought, I can say that no economist of the past two centuries had any such theory.


Some of those who denounced me for saying that there was no trickle-down theory cited an article by David Stockman years ago — as if David Stockman was the last word, and I should forget everything I learned in years of research because David Stockman said otherwise.


What is often confused with a trickle-down theory is supply-side economics, such as that advocated by Arthur Laffer. That theory is that tax cuts can generate more tax revenue for the government because it changes people’s behavior, causing more economic activity to take place, leading to more taxable income, as well as a faster growing economy.


It is not hard to find examples of when this happened — for example, during the Kennedy administration, among other times and places. Whether it will happen in a given set of circumstances is what is controversial, but none of this has anything to do with money trickling down from the rich to the poor. It has to do with the creation of more wealth in the economy as a whole.


The notion of a trickle-down theory is debunked on pages 388-389 of my book “Basic Economics” (2nd edition). But most of those who went ballistic over my denial of a trickle-down theory were not seeking further information.


As far as they were concerned, they already had the absolute truth and only needed to vent their anger over my having dared to say otherwise. That is a sign of a much more general and much more dangerous trend in our society today that goes far beyond a handful of true believers foaming at the mouth against one columnist.


If education provides anything, it should be an ability to think — that is, to weigh one idea against an opposing idea, and to use evidence and logic to try to determine what is true and what is false. That is precisely what our schools and colleges are failing to teach today.


It is worse than that. Too many teachers, from the elementary schools to the graduate schools, see their role as indoctrinating students with what these teachers regard as the right beliefs and opinions. Usually that means the left’s beliefs and opinions.


The merits or demerits of those ideas is far less important than whether or not students learn to analyze and weigh those merits and demerits. Educators used to say, “We are here to teach you how to think, not what to think.”


Today, students can spend years in educational institutions, discussing all sorts of issues, without ever having heard a coherent statement of the other side of those issues that differ from what their politically correct teachers say.


There are students in our most prestigious law schools who have never heard arguments for the social importance of property rights — not just for those fortunate enough to own property, but for those who don’t own a square inch of real estate or a single share of stock. How they would view the issues if they did is a moot point because they have heard only one side of the issue.


People who go through life never having heard the other side of issues ranging from environmentalism to minimum wage laws are nevertheless emboldened to lash out in ignorance at anyone who disturbs their vision of the world. The self-confident moral preening of ignoramuses is perhaps an inevitable product of the promotion of “self-esteem” in our schools.




April Fools’ party (, 050401)


Thomas Sowell


“This is your eyewitness news team, reporting from the big, posh April Fools’ Day party at the Dewdrop Inn out at Moot Point, overlooking Dyer Straits. Everybody who is anybody is here.


“There’s the karate expert Marshall Artz, timber heiress Lotta Wood, famous meteorologist Cole Winter, the British boxing sensation Battler Hastings, and the gossip columnist N.U. Endo. There’s insurance magnate Justin Case and Ivy University’s dean of students, N. ‘Loco’ Prentiss.


“Let’s talk with one of the guests. Excuse me, sir, what is your name?”


“Chester Mann.”


“Are you related to that famous social justice advocate?”


“N.V. Mann? Yes.”


“How are you enjoying the party?


“Frankly, I am here only because my wife dragged me here.”


“You don’t like the party?”


“As Robinson Crusoe said, ‘I don’t like this atoll.’”


“As Napoleon said, ‘What’s your beef, Wellington?’”


“Oh, just the food, the drinks, and the people.”


“Well, let me move along. Here’s the famous author I. Wright, whose latest best-seller is a steamy novel about India titled ‘Whose Sari Now?’ Incidentally, you look great in those long, flowing robes. Were you born in India?”


“No, Brooklyn.”


“But I’ll bet you did a lot of research in India?”


“Yes, mostly in the Punjab.”


“What is it like to live in a country completely different from the Western world?”


“Actually Indians are not cut off from the Western world. For example, a friend of mine in the Punjab is obsessed with Western classical music.”


“Likes his Beethoven and Bach, does he?”


“He’s really obsessed with Haydn. He’s a Haydn Sikh.”


“Thank you. Let’s go on to talk with some more guests. Here’s the famous psychiatrist N.D. Nile, that sweet-looking actress Candy Barr and her sister Minnie who, I believe, is involved in hotels.”


“Yes, I am. I have also had some hostel takeovers.”


“Not everyone has been successful, of course. Over there is the well-known architect whose firm just went bankrupt — Frank Lloyd Wrong. Let’s go over and see what he has to say.


“Sir, this is your eyewitness news team, checking up on how you are doing.”


“Terrible! I am suffering from hardening of the arteries, curvature of the spine, cirrhosis of the liver . . .”


“Rumpole of the Bailey?”




“I understand that you are also an artist.”


“Well, architecture is itself an art, as well as a science. But I also paint pictures, if that is what you mean.”


“Yes, I remember a famous painting of yours showing a Rolex sitting on a half-eaten piece of watermelon.”


“Yes, I called it ‘Watch on the Rind.’”


“You are really on the cutting edge. Are all the people in your set like that?”


“No, actually. My uncle’s wife, for example, is the most conservative person I know.”




“Yes, I call her my status quo auntie.”


“How conservative is she?”


“Once I asked her if she believed in gun control and she said: ‘Yes! You’ve got to control those things or else the shot will go wild and miss the guy you are trying to blast!’”


“Over here is the famous weatherman, Cole Winter. He’s usually pretty well informed, since he is on the same program as the news. Cole, what’s the latest news?”


“A leopard was spotted in midtown Manhattan today!”


“That’s not news. Leopards are spotted everywhere. Anyhow, it is time to return you to the studio. Happy April Fools’ Day!”




Rich ideas (, 050510)


Thomas Sowell


Recently a friend described a meeting with a nasty-tempered leftist who was from a rich family. Unfortunately, there are a lot of leftists who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth — and, instead of being grateful, are venomous against American society.


Conversely, there are people like yours truly who were born on the other end of the economic scale and think this is a great country. No one has really explained either of these phenomena.


Maybe a painful confrontation with the facts of life early on makes it harder in later years to get all worked up over abstract issues that seem to preoccupy the left.


Once you have ever had to go hungry, it is hard to get worked up over the fact that some people can only afford pizza while others can afford caviar. Once you have ever had to walk to work from Harlem to a factory south of the Brooklyn Bridge, the difference between driving a Honda and driving a Lexus seems kind of petty as well.


Would a poverty-stricken peasant in Bangladesh find the difference between the average American’s standard of living and that of a millionaire to be something to get excited about? If he had a choice between a certainty of getting the first and one chance in two of getting the second, would he take the risk to go for a million bucks? I doubt it.


The general public has never been as worked up about “income distribution” as the left has. Nor is this due to any deeper understanding on the left. On the contrary, liberals and other leftists have constantly misconceived the issue.


Differences between people in different income brackets tell you absolutely nothing about who those people are or how long they have been in those brackets. Most Americans who are in the bottom 20% in income at one point in their lives are in the top 20% at some other point.


They usually start at the bottom and work their way up, with a few blips up and down along the way. The more affluent the country becomes, the less those transient statistical differences really matter, except to those with the money, the leisure, and the inclination to adopt indignation as a way of life.


Environmentalism is another of the playgrounds of the affluent and the wealthy. “Nature” is wonderful when you can look out on it from your luxury cabin in the woods or from your upscale digs at the shore.


Roughing it in the wild is great when you know that, if something goes wrong, a helicopter can come in and lift you to safety or to a hospital, as the case may be. This is what might be called artificial nature or the illusion of nature.


Real nature can be pretty ugly, as the pioneers discovered, and as the bleached bones of their animals or themselves on the old trails can attest. Even in more recent times, anyone who has had to get up on cold mornings, all winter long, to start a fire in the fireplace to heat the house is unlikely to regard it as a romantic experience.


It’s romantic if you are doing it for a little while, by choice, knowing that it is only a matter of time before you return to your home with central heating, provided by the oil that you don’t want drilled for off shore or in Alaska, or by the coal that you deplore seeing mined anywhere.


Personally, it has only been within the past few years that I have been able to enjoy starting a fire in the fireplace — in my centrally heated home — because it reminded me too much of when I was a kid down South and a fireplace was all we had to try to keep warm in the winter.


Of all the romantic self-indulgences of the affluent and the wealthy, few are more ridiculous than their passion to “save” farmland. This country has no shortage of farmland or of food.


One of our biggest problems is over-eating and, even so, there are huge agricultural surpluses that cost the taxpayers billions of dollars every year. Yet the greenies with lots of green are pushing for laws and policies to prevent farmers from selling their land to people who want to build houses on it.


Would it be worth it to be rich if it also meant being so foolish? I doubt it.




Sowell’s Rednecks (American Spectator, 050511)


By Doug Bandow


Black Rednecks and White Liberals: And Other Cultural and Ethnic Issues,

by Thomas Sowell

(Encounter Books, 355 pages, $25.95)


Few public intellectuals have demonstrated as much intelligence and fearlessness as has Thomas Sowell. He mixes learned treatises on Marxism and ethnicity with sharp newspaper articles on everyday issues. An African American, he has demanded that black leaders accept their own responsibility for the tragedy of the inner city.


His latest effort is Black Rednecks and White Liberals: And Other Cultural and Ethnic Issues, a collection of essays on “minority” controversies. Sowell does not disappoint: From educational attaintment to slavery, he smashes conventional icons and insists on individual responsibility. It makes for a wonderfully refreshing and stimulating read, especially for anyone normally immersed in Washington platitudes.


Sowell opens with the book’s title essay, “Black Rednecks and White Liberals.” Without rancor he analyzes “redneck culture,” with its emphasis on pride, reliance on violence, lack of economic or intellectual enterprise, sexual promiscuity, and religious intensity. This was once emblematic of Southern whites: he opens the chapter with half-century old quotes criticizing poor whites who had moved north but “absolutely refuse to accommodate themselves to any kind of decent, civilized life.”


Unfortunately, he argues, “redneck culture” did not remain white. Rather, it also permeated Southern black society. Northern African Americans made significant progress even in an era of pervasive racism and discrimination; West Indian immigrants played a leadership role by exhibiting almost the opposite of redneck culture. In the late 1800s, he writes, “Northern black urban communities were themselves becoming cleaner, safer, and more orderly during the era of improving race relations.”


This process was interrupted, however, by cultural change. Argues Sowell: “all of that changed radically within a relatively few years, as massive migrations from the South not only enlarged Northern black communities but transformed them culturally.” Never does he justify racism, of course, but he demands ruthlessly honest introspection.


Indeed, Sowell has spent most of his professional career being vilified for refusing to accept the cultural, ideological, and racial nostrums of the day. In his preface he declares: “Because this book is written for the general public, it does not feature long, convoluted sentences with escape clauses designed to prevent words from being twisted to mean something that they were never intended to mean.”


He applies the same acute eye and intellectual honesty to other issues of race, such as black education. Today everyone recognizes the shocking failure of so many schools to educate African American children. But Sowell notes that black schools have been teaching black students and turning out black scholars for decades: “there has been successful black education as far back as the nineteenth century.”


Good schools continue to generate good results even in the worst neighborhoods. Making good schools isn’t easy, but understanding the problem is essential. He points to common myths — that, say, a racial mix is necessary to successfully educate black children or that “poverty, racism, or innate inferiority” prevents them from learning. He concludes: “Much of what is said — and not said — about the education of black students reflects the political context, rather than the educational facts. Whites walk on eggshells for fear of being called racists, while many blacks are preoccupied with protecting the image of black students, rather than protecting their future by telling the blunt truth.”


ANOTHER ISSUE ABOUT WHICH Sowell speaks bluntly is slavery. Although the practice tends to be analyzed in racial terms today, the word slavery derives from Slav, since Slavs once were frequently enslaved. He points out that it was a pervasive institution throughout the world, almost always directed against those outside of a particular group.


Some of these distinctions were large: such as Christians and Muslims. Often, however, the perpetrators and victims were much more closely related — losers in African or Micronesian tribal wars. As Sowell trenchantly notes, whites were rarely involved in capturing slaves in Africa. The institution became largely black “only after centuries of Europeans enslaving other Europeans had been brought to an end by the consolidation of nations and empires on the European continent, by internal shifts from slavery to serfdom in much of Europe, and by the Catholic Church’s pressures against enslaving fellow Christians.”


Equally important, Sowell notes that slavery was ended because of the West, especially Great Britain. The task wasn’t easy: Slavery persisted for decades in the Ottoman Empire, the Mideast, Africa, and Asia despite a sustained Western campaign to eradicate the practice. In some nations slavery persisted into the early 1900s.


While the West took far too long to recognize the moral horror of slavery, it did recognize it. For that the much-maligned West deserves credit, not condemnation.


Deserving understanding, too, he suggests, are early American politicians who had to confront the practical complexities of eradicating such an entrenched social practice. In one of his most interesting but undoubtedly un-PC statements, Sowell writes: “Only those on opposite ends of a spectrum of opinion found the issue of slavery easy — those like Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, who wished to keep blacks enslaved indefinitely, and those like Massachusetts’ William Lloyd Garrison, who advocated immediate emancipation of blacks with the full rights of citizenship.”


It goes without saying — or, at least, should go without saying — that Sowell in no way justifies slavery. Instead, his thoughtful and sophisticated analysis highlights how hard it is even for men of obviously intelligence, principle, and good will to eradicate an evil practice that has become embedded in society. As a result, Sowell heightens one’s appreciation for the dilemmas faced by American statesmen who grappled with slavery for decades before the Civil War.


SOWELL’S ECLECTIC MIND CARRIES him into other fields as well. He devotes a chapter to the role of minorities — such as Jews, Armenians, Chinese, Koreans, Indians, and Lebanese — as middlemen. What social practices led to their success? How did that success generate hostility against them?


He makes some broader judgments based on their experience. For instance, the fact that ethnic Chinese and Indians have thrived more overseas than in their own nations “undermines the multicultural view that Western prosperity in general is not due to any superior features of Western institutions.” [Kwing Hung: in other words, prosperity as a result of western institutions.]


The other is that the Holocaust made anti-Semitism unique. He disagrees: “what made the Holocaust possible were technological and organizational capabilities for mass murder that enemies of other middleman minorities simply did not have available. In view of what was actually done to some of these other groups, there is little reason to doubt that their persecutors would have used such technological and organizational capabilities if they had had them.”


Sowell concludes with a call for honest historical inquiry based on empirical research. Alas, he notes, “nowhere has history been more in thrall to belief systems — visions — than in the history of racial and ethnic groups.” Treating real people as “intertemporal abstractions,” as he puts it, has had devastating results.


Moreover, he argues, accurate historical inquiry “can often be of great value, not only in correcting factual errors but also in dispelling feelings and attitudes that needlessly encumber our lives today.” Such as myths that blacks are genetically inferior or were unusually submissive to slavery. For this reason, for instance, he welcomes IQ research which, he contends, “undermines genetic determinism as an explanation for” today’s racial gap.


Reading Thomas Sowell is a pleasure. Brilliant, iconoclastic, and profound, his work is always worth studying. As is Black Rednecks and White Liberals.


Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute.




The latest liberal crusade (, 050512)


Thomas Sowell


The latest liberal crusade is against the Wal-Mart stores.


A big headline on a long article in the New York Times asks “Can’t A Retail Behemoth Pay More?”


Of course they can pay more. The New York Times could pay its own employees more. We could all pay more for whatever we buy or rent. Don’t tell me you couldn’t have paid a dime more for this newspaper. But why should any of us pay more than we have to?


According to the New York Times, there is a book “by a group of scholars” due to be published this fall, arguing that Wal-Mart has an “obligation” to “treat its employees better.”


This can hardly be called news. Nothing is easier than to find a group of academics — “scholars” if you agree with them — to advocate virtually anything on any subject. Nor is this notion of an “obligation” new.


For decades, there has been lofty talk about the “social responsibility” of businesses or about a “social contract” between the generations when it comes to Social Security. Do you remember signing any such contract? I don’t.


What all this pious talk amounts to is that when third parties want somebody else to pay for something, they simply call it a “social responsibility,” an “obligation” or a “social contract.”


So long as we keep buying this kind of stuff, they will keep selling it.


In order to make such demands look like more than just the arbitrary notions of busybodies — which they are — some of these busybodies refer to the official poverty level, as if it were something objective, rather than what it is in fact, simply an arbitrary line based on the notions of government bureaucrats.


According to the New York Times, Wal-Mart’s average employee earns an income that is above the poverty line for a family of three but below the poverty line for a family of four. What are we supposed to conclude from this?


The fashionable notion of “a living wage” is a wage that will support a family of four. And, sure enough, the New York Times finds a Wal-Mart employee who complains that he is not making “a living wage.”


How is he living, if he is not making a living wage?


Should people be paid according to what they “need” instead of according to what their work is worth? Should they decide how big a family they want and then put the cost of paying to support that family on somebody else?


If their work is not worth enough to pay for what they want, is it up to others to make up the difference, rather than up to them to upgrade their skills in order to earn what they want?


Are they supposed to be subsidized by Wal-Mart’s customers through higher prices or subsidized by Wal-Mart’s stockholders through lower earnings? After all, much of the stock in even a rich company is often owned by pension funds belonging to teachers, policemen and others who are far from rich.


Why should other people have to retire on less money, in order that Wal-Mart employees can be paid what the New York Times wants them paid, instead of what their labor is worth in the marketplace? After all, they wouldn’t be working for Wal-Mart if someone else valued their labor more.


Nor are they confined to Wal-Mart for life. For many, entry-level jobs are a stepping-stone, whether within a given company or as experience that gets them a better job with another company.


Think about it: What the busybodies are saying is that third parties like themselves — who are paying nothing to anybody — should be determining how much somebody else should be paying those who work for them.


It would be devastating to the egos of the intelligentsia to realize, much less admit, that businesses have done more to reduce poverty than all the intellectuals put together. Ultimately it is only wealth that can reduce poverty and most of the intelligentsia have no interest whatever in finding out what actions and policies increase the national wealth.


They certainly don’t feel any “obligation” to learn economics, out of a sense of “social responsibility,” much less because of any “social contract” requiring them to know what they are talking about before spouting off with self-righteous rhetoric.




A must read (, 050610)


Mona Charen


Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that there are some intelligent people out there who have never read anything by Thomas Sowell. (I know, I know, the chances are remote, but work with me here.) They’ve never enjoyed his fascinating excursion into group traits in “Ethnic America,” nor his penetrating analysis of what has gone wrong with the schools in “Inside American Education,” nor his brilliant dissection of the inevitable pitfalls of regulation in “Knowledge and Decisions.” There is hope. His new volume, “Black Rednecks and White Liberals,” offers a taste of some of his earlier work as well as a cornucopia of new insights. Indeed, the new book is so clarifying and so wise that even experienced Sowell readers will find much that is new.


The title refers to the first essay, which argues that many of the traits commonly considered “authentically black” are actually the inheritance of the white redneck culture amid which many blacks lived for centuries. These include hair-trigger touchiness on the part of men, anti-intellectualism, pride, sexual license, backwardness and laziness. Speech patterns that persist among ghetto blacks today — “ax” for ask, “bile” for boil, “do’” for door, and “dis” for this — are traceable to the regions of Great Britain from which white Southerners came. Black and white children from the South lagged academically behind their peers in the rest of the nation throughout the 20th century. This is well-known. What is less well-known is that “black soldiers from some Northern states scored higher on mental tests than whites from some Southern states during the First World War.”


Further, schools established for blacks by 19th-century New Englanders in the South imported a very different set of values and expectations, and black youngsters, like W.E.B. Du Bois, rose to the challenge. “In 1871, the Georgia legislature created a board of visitors to attend public examinations at Atlanta University. The chairman . . . reportedly said that he expected the examinations to confirm the Negro’s inferiority. But the recitations of former slaves in Latin, Greek, and geometry forced from him the confession that ‘we were impressed with the fallacy of the popular idea . . . that the members of the African race are not capable of a high grade of intellectual culture.’”


In a chapter entitled “Are Jews Generic?” Sowell explores the contribution and fate of “middleman minorities” around the globe. From the Ibos in Nigeria, to the Armenians in Turkey, to the ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia, to the Lebanese in Africa, to the (Indian) Gujaratis in the South Pacific, to the Jews in Europe, middleman minorities have served to lubricate the economies of the nations they have lived among. Additionally, these groups have resembled one another in many respects: a willingness to work long hours, maintenance of strong families and an emphasis on education. They have suffered similar fates as well, as they have repeatedly been the victims of furious violence from their neighbors. The irony, Sowell writes, is that the middlemen are most deeply resented and hated where they are the most indispensable. Such was the hatred for Indians and Pakistanis who served as middlemen in Uganda that the government forcibly exiled them all (50,000) in the 1970s. Economic devastation followed. The story was similar with Jews in Eastern Poland in the 17th century.


Sowell’s majestic intelligence and humane sympathy shine through on every page. The chapter on “Black Education: Achievements, Myths and Tragedies” is especially powerful. Here is an elegy to Dunbar High School, a public school in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1870, Dunbar produced academic excellence among its black students at a rate that today seems out of reach. “During the period from 1918 to 1923, graduates of this school went on to earn 25 degrees from Ivy League colleges, Amherst, Williams, and Wellesley. . . . At one time, the reputation of Dunbar graduates was such that they did not have to take entrance examinations to be admitted to Dartmouth, Harvard, and some other selective colleges.” Dunbar was undermined by politics and now resembles other failing inner city schools.


“Black Rednecks and White Liberals” ranges widely — from a learned essay on slavery worldwide to an examination of the German national character. This book affirms Thomas Sowell’s status as one of America’s most eminent intellectuals.




Mind-changing books (, 051208)


by Thomas Sowell


From time to time, readers ask me what books have made the biggest difference in my life. I am not sure how to answer that question because the books that happened to set me off in a particular direction at a particular time may have no special message for others — and can even be books I no longer believe in today.


The first book that got me interested in political issues was Actions and Passions by Max Lerner, which I read at age 19. It was a collection of his newspaper columns, none of which I remember today and all of which were vintage liberalism, which even Max Lerner himself apparently had second thoughts about in later years.


The writings of Karl Marx — especially The Communist Manifesto — had the longest lasting effect on me as a young man and led me to become and remain a Marxist throughout my twenties. I wouldn’t recommend this today either, except as an example of a masterpiece of propaganda.


There was no book that changed my mind about being on the political left. Life experience did that — especially the experience of seeing government at work from the inside.


The book that permanently made me a sadder and wiser man was Edward Gibbons’ The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. To follow one of the greatest civilizations of all time as it degenerated and fractured, even before being torn apart by its enemies, was especially painful in view of the parallels to what is happening in America in our own times.


The fall of the Roman Empire was not just a matter of changing rulers or political systems. It was the collapse of a whole civilization — the destruction of an economy, the breakdown of law and order, the disappearance of many educational institutions.


It has been estimated that a thousand years passed before the standard of living in Western Europe rose again to the level it had once reached back in Roman times.


How long would it take us to recover from the collapse of Western civilization today — if we ever recovered?


The kinds of books most readers seem to have in mind when they ask for my recommendations are books that go to the heart of a particular subject, books that open the eyes of the reader in a mind-changing way.


You will never look at the Third World the same way again after reading Equality, the Third World, and Economic Delusion by Peter Bauer. It demolishes many myths about the causes of poverty in the Third World — and about “foreign aid” as a way of relieving that poverty.


You will never look at crime the same way after reading Crime and Human Behavior by Richard J. Herrnstein and James Q. Wilson. It is a strong dose of hard facts that shatter the illusions of the intelligentsia and the mushy rhetoric of “root causes” and the like.


Edward Banfield’s 1960s classic, The Unheavenly City, likewise cuts right through the pious cant about urban problems and confronts some inescapable realities. You will never look at urban issues the same way again.


Among my own books, those that the most readers have said changed their minds have been Knowledge and Decisions, A Conflict of Visions, Basic Economics, and Black Rednecks and White Liberals.


Frankly, Knowledge and Decisions is not an easy book to read and it was not an easy book to write. But it goes to the heart of why certain kinds of decisions are better made in particular kinds of places — whether economic, political, or other institutions, or in informal settings like the family. Unfortunately, those decisions are often made in places that don’t do as good a job.


A Conflict of Visions is my own favorite among my books but it too is not for everyone. It traces the underlying assumptions behind opposing ideologies that have dominated the Western world over the past two centuries and are still going strong today.


The most readable of these four books is Basic Economics, which may also be the most needed, given widespread economic illiteracy.


Black Rednecks and White Liberals challenges much that has been said and accepted, not only about blacks but also about Jews, Germans, white Southerners and others.




The media’s war (Washington Times, 051215)


By Thomas Sowell


The media seem to have come up with a formula that would make any war in history unwinnable and unbearable: They simply emphasize the enemy’s victories and our losses.


Losses suffered by the enemy are not news, no matter how large, how persistent, or how clearly they indicate the enemy’s declining strength.


What are the enemy’s victories in Iraq? The killing of Americans and the killing of Iraqi civilians. Both are big news in the mainstream media, day in and day out, around the clock.


Has anyone ever believed that any war could be fought without deaths on both sides? Every death is a tragedy to the individual killed and to his loved ones. But is there anything about American casualty rates in Iraq that makes them more severe than casualty rates in any other war we have fought?


On the contrary, the American deaths in Iraqi are a fraction of what they have been in other wars in our history. The media have made a big production about the cumulative fatalities in Iraq, hyping the thousandth death with multiple full-page features in the New York Times and comparable coverage on TV.


The two-thousandth death was similarly anticipated almost impatiently in the media and then made another big splash. But does media hype make 2,000 wartime fatalities in more than two years unusual?


The Marines lost more than 5,000 men taking one island in the Pacific during a three-month period in World War II. In the Civil War, the Confederates lost 5,000 men in one battle in one day.


Yet there was Jim Lehrer on the “News Hour” last week earnestly asking Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about the 10 Americans killed that day. It is hard to imagine anybody in any previous war asking any such question of anyone responsible for fighting a war.


We have lost more men than that in our most overwhelming and one-sided victories in previous wars. During an aerial battle over the Mariana Islands in World War II, Americans shot down hundreds of Japanese planes while losing about 30 of their own.


If the media of that era had been reporting the way the media report today, all we would have heard about would have been that more than two dozen Americans were killed that day.


Neither our troops nor the terrorists are in Iraq just to be killed. Both have objectives. But any objectives we achieve get short shrift in the mainstream media, if they are mentioned at all.


Our troops can kill 10 times as many of the enemy as the enemy kill and it just isn’t news worth featuring, if it is mentioned at all, in much of the media. No matter how many towns are wrested from the control of the terrorists by American or Iraqi troops, it just isn’t front-page news like the casualty reports or even the doom-saying of some politicians.


The fact that these doom-saying politicians have been proved wrong, again and again, does not keep their latest outcries from overshadowing the hard-won victories of American troops on the ground in Iraq.


The doom-sayers claimed that terrorist attacks would make it impossible to hold the elections last January because so many Iraqis would be afraid to go vote. The doom-sayers urged that the elections be postponed.


But a higher percentage of Iraqis voted in that election — and in a subsequent election — than the percentage of Americans who voted in last year’s presidential elections.


Utter ignorance of history enables any war with any casualties to be depicted in the media as an unmitigated disaster.


Even after Nazi Germany surrendered at the end of World War II, die-hard Nazi guerrilla units terrorized and assassinated both German officials and German civilians who cooperated with Allied occupation authorities.


But nobody suggested that we abandon the country. Nobody was foolish enough to think that you could say in advance when you would pull out or that you should encourage your enemies by announcing a timetable.


There has never been the slightest doubt that we would begin pulling troops out of Iraq when it was feasible. Only time and circumstances can tell when that will be. And only irresponsible politicians and the media think otherwise.




Point of no return (, 060207)


by Thomas Sowell


Looking back at the history of tragic times often reveals that many — or most — of the people of those times were often preoccupied with things that look trivial, or even pathetic, in view of the catastrophe looming over them. Will later generations looking back at our times see a similar blindness, and even frivolousness, in the face of mortal dangers?


Terrorists and terrorist governments are giving us almost daily evidence of their fanatical hatred and violent sadism, as the clock ticks away toward their gaining possession of nuclear weapons. They not only hold a harmless young woman hostage in Iraq, they parade her in tears on television, just as they have paraded not only the terrorizing, but even the beheading, of others on television.


Moreover, there is a large and gleeful audience in the Arab world for these gross brutalities, just as there was glee and cheering among the Palestinians when the televised destruction of the World Trade center was broadcast in the Middle East.


Yet what are we preoccupied with or outraged about? Whether the American government should intercept the phone calls of these cutthroats to people in the United States.


That question has been sanitized in the mainstream media by asking whether the government should be engaged in “domestic wiretapping,” just as the terrorists themselves have been sanitized into “militants” or “insurgents.”


The way the question is posed by many in the media and in politics, you would think our intelligence agencies were listening in on you talking on the phone to your aunt Mabel.


Be serious! There are more than a quarter of a billion people in the United States. Intelligence agencies have neither the manpower, the time, the money, nor the interest to listen in on you and your aunt Mabel.


Lawyers may differ on fine legal points about the Constitutional powers of the commander in chief during wartime versus the oversight powers of the courts. But, a Supreme Court Justice once pointed out that the Constitution of the United States is not a suicide pact.


The Constitution was meant for us to live under, not be paralyzed by, in the face of death.


When some honcho in the international terrorist network is captured in Afghanistan or Iraq, and the phone numbers in his computer are found by his American captors, it is only a matter of time before his capture becomes news broadcast around the world.


In the hour or two before that happens, his contacts within the United States may continue to use the phones they have been using. Listening in on their conversations during that brief window of opportunity can provide valuable information on enemies within our midst who are dedicated to our destruction.


Precious time can be wasted filing legalistic documents to get some judge’s permission to tap the domestic terrorists’ phones before CBS or CNN broadcasts the news of the captured terrorist leader overseas and the domestic terrorists stop using the phones that they had used before to talk with him.


With Iran advancing step by step toward nuclear weapons, while the Europeans wring their hands and the United Nations engages in leisurely discussion, this squeamishness about tapping terrorists’ phone contacts in the United States is grotesque.


Has anyone been paying attention to the audacity of the terrorists? Some in the media seem mildly amused that Palestinian terrorists are threatening Denmark because of editorial cartoons that they found offensive.


Back in the 1930s, some people were amused by Hitler, whose ideas were indeed ridiculous, but by no means funny.


This was not the first threat against a Western country for exercising their freedom in a way that the Islamic fanatics did not like. Osama bin Laden threatened the United States on the eve of our 2004 elections, if we didn’t vote the way he wanted.


When he has nuclear weapons, such threats cannot be ignored, when the choice is between knuckling under or seeing American cities blasted off the face of the earth.


That is the point of no return — and we are drifting towards it, chattering away about legalisms and politics.




Myths of rich and poor (, 060208)


by Thomas Sowell


There is a fundamental difference between seeking the truth and scoring points. In politics, the truth is strictly optional and that also seems to be true in parts of the media.


Much of what is said about the incomes of Americans is said to score points. For example, it has been repeated endlessly that the average American family’s income has not increased significantly for decades and that real wages are actually going down, not up.


That is great stuff for scoring points. You can just imagine the words and the music: The economy is stagnating, the American Dream has become a nightmare, our best days are behind us, etc.


The fact that the conclusions are totally false has not cramped anyone’s style. Best-selling authors reap the profits of doom by writing such stuff. Politicians show how compassionate they are by promising to rescue us from economic disaster. Those who want to show how hip they are by disdaining American society get their jollies by scoring such points.

Click to learn more...


A book titled “Myths of Rich and Poor” by W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm exposes such nonsense for the fraud that it is.


Despite the statistics that show real wages going downhill over time, somehow Americans are consuming more than ever and have a larger net worth than ever.


As of 1970, for example, only about a third of American homes had both central heating and air conditioning, while more than four-fifths had both in the 1990s. Moreover, the homes themselves were more than one-third larger.


Just over one-fourth of American households had a dishwasher in 1970 but more than half did by the 1990s. Only 34% of households had color television in 1970 but 98% did in the 1990s.


How could this be, with lower real wages? Were we just going deeper and deeper into debt? Actually the net worth of Americans more than doubled during those same years.


Was there some kind of economic Houdini who could perform such magic?


No. Actually a lot of the point-scoring rhetoric involves misleading statistics. Wages are only part of total compensation — and increasing proportions of that total compensation is taken in the form of fringe benefits. Total compensation has been going up while average real wages have been going down.


Even the decline of real wages has to be taken with a grain of salt. Real wages are calculated by taking the money wages and adjusting for changes in the consumer price index.


Only an economist can get excited by the consumer price index. Other people’s eyes are more likely to glaze over when the term is mentioned. However, an inaccurate consumer price index is part of the reason for the appearance of declining real wages.


When the consumer price index says that inflation is 3% a year, it may really be more like 2% or 1.5%. As anyone who has had to pay off a mortgage knows, a difference of a percentage point can add up to real money over a period of decades.


Economists’ estimates of how much the consumer price index exaggerates inflation range from an estimate of one percentage point by former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan to an estimate of 1.5% by Michael Boskin, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to the President.


Even if we take the lower estimate of one percentage point, over a period of 25 years, that under-estimates the real income of the average American by nearly $9,000. In other words, a working couple will have their real income under-estimated by nearly 18 grand, using the consumer price index to correct for inflation.


No wonder the income statistics look so bad, even while the standard of living is rising and Americans have a higher net worth than before. Nothing is easier than to turn reality upside down, especially if you are just trying to score points, instead of getting at the truth.


My comment on this book has been reprinted on its cover: “Cox and Alm deserve a medal for bringing some sanity to a subject where insanity is the norm.”


If making a whole society’s rising prosperity look like a disastrous decline is not insane, what is?




Are Facts Obsolete? (Townhall.Com, 060404)


By Thomas Sowell


What is more frightening than any particular policy or ideology is the widespread habit of disregarding facts. Former house majority leader dick armey put it this way: “demagoguery beats data.”


People who urge us to rely on the united nations, instead of acting “unilaterally,” or who urge us to follow other countries in creating a government-run medical care system, often show not the slightest interest in getting facts about the actual track record of either the un or government-run medical systems.


Those who believe in affirmative action likewise usually see no reason to find out what actually happens under such policies, as distinguished from what they wish, hope, or imagine happens.


The crusade for “a living wage” that will enable a worker to support a family proceeds without the slightest interest in finding out whether most people who are making low wages actually have any family to support — much less seeking out the facts about what actually happens after the government sets wages.


People who have made up their minds and don’t want to be confused by the facts are a danger to the whole society. Since the votes of such people count just as much as the votes of people who know what they are talking about, politicians have every incentive to pass laws and create policies that pander to ignorant notions, if those notions are widespread.


Even institutions that are set up to pass on facts — the media, schools, academia — too often treat facts as expendable and use their strategic positions to filter out facts which go against their own preconceptions.


Crimes against homosexuals, blacks, or the homeless are big news to be dramatized, repeated, and denounced. Crimes committed by homosexuals, blacks, or the homeless are not — and are often passed over in silence by much of the media. The net result is that the public gets filtered facts, which can create an impression the direct opposite of the truth.


We learn from the media’s filtered facts that there are countries with stronger gun-control laws than ours which have lower murder rates. We seldom, if ever, learn from the media about countries which have stronger gun-control laws than ours and whose murder rates are two or three times higher than ours.


The media also filter out facts about countries where gun ownership is far more widespread than in the united states — and who nevertheless have lower murder rates.


Those who are in the business of teaching the young, whether in the public schools or on college campuses, too often see this not as a responsibility to pass on what is known but as an opportunity to indoctrinate students with their own beliefs. Many “educators” and the gurus who indoctrinated them actively disparage “mere facts,” which they say you can get from an almanac or encyclopedia.


The net result is a student population that does not even know enough to know what needs to be looked up, much less how to analyze facts, so as to test opposing beliefs — as distinguished from how to gather information to support a preconceived notion that happens to be fashionable in the schools and colleges.


Yet people are considered to be “educated” after they have spent so many years in ivy-covered buildings, absorbing the preconceptions that prevail there.


Facts that go against preconceived notions are likely to be ignored, even by many scholars. For example, slavery is an issue that is widely discussed as if it were something peculiar to africans enslaved by europeans, instead of something suffered and inflicted around the world by people of every race, color, and religion.


Two books about more european slaves brought to north africa than there were african slaves brought to america have been published in recent years. They are “christian slaves, muslim masters” by robert davis and “white gold” by giles milton. Both books have been largely ignored by the media and academia alike — and the first went out of print, less than 6 months after being published.


Apparently scholars, as well as journalists, have made up their minds and don’t want to be confused by the facts.




Saving what from whom? (, 060720)


By Thomas Sowell


When conservationists talk about “saving” this and “protecting” that, a logical question might be: Saving it from whom? Protecting it from whom? And why should the government force what you want on someone else who obviously wants something different, or there would not be an issue in the first place?


After all, the Constitution says that all citizens are entitled to the “equal protection of the laws.”


Such questions almost never get asked. Nor do evidence or logic play much of a role in most conservation issues. Instead, we hear rhapsodies about “open space,” sneers at “urban sprawl” and self-congratulatory phrases like “smart growth.”


In short, rhetoric has long since replaced reasons on this as on so many other issues.


The latest conservation crusade has been announced in the San Francisco Bay area — putting an additional one million acres aside as “open space.”


According to an official of the Peninsula Open Space Trust, the next couple of decades represent “the last chance” to “save” these million acres. The fashionable phrase is: “Once it’s paved, it can’t be saved.”


Just to introduce a few facts into all these rhetorical flourishes, there are four and a half million acres of land in the San Francisco Bay Area. Less than one-sixth of this land has been developed. So we are not talking saving the last few patches of greenery from being paved over.


More than a million acres are already legally off-limits to development while less than three-quarters of a million acres are actually developed.


What then is the urgency about making another million acres of land legally off-limits to building anything? Because otherwise, more people will move into the area over time and, since they don’t want to live outdoors, they will want to have housing.


That bothers the conservationists, who prefer trees to houses.


If they can’t cut these other people off at the pass by making it illegal to build anything on an additional million acres, they can at least force those people to live in the kinds of housing that conservationists want to restrict them to, rather than the kinds of housing that these people prefer for themselves.


That’s called “smart growth.” What is smart about it is another question.


An international study of 26 urban areas with “severely unaffordable” housing found 23 of those 26 subject to strong “smart growth” policies. What is “smart” about causing skyrocketing housing prices by making it illegal to build anything on vast amounts of land?


It is smart if you already own a home and the astronomical costs of buying or renting are going to have to be paid by other people who move into the area. It may be especially smart if restrictions on building cause the value of the home you already own to go up by leaps and bounds.


The San Francisco Bay area already has housing prices about three times the national average. The heavy burden that this places on people is reflected in the fact that two-thirds of the purchases of homes last year were financed with risky “interest-only” loans.


That means that the mortgage payments for the first few years do not reduce the amount owed by one cent. Moreover, since these are usually adjustable-rate mortgages, the payments can shoot up as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates.


The connection between severe restrictions on building and skyrocketing housing prices can be seen from evidence around the country and around the world, wherever people have succumbed to rhetoric about “smart growth” and sneers at “urban sprawl.”


Severe restrictions on building began in the Bay Area back in the 1970s. At the beginning of that decade, housing in this area was as affordable as in other parts of the country.


A median income family in the Bay Area could pay off the mortgage on a median-priced house in just 13 years, using just one-fourth of their income. A decade later, it took 40% of their income to pay off the mortgage in 30 years. Today it requires 50%. Very “smart.”




May I Wish You a Godless Christmas? Put Some Books Under That Tree. (National Review Online, 061220)


By Thomas Sowell


People who dread Christmas shopping and the hand-wringing over what present to buy for which person should consider giving books. No need to know what size to get, as with clothing, or what dietary restrictions the recipient might have, as with candy or fruit cake.


One of the biggest advantages books have is that you can buy them on line, without having to inspect the merchandise personally before buying, so you can avoid the mobs in the malls.


Among the new books this year, Londonistan, by Melanie Phillips, is an eye-opening account of how the British have so succumbed to political correctness as regards their Muslim minority that even incitements to murder by Muslim extremists go unpunished.


While the Brits have gone further down this road than Americans have, we are being led in the same direction by our academic and media elites. So “ Send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”


The British have also gone further down the road to letting criminals escape punishment for their crimes. Here again, their experience can be a valuable warning, since Britain has gone from being one of the most law-abiding nations on earth to having a crime rate higher than that in the United States.


How was this achieved? By carrying the left-wing view of criminal justice even further than it has been carried in the United States, along with a dogmatic refusal to face the hard facts about the growing evidence of what disasters their “ progressive” ideas have created.


Ann Coulter’s new book this year is titled Godless. Like her other books, it is a gem — witty and factual, amusing and incisive, logical and angry.


It ranges across a wide sweep of political issues but its unifying theme is that liberalism is a religion, Godless but faith-based, with its faith being in a social vision that is impervious to any facts to the contrary.


For the benefit of the rest of us, Ann Coulter supplies those facts — and they are often devastating to the liberal faith, as her previous books have been.


For anyone who has a child who is planning to go to college, the most valuable book you can give them is the latest edition of a 900-page college guide titled Choosing the Right College.


It tells you about the campus atmosphere at numerous colleges, including which colleges have a real curriculum and which ones allow students to graduate knowing nothing about history, science, math, economics, etc.


It also tells which colleges have a suffocating political correctness and which ones still allow a free marketplace for ideas without the threat of being zapped by speech codes.


Anyone shocked by how hard it is to create a free society in Iraq might read 1776 by David McCullough, which shows how hard it was to create a free society in the United States.


Another book about history that has heavy implications for our own time is The Gathering Storm by Winston Churchill. It is about the events of the 1930s that led up to World War II. But the same kinds of arguments being made today about war and peace were made then — and we now know what kinds of wonderful-sounding words led straight to catastrophe.


Myths of Rich and Poor by W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm is a book that shoots down many of the myths and misconceptions about income differences that are constantly being turned out by the media.


Another book that debunks much organized hysteria is Sprawl by Robert Bruegmann. If you or someone you know happens to believe the “open space” and “smart growth” advocates — or even take them seriously — the plain facts and no-nonsense analysis in this book will make the hysteria collapse like a house of cards.


My own two books this year are very different from one another. Ever Wonder Why? is a 460-page collection of my columns, including many “ random thoughts.”


My other book this year, On Classical Economics, is frankly one that only an economist could love. But anyone who has studied enough economics to understand simple graphs and a few technical terms should sail right through it.


Merry Christmas — if we are still allowed to say that.




Say It Ain’t So (, 071214)


By Thomas Sowell


Shoeless Joe Jackson was the only man to bat .382 in his last season in the major leagues. After that he was banned for life for his role in the “black sox scandal,” the deliberate throwing of the 1919 World Series.


It was to Jackson that a youngster was supposed to have said, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”


Maybe we are too sophisticated today to react that way to the news that many major league star players have been taking steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs. But maybe we have gotten too sophisticated for our own good.


Some people are questioning whether there should now be asterisks alongside the records of Barry Bonds or other star players. That is the least of the problems — and the least of the solutions.


Steroids are dangerous and sometimes fatal. Yet, if some players use them, others will feel the pressure to use them as well, in order to compete.


Most important of all, many young people will imitate their sports heroes — and pay the price. Those young people are far more important than asterisks.


You might think that athletes who are making a million dollars — not per year, but sometimes per month — could spare some concern for the kids who look up to them.


But too many think only of themselves, and not always wisely, even for themselves.


Football star Michael Vick’s downfall was dog-fighting, rather than steroids, but it was the same reckless disregard of rules, jeopardizing a career that would have earned him more in a few years than most people make in a lifetime.


Even those of us who are not Michael Vick fans have to find it painful to see a young man self-destruct this way. If anything good comes out of this, it might be that his fate may deter others.


The bottom line question for those in authority, whether in the courts or in professional sports is, “What are you going to do about it?”


The law has already spoken in the case of Michael Vick. It is too early to say what the law will do in the case of Barry Bonds and others involved in the steroid controversy.


But it is not too early to point out that what the law does or does not do is separate from what the people in charge of professional sports do.


In a court of law, the accused is presumed to be “innocent until proven guilty” beyond a reasonable doubt. But too many people mindlessly repeat that phrase for things outside of courts.


All the ballplayers accused of throwing the 1919 World Series were acquitted in a court of law — and all were nevertheless banned from baseball for life anyway by the commissioner of baseball.


In a sense, that ban applied not only for life but beyond death. None of those players has been put in the Baseball Hall of Fame, even though Shoeless Joe Jackson hit .408 at his peak and left a lifetime batting average of .356.


That was long before we became so sophisticated that we learned to come up with excuses for those who violate rules and additional excuses for those who refuse to impose penalties.


Today there are those who lament Pete Rose’s exclusion from the Baseball Hall of Fame, despite a record on the field that would certainly have put him there, except for breaking rules.


But Shoeless Joe Jackson’s even more impressive record would certainly have put him in Cooperstown, if he had not broken the rules.


There is still some lingering hope of sanity in the baseball writers’ refusal to vote Mark McGwire into the Baseball Hall of Fame, despite his tremendous career achievements.


Keeping known rule-breakers out of Cooperstown would be a lot more effective deterrent than putting asterisks alongside their records, to be disregarded by those who are “non-judgmental.”


Unfortunately Senator George Mitchell’s report on steroid use in the major leagues and its recommendations are of the let-bygones-be-bygones approach that has spread the disregard of rules throughout the whole society, from student cheaters to career criminals.




Random Events (, 080506)


By Thomas Sowell


Sometimes unrelated events nevertheless tell a coherent story.


One newspaper story that caught my eye recently was about two high-powered schools in South Korea where Korean girls study 15 hours a day, preparing themselves for tests to get into elite colleges in the United States. Harvard, Yale and Princeton already have 34 students from those schools.


When a copy of the 50th anniversary report on members of the Harvard class of 1958 arrived in the mail recently, I thought back to one of my fellow students in that class who had worn a hole in the sole of his shoe but put a folded piece of newspaper in his shoe to cover the hole, rather than tell his parents.


He realized that they would buy him a new pair of shoes if they knew— and he also realized that they could not afford it.


He went on to become a professor at several well-known medical schools and to have various achievements and honors over the years.


From even further back in time, I received a letter recently from a man who grew up in my old neighborhood back in Harlem. When he and I were in the same junior high school, one day a teacher who saw him eating his brown bag lunch suddenly arranged for him to get a lunch from the school cafeteria without having to pay for it.


It happened so fast that my schoolmate had already taken a bite from the school lunch when he suddenly realized that he had been given charity— and he wouldn’t swallow the food. Instead he went to the toilet and spat it out.


By now his brown bag lunch had been thrown out, so he just went hungry that day. He went on to become a very successful psychiatrist.


Like everyone else, I have also been hearing a lot lately about Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of the church that Barack Obama has belonged to for 20 years.


Both men, in their different ways, have for decades been promoting the far left vision of victimization and grievances— Wright from his pulpit and Obama as a community organizer for the radical group ACORN, as a collaborator with former Weatherman terrorist Bill Ayers, and as the member of the U.S. Senate with the farthest left voting record.


Later, when the ultimate political prize— the White House— loomed on the horizon, Obama did a complete makeover, now portraying himself as a healer of divisions.


The difference between Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright is that they are addressing different audiences, using different styles adapted to those audiences.


It is a difference between upscale demagoguery and ghetto demagoguery, playing the audience for suckers in both cases.


People on the far left like to flatter themselves that they are for the poor and the downtrodden. But what is most likely to lift people out of poverty— telling them that the world has done them wrong or promoting the work ethnic of the Korean girls, the dogged determination of my Harvard classmate with the newspaper in his shoe, or the self-reliance of my fellow junior high school student in Harlem who had too much pride to take charity?


When young people go out into the world, what will they have to offer that can gain them the rewards they seek from others and the achievements they need for themselves?


Will they have the skills of science, technology or medicine?


Or will they have only the resentments that have been whipped up by the likes of Jeremiah Wright or the sense of entitlement from the government that has been Barack Obama’s stock in trade?


In the real world, a sense of grievance or entitlement, as a result of the mistreatment of your ancestors, is not likely to get you very far with people who are too busy dealing with current economic realities to spend much time thinking about their own ancestors, much less other people’s ancestors.


Another seemingly unrelated experience was being in a crowd at a graveside in a Jewish cemetery last week. That crowd included people who were black, white, Asian, Catholic, Jewish and no doubt others. This country has come a long way, just in my lifetime.


We don’t need people like either Jeremiah Wright or Barack Obama to take us backward.


The time is long overdue to stop gullibly accepting the left’s vision of itself as idealistic, rather than self-aggrandizing.




Burke and Obama (, 090529)

by Thomas Sowell


The other day I sought a respite from current events by re-reading some of the writings of 18th century British statesman Edmund Burke. But it was not nearly as big an escape as I had thought it would be.


When Burke wrote of his apprehension about “new power in new persons,” I could not help think of the new powers that have been created by which a new President of the United States — a man with zero experience in business — can fire the head of General Motors and tell banks how to run their businesses.


Not only is Barack Obama new to the presidency, he is new to running any organization. One of Burke’s fears was that “we may place our confidence in the virtue of those who have never been tried.”


Neither eloquence nor zeal was a substitute for experience, according to Burke. He said, “eloquence may exist without a proportionate degree of wisdom.” As for zeal, Burke said: “It is no excuse for presumptuous ignorance that it is directed by insolent passion.”


The Obama administration’s going back and forth on the question whether American intelligence agents who forced information out of captured terrorist leaders will be subjected to legal jeopardy, even though they were told at the time that what they were doing was not only legal but a service to the nation, came to mind when reading Burke’s warning about the dangers of continuing to change the rules and values by which people lived.


Burke asked how we could expect a sense of honor to exist when “no man could know what would be the test of honour in a nation, continually varying the standard of its coin?”


The current drive to take from “the rich” for the benefit of others came to mind when reading Burke’s warning against creating a situation where “any one description of citizens should be brought to regard any of the others as their proper prey.”


He also warned that “those who attempt to level, never equalise.” What they end up doing is concentrating power in their own hands— and Burke saw such new powers as dangerous, even if they were used only sparingly at first.


He said, “the true danger is, when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients and by parts.” He also said: “It is by lying dormant a long time, or being at first very rarely exercised, that arbitrary power steals upon a people.”


People who don’t like “the rich” or “big business” or the banks may be happy that President Obama is sticking it to them. But such arbitrary powers can be turned on anybody. As John Donne said: “Send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”


The Constitution of the United States set out to limit the powers of the federal government but judges have greatly eroded those limitations over the years and the dispensing of bailout money has allowed the Obama administration to exercise powers that the Constitution never gave them.


Edmund Burke understood that, no matter what form of government you had, in the end the character of those who wielded the powers of government was crucial. He said: “Constitute government how you please, infinitely the greater part of it must depend upon the exercise of the powers which are left at large to the prudence and uprightness of ministers of state.”


He also said, “of all things, we ought to be the most concerned who and what sort of men they are that hold the trust of everything that is dear to us.” He feared particularly the kind of man “whose whole importance has begun with his office, and is sure to end with it”— the kind of man “who before he comes into power has no friends, or who coming into power is obliged to desert his friends.” Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers and others came to mind.


The biggest challenge to America — and to the world — today is the danger of Iran with nuclear weapons. President Obama is acting as if this is something he can finesse with talks or deals. Worse yet, he may think it is something we can live with.


Burke had something to say about things like that as well: “There is no safety for honest men, but by believing all possible evil of evil men, and by acting with promptitude, decision, and steadiness on that belief.” Acting — not talking.