Thomas Sowell, at age 86, is laying down his pen after 25 years of delivering many of the most astute and well-rounded conservative ideas of any living political writer.
He was born in 1930, in North Carolina, but spent his childhood in Harlem. He fought in the Korean War as a US Marine before going on to graduate from both Harvard and Columbia with degrees in economics. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
He identifies, not as a conservative, but as a libertarian. But his stunning arguments sing to the ideals of conservatives and republicans so roundly that he has been bitterly criticized by left-wing opponents who- it’s fair to say- do not understand his ideas.
One of his most stunning insights, which has shaped much of his writing and those who admire his work, is the simple idea that it isn’t poverty which we must search for causal factors. “Poverty,” he says, “Is the original state of the species. It is our natural state, therefore it has no causal factor. It is prosperity that deserves study and attention because its causes are more mysterious.”
This groundbreaking idea has been abhorrent to so many left wing rhetoricians as it undermines the assumption that poverty is inflicted on people via an unnatural cause. It’s so clear, its evidence is right there in volumes on volumes of natural history- telling us that poverty is not caused by greedy business people. How can it be, if humans have lived in poverty for the majority of their time on Earth?
It is a difficult blow to recover from for democrats who require that wealth should be redistributed as it has been wrested from the hands of the working class.
It has, of course, been wrested from the working class, but not by job creators, as Sowell points out. It has been taken from them by decades of liberal welfare programs and the exportation of industries which have reduced the middle class to cinders.
Sowell, in practically every interview he has appeared in, has had to answer for the “black experience.” Visibly, he shifts in his seat under the numbing predictability of such questions. Again, he disappoints those who are obsessed with race, class, and gender.
He says, “I grew up in Harlem, and I never once heard a gunshot.” He admits that he either was too distracted to hear it or was lucky. But he makes the point that grievance has never been something that he saw as tradeable currency.
Again and again, he defeats liberal talking points, not that they notice. In a 2016 interview with Peter Robinson on Uncommon Knowledge, Sowell addresses the claim that poor people in America can no longer rise out of poverty.
“What [liberals] leave out of the equation,” he says, “Is the fact that so many immigrants come here with nothing but their luggage- they start businesses, they excel in our schools, and they attain positions of influence power.” Once again, the evidence for his contention is plain to see and the opposition falls flat on its face.
In response to a speech by Hillary Clinton during the campaign, where she spoke of revamping systems to ‘address the disadvantaged,’ Sowell offered another biting rebuttal to democrat policy. He said, “When they say they want to help black people—they only want to help the ones that are doing wrong. They want to open the prisons, they want to turn up the volume on welfare. They want to defend criminals being shot by police during the commission of crimes. What they don’t want to do is help charter schools where poor black kids are doing as well in their studies as the children of affluent families. You would think this would get a lot of attention, but the supporters of the welfare state are fighting against these charter schools- these ghetto schools. The NAACP is fighting against these charter schools.”
At his advanced age, Thomas Sowell is as insightful and energetic as he has ever been. He has been unblinking in the face of his critics who have called him an Uncle Tom- the only real insult a liberal can hurl at a man who has written over 40 scholarly and well-researched books on policy and economics.
He has been a powerful voice of positivity and hope in a political climate that is rife with brusque talking points, and while his brilliant column will be missed- it’s hard to imagine that we have seen the last of Dr. Sowell.
~ Conservative Zone