Saturday, 28 January 2017

Let's demand those Nobel Committee commies award one of their prizes to Thomas Sowell

Yes, I know - I've already written about Thomas Sowell twice in recent weeks, but I've been asked to do something on him for The Salisbury Review, so I might as well kill two birds with one stone and post it here (if you spot any glaring errors, please let me know):
“Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.” 
The economist, political philosopher and social commentator Thomas Sowell - America’s most consistently quotable public intellectual - recently retired at the age of 86. His legion of admirers, who think it’s scandalous that he has never been awarded a Nobel Prize for economics, will miss him. But, given his age, and the fact that he has written forty books, 2,000 syndicated columns, and a host of scholarly articles, essays and book reviews, nobody can doubt that he has earned the right to retire from the battlefield, especially at a time when left-liberalism - the political and economic philosophy he has spent over half a century mercilessly bludgeoning - appears to be in retreat.

Sowell was born to a black housemaid in North Carolina, and grew up in Harlem in New York.  He dropped out of school early to serve in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. A decade later, he graduated magnum cum laude from Harvard, and attained a PhD at Columbia the following year. That summer, the 30-year old Marxist experienced a Damascene conversion: while working as a US government department intern he detected a correlation between rising unemployment levels among Puerto Rican sugar workers and a rise in the mandatory minimum wage designed to lift them out of poverty. He concluded that the bureaucrats administering the minimum wage programme were more interested in their own jobs than those of the people they were supposed to be helping. He jettisoned Marx in favour of free market economics, and adopted a philosophy towards the libertarian end of the right-wing political spectrum. After attaining a Ph.D from the University of Chicago, he went on to teach at a series of impeccably left-wing universities, until, tired of the idiocies of liberal academia (“Too much of what is called ‘education’ is little more than an expensive isolation from reality”), in 1980 he opted to become a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute think tank, the redoubt from which he has been lobbing missiles at what he calls “the anointed” on behalf of the rest of us - “the benighted” - ever since. One can  imagine members of the left-liberal elite wincing as each of the following barbs draws blood:
“The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that they do not work. Therefore we should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive.”
“Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good.”
“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.”
Sowell’s refusal to act the role of a black public intellectual according to the Left’s rules has made him a constant thorn in their side and a hero to the American Right (who constantly circulate his aphorisms on the internet). Despite his skin pigmentation and  humble origins, the uppity wretch heaps scorn on his white masters’ addiction to self-congratulatory moral posturing, and routinely dismiss celebrity black civil rights leaders as “race hustlers”. He bases his arguments on facts rather than emotions (as Sowell wrote of today’s undergraduates, “The problem isn’t… that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.”) His books are devoid of technical language or academic obfuscation, and are so clearly written that even his writings on economics can be understood - and enjoyed - by the averagely-intelligent lay-reader. Apart from his syndicated column, he has ignored the media and avoided personal publicity (which helps to explain his extraordinary productivity).

Despite his gentle voice, laconic manner, and coolly rational writing style, emotion (mainly, one suspects, exasperation) underpins  much of Sowell’s work, particularly when discussing race. If he were white, his comments on the subject would undoubtedly see him branded a racist. He deplores many aspects of modern black “culture”, but, while keen for blacks to shoulder the responsibility for much of their own destruction, he apportions much of the blame to the anointed: “The black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow [racist laws], but it has disintegrated in the wake of the liberals’ expansion of the welfare state.” According to Sowell, before President Johnson launched his ruinous Great Society experiment on America in the ‘60s, in which billions of dollars were spent on “affirmative action” in an attempt to eradicate inequality, blacks were rapidly closing the gap between themselves and whites in every single measurable area - including education, income, incarceration rates, death by homicide and teenage pregnancies (in fact, a greater portion of working class black children were being raised in two-parent households at the end of the ‘50s than their white equivalents). Things weren’t perfect by any means, but they were undoubtedly improving. In the wake of LBJ’s intervention, black attainment levels in all areas plummeted, and the gap between blacks and whites widened. Yet the same failed policies have been pursued for much of the past half century, wreaking even greater destruction on black communities.

The disastrous consequences of attempts by a succession of American administrations to “help” blacks bear out two of Sowell’s main themes. First, he tells us, government intervention in any field almost invariably makes things worse. Second, our self-regarding elites can’t be trusted, because they’re only interested in advocating policies which reinforce their sense of moral superiority: the effect of those policies on people’s lives is of little concern to them. Rather than accept that society’s ills stem from individual choices and behaviour, the anointed blame “society”, because “…to believe in personal responsibility would be to destroy the whole special role of the anointed, whose vision casts them in the role of rescuers of people treated unfairly by ‘society’." This pernicious vision eventually achieves “a sacrosanct status, hermetically sealed off from the contaminating influence of facts.”

As voters in the West appear to be coming round to Sowell’s view of reality - especially regarding race and immigration, and the growing  suspicion that the elite doesn’t really give a stuff about them - one suspects that, far from being forgotten in the future, his reputation will soar: after all, he has been pretty much spot on about everything for a very long time. And if a Nobel Committee can see fit to award a prize to Bob Dylan, there seems very little reason not to bung one Thomas Sowell’s way.

I’ll end with two more memorable quotations from the great man, the first of which should be dunned into the thick head of any politician who doesn’t understand why inviting a million culturally-alien foreigners to invade your country isn’t a good idea:  "Civilisation has been aptly called a 'thin crust over a volcano.' The anointed are constantly picking at that crust.” Traditional conservatives made nervous by Sowell’s  libertarian leanings might find this reassuring: ”For the anointed, traditions are likely to be seen as the dead hand of the past, relics of a less enlightened age, and not as the distilled experience of millions who faced similar human vicissitudes before.”

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