The Great Thomas Sowell: Says Farewell To His Weekly Column

Thomas Sowell

I was out-of-town last week when I heard that my favorite author was retiring from writing his weekly column. I decided to wait until I had time to think, before I wrote anything about Dr. Sowell retiring.

I had never heard of Thomas Sowell until one day in 1995 I was listening to Walter E. Williams guest host for Rush Limbaugh. He said he was going to talk to his friend Dr. Thomas Sowell about his new book titled, “The Vision Of The Anointed”. I had been reading Walter E. Williams columns in the local paper for years and decided to make sure I listened when Dr. Sowell was being interviewed.

The discussion between Dr. Williams and Dr. Sowell about this book captivated me to the point I went out and purchased the book as soon as I could. The clarity in which Dr. Sowell articulated complex issues had me hooked. It was crack cocaine to me. I had to have more.

I read a book he wrote in 1987 titled, “A Conflict Of Visions”. Then I read “Knowledge and Decisions” a book he wrote in 1980. From there I had to get my hands on everything he wrote. I have 34 books by Dr. Sowell. He has laid the foundation for me to read and understand Hayek, Mises, and Rothbard.

I had read F.A. Hayek’s, “Road To Serfdom” before I had read anything by Thomas Sowell. I didn’t know how little I had understood in Road To Serfdom until I reread it after I had read Dr Sowell’s books.

I know Dr. Sowell is retiring from his weekly column, but I hope that he will keep turning out his books. His weekly columns are written for regular people like you and me. They are not written for academics as some of his books are. His weekly columns have been must reads for me for years. I will continue to have his blog archives on my blog roll. They are a great source for information.

Thomas Sowell has published 6 books containing his best weekly essays. I have all 6 of these books. Here is a list, with links to Amazon.

Pink And Brown People, and other controversial essays. 1977-1980.

Compassion Versus Guilt, and other essays.

Is Reality Optional.

Controversial Essays.

Barbarians Inside The Gate.

Ever Wonder Why, and other controversial essays.

Dismantling America. 2010

The most amazing thing when you read these older books of essays, is the fact that nothing has changed. We are still fighting the same ideological battles today as we were in the late 70’s. His essays are as relevant today as they were when they were written.

FAREWELL

Here is what he wrote in his last column titled, “Farewell“.

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

“Looking back over the years, as old-timers are apt to do, I see huge changed, both for the better and for the worse”……

“We cannot return to the past, even if we wanted to, but let us hope that we can learn something from the past to make for a better present and future.”

“Goodbye and good luck to all.”

EXCERPTS FROM OLDER ESSAYS

Here are a few excerpts from essays in his book titled “Pink And Brown People”. These essays were written from 1977 to 1980. You tell me if this is relevant today?

1977 – Who Says Bureaucracy Is Inefficient?

The public has all too many reasons to be unhappy and angry with bureaucrats. But To blame problems in Washington on stupidity and inefficiency among government officials is to misunderstand what is happening. Government employees are better paid than private employees, have lower unemployment rates, and fatter pensions…..The highest income county in the U.S. is in a suburb of Washington…..Bureaucracy is a growth industry. This has been true over the years regardless of which party was in power and regardless of a born-again Christian (Carter) out to reform “the mess in Washington.”

“The bureaucracy, with its financial security and special privileges, is, if anything, far too smart and too efficient in promoting its own interest….how did it happen. In order to know if people are “efficient” or inefficient,” you have to know what they are trying to do. Fan dancing is a very inefficient way of circulating the air in a room, but it is a very efficient way of transferring money from the pockets of the viewers to the pocket of the performer. The government is not fan dancing, but there is a similar emphasis on going through tantalizing motions that promise more than is delivered.”

The crucial mistake is to assume that the government’s purpose is our purpose…..Efficiency means getting the most output with the least input. But bureaucrats are paid according to how many other bureaucrats work under them and how big a budget they administer. This is called being paid for the level of responsibility….To call over staffing and unnecessary paperwork “inefficiency or stupidity in this context is to miss the whole point. What we call bureaucratic delay is someone else’s job protection and his boss’s salary justification.”

“Bungling? When was the last time government workers missed getting their paychecks….? confusion? When was the last time government workers’ unions failed to torpedo reforms that would cost jobs? Few things have been as much criticized as the welfare system and the education system, and yet the only reforms that have any political chance in these areas must first and foremost assure the jobs, power, and appropriations of the existing bureaucrats. Efficient? Very.”

Is it worse or better since 1977?

1979 – “Expert Failures”

“Have you noticed how many disasters follow in the wake of “experts”? The period since WWII has been the great era of experts on raising children. Dr. Spock was only the tip of the iceberg. You couldn’t turn on the radio or television, or open a newspaper of magazine, without encountering an army of experts on how to raise your kid.”

“The first thing these experts emphasized was that laymen were all wrong in their approach. what we needed was the sophisticated, modern way to handle children, not simplistic, traditional methods. What followed was an unprecedented rise in juvenile delinquency, crime, teenage suicide, venereal disease, and pregnancy. The only thing going down was performance in school.”

“Experts took over control of the American money supply even earlier in history. A monetary crisis in the early twentieth century led to the creation of the Federal Reserve system in 1914. With experts in firm control of the money supply, we were supposed to have less sudden reductions in the flow of money, fewer bank failures, and less inflation….The largest number of bank failures ever seen occurred under these experts: one-forth of all the banks in the U.S. failed in one year. As for inflation, there has never been such a long period of inflation as we have had under the Federal Reserve system, especially in recent years.”

“While experts are quick to claim credit for anything good that happens, all disasters are attributed  to something else…..The great problem with experts is that they don’t know and can’t know. They may have a lot of theories and second-hand information at their fingertips. but the hard, specific knowledge needed to make decisions is usually scattered among millions of laymen. The layman is the real expert on his own particular situation and has every incentive to change his decision when the results don’t turn out the way he wants. The so-called expert tries to know too much from too far away and has no incentive to admit he is wrong, since someone else pays the price of his mistakes.”

“…..one expert may know more than one layman. but neither of them knows enough to try to control a whole economy or society of millions of other human beings. The layman at least realizes that his knowledge is inadequate to even attempt such a thing. The expert doesn’t. That is why he is so dangerous.

CLAIRVOYANT? OR ASTUTE OBSERVER?

Their has only been a change in degree not kind. What is going on now is no different than Dr. Sowell’s observations of what was happening in the late 70s. These problems have only expanded in size and scope. We didn’t listen to the warning.

I will be writing about Thomas Sowell over the next week or so. This man opened my eyes to a different world view than the one being pushed by the ruling aristocracy, the main stream media, and the intellectual class. I am convinced that if a person is shown both world views, he will choose the one Dr. Sowell articulates.

 

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