Posted tagged ‘Political Translations’

Thomas Sowell: Political Translations

November 29, 2015

Here is a great article by Dr. Thomas Sowell titled ‘Political Translations’ (click here). In the past  Dr. Sowell has used the term “verbal sleight of hand artists” to describe politicians. In this article he gives us examples to show us how to decipher political language. Here are some excerpts from the article.

It is amazing how many different ways the same thing can be said, creating totally different impressions. For example, when President Barack Obama says that defeating ISIS is going to take a long time, how is that different from saying that he is going to do very little, very slowly? It is saying the same thing in different words.”

“Defenders of the administration’s policies may cite how many aerial sorties have been flown by American planes against ISIS. There have been thousands of these sorties, which sounds very impressive. But what is less impressive — and more indicative — is that, in most of those sorties, the planes have not fired a single shot or dropped a single bomb.”

“Why? Because the rules of engagement are so restrictive that in most circumstances there is little that the pilot is allowed to do, unless circumstances are just right, which they seldom are in any war.

“Politics produces lots of words that can mean very different things, if you stop and think about them. But politicians depend on the fact that many people don’t bother to stop and think about them.

“We often hear that various problems within the black community are “a legacy of slavery.” That phrase is in widespread use among people who believe in the kinds of welfare state programs that began to dominate government policies in the 1960s.”

“Blaming social problems today on “a legacy of slavery” is another way of saying, “Don’t blame our welfare state policies for things that got worse after those policies took over. Blame what happened in earlier centuries.”

“Nobody would accept that kind of cop-out, if it were expressed that way. But that is why it is expressed differently, as a “legacy of slavery.

“Another fashionable phrase that evades any need for evidence is “disparate impact” — a legal phrase accepted in the Supreme Court of the United States, despite being downright silly when you stop and think about it.”

“Whenever there is some standard for being hired, promoted or admitted to a college, some groups may meet that standard more so than others. One way of expressing that is to say that more of the people from group X meet the standard than do people from group Y. But politically correct people express the same thing by saying that the standard has a “disparate impact” on group Y. Once it is expressed this way, it is the standard that is suspect — and whoever set that standard has to prove a negative, namely that he is not guilty of discrimination against group Y. Often nobody can prove anything, so the accused loses — or else settles out of court.”

“Stupid? No. It takes very clever people to make something like that sound plausible. But it also requires people who don’t bother to stop and think, who enable them to get away with it.


Dr. Sowell rightly puts the blame for falling for our politicians verbal sleight of hand on ‘we the people’. He is correct. Our founders said “eternal vigilance is the price for freedom”. Over the last 50 years we have not been willing to pay this price. If we loose our freedom, the cost of getting it back will be high indeed.

Related Article -Vision Of The Anointed was the first Thomas Sowell book I read. It set a firm foundation for me on how to analyze the words of slick politicians. In this post, Thomas Sowell’s Vision of the Anointed, I link to a short video of Dr Sowell talking about “The Anointed”.