Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thomas Sowell

I am listening to Thomas Sowell's collection of essays, Dismantling America, on CD, and am struck by his profundity and clarity of thought on economics and politics. Reading Intellectuals and Society impresses this upon me as well. He fears that with the Obama regime, America is turning its back on its heritage of freedom and may be heading to a point of no return (the centralized--and thus unproductive--economy, socialism, benighted rule by bureaucrats). I heartily recommend this book, as well as Vision of the Anointed, A Conflict of Visions, The Politics of Economics and Race, and Civil Rights and Wrongs. The man is utterly brilliant. And he is an ex-Marxist!


Tim said...

I heartily agree -- Sowell is perhaps our most profound thinker on these issues.

R. Chapman said...

I greatly enjoy Sowell's writings. I believe he's somewhat weak on the issue of abortion, though. I've seen him ask why the onset of brain function or brain waves doesn't signify the beginning of human life (since, apparently, the ceasing of brainwaves signifies human death, medically).

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

I am not familiar with his views on abortion.

Mr Veale said...

I'm puzzled by this comment "the centralized--and thus unproductive--economy, socialism, benighted rule by bureaucrats"
Modern civilization demands increasing levels of bureaucracy, and that demands that certain traditional ways of living go by the wayside. Christian conservatives do not want to repeat the mistakes of Kuyper's anti-Revolutionary party, or European Catholic Conservatism in the mid-twentieth century. They sought to oppose bureaucratization that was, in fact, essential to a modern state.
Bureaucratization, like air pollution and talk radio, goes hand in hand with modernity. Like any creature with a rational soul I loathe it, but I can't see that it can be avoided. I’m not sure that it is wise to object to a program simply because it would involve more bureaucracy or centralisation. In general we should avoid both; but if the program’s benefits outweigh the cost of the depersonalising effects, then we should pursue the proposed course of action.


Mr Veale said...

I'm also puzzled by the reference to "socialism". Now, since Tony Blair described himself as a 'socialist' and sang "The Red Flag" at Labour Party conferences, it is arguable that the term has no fixed meaning.

But this rhetoric does seem a little strange. Obama's Health Care Proposals would be dismissed as unreasonably right wing in the United Kingdom. They seem to be tentatively moving towards a European Model of health care, rather than anything that resembles the National Health Service (paid by taxation).

How this, or his views on taxation, qualify his administration as "socialist" or a "regime" is frankly puzzling to an Ulsterman.

However, I think that you are correct to critique Obama's stance on abortion and the family. In the UK human life and the family have both been instrumentalised. And Obama is at the top of that very slippery slope.

Paul said...

but if the program’s benefits outweigh the cost of the depersonalising effects, then we should pursue the proposed course of action.

The first problem is who makes that determination whether the benefits exceed the cost? In a free market, you and I decide by voting with our dollars.

Unfortunately, a bureaucracy - especially the entrenched types we now have - allow for no such rationalization.

Two examples: here in Los Angeles, the LAUSD has a budget of $7 Billion (not million) and they graduate less than half of those attending high school.

Secondly, the Department of Energy was founded in 1977 to make us less dependent upon foreign oil. How's that working out? Now they have something like 16,000 employees and a budget of over $20 Billion annually.

So clearly these two do not provide "benefits to exceed their costs". But do you think the poor kids of LA will be able to throw off that bureaucracy? Or how about if you and I reduce our price at the pump by $20 Billion per year? Nice dream.

Sowell is a genius and he's right. We now have such a large professional bureaucracy with a clientele 50% of whom pay no taxes that there may be no chance to right this ship.


Mr Veale said...


I can sympathise with the level of frustration. Bureaucracies will, of necessity, be unwieldy clumsy and intrusive beasts. Human nature does not change because it is in an office, and equipped with some paper clips and a dozen buzz words.

However, the idea that the Free Market would be any more efficient and less idiotic seems absurd.

And I'm not sure that Free Market's exist in any case. Wage levels are determined by immigration, and levels of immigration are determined, in part, by political
considerations and government policy.

And we certainly do not "vote with our dollars". I have practically no control over where my bank invests my savings.

The danger is that we point to recent economic catastrophes or governmental blunders, and say "see, this is where the Free Market/Centralised Bureaucracy gets you." The fault lies in human nature.


Doug White said...

In response to Constantine. We the people will likely be unable to right this capsized ship because of a parasite host imbalance...most of our nation's bureaucracy has become camoflauged parasites and they are killing the few remaining hosts (we the people). The current system is inverted so that we the people are bailing out the bureaucracy with more and more of our labors and money as they squander it at a faster pace then we can provide. This is like an epidemic pestilence found on both sides of the political gangway. I am pro Kingdom of God although I am sometimes accused of being a-political because I think both sides of the gangway (or gangbang)deceptively tickle the ears with different forms of (conservative and liberal) bait so they can continue to feed upon us unto death.

Paul said...

Hi Graham,

“However, the idea that the Free Market would be any more efficient and less idiotic seems absurd.”

Why does it seem absurd? You prove its efficiency everyday. When you go to the grocery store you do it without anybody telling you when, or where or why. When you buy clothes, you don't need somebody to tell you either. Now, what if, as in old Soviet Russia, someone directed every one of those activities? Would that be more “efficient” for you? Of course not.

But I think this conversation is really about the scope of government.

“And we certainly do not "vote with our dollars". I have practically no control over where my bank invests my savings. “

But you have absolute control over whether or not to put your money in the bank – or which bank to put it in.

“The fault lies in human nature.”

Amen. And given the “total depravity” of that nature is the precise reason why government should be as small as possible. And I think Dr. Sowell's point is that this depravity having been so hugely institutionalized is beyond repair.

Let's all get reacquainted with the 10th amendment!


Paul said...

Hi Doug,

I feel your pain.