Author, syndicated columnist, fellow at the Hoover Institution
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  • Thomas Sowell

    Thomas Sowell (born 30 June 1930) is an American economist and social theorist who is currently Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

    Home Page

    Thomas Sowell
    Includes information on his two autobiographies, books on economics, education, ideas and ideology and race and ethnicity, his favorite quotations, photographs taken by him, curriculum vita, speeches and thoughts about writing


    Sowell, Thomas (1930-), by Jo Kwong, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Biographical essay
    "Thomas Sowell is an economist, a social theorist, and a writer. In an age in which many black leaders argue that racial identity determines political ideology, Thomas Sowell has challenged us to reexamine many widely accepted assumptions about identity and ideology. ... In evaluating popular perceptions about the role of oppression and discrimination in limiting the success of certain groups, Sowell integrates history and economics to show how the best opportunities for all people—including blacks and women—come through hard work and applied effort in a free and open market."
    Related Topic: Economics


    Thomas Sowell - The Advocates
    214x300 JPEG, color


    30 Jun 1930, in North Carolina


    Laissez Faire Books
    "Fans of his work will be delighted with Sowell's autobiography Personal Odyssey (2000) providing a glimpse in the life of today's most prolific author on liberty. One of his best-known themes is that culture has a decisive impact on the ability of people to thrive. He has provided dramatic examples from around the world of minorities which prospered despite persecution, because their cultures encouraged their people to be resourceful, work hard, save money and persevere. By contrast, politically dominant populations have often had lower incomes which Sowell attributes to negative aspects of their cultures."


    Hoover Institution, Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy

    Web Pages

    About Dr. Thomas Sowell | Creators Syndicate
    Short profile, photograph and links to latest articles (Oct 2016-May 2017)
    "Thomas Sowell was born in North Carolina and grew up in Harlem. As with many others in his neighborhood, he left home early and did not finish high school. The next few years were difficult ones, but eventually he joined the Marine Corps and became a photographer in the Korean War. After leaving the service, Sowell entered Harvard University, worked a part-time job as a photographer and studied the science that would become his passion and profession: economics. After graduating magna cum laude ... he went on to receive a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago (1968)."
    The Advocates for Self-Government - Thomas Sowell
    Includes picture, biography, picture, list of books and selected quotes
    "Thomas Sowell is one of the most important and respected writers on politics and social policy in America. He is also a popular and widely-syndicated columnist. ... Sowell has published a large volume of writing. His many books, as well as numerous articles and essays, cover a wide range of topics, from classic economic theory to judicial activism, from civil rights to choosing the right college. Moreover, much of his writing is considered ground-breaking work that will outlive the great majority of scholarship done today. ... His writing is always strongly in favor of free-market economic policy and a libertarian social policy."
    Thomas Sowell | Hoover Institution
    Includes photograph, biographical summary, areas of expertise, awards and honors and recent articles/interviews
    "Awards and Honors:
    Rita Ricardo-Campbell and W. Glenn Campbell Uncommon Book Award (1998)
    National Humanities Medal (2002)
    Bradley Prize (2003)...
    Sowell's current research focuses on cultural history in a world perspective, a subject on which he began to write a trilogy in 1982. The trilogy includes Race and Culture (1994), Migrations and Cultures (1996), and Conquests and Cultures (1998). ... Over the past three decades, Sowell has taught economics at various colleges and universities, including Cornell, Amherst, and the University of California at Los Angeles, as well as the history of ideas at Brandeis University."

    Archived Columns

    Thomas Sowell
    At; over 19 years of columns, from Feb 1998 to May 2017
    Thomas Sowell Articles - Political Columnist & Commentator
    At; includes short profile, photograph and links to articles
    "Though Thomas Sowell had been a regular contributor to newspapers in the late '70s and early '80s, he did not begin his career as a newspaper columnist until 1984. George F. Will's writing, says Sowell, proved to him that someone could say something of substance in so short a space (750 words). And besides, writing for the general public enables him to address the heart of issues without the smoke and mirrors that so often accompany academic writing. In 1990, he won the prestigious Francis Boyer Award, presented by The American Enterprise Institute. Currently Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute in Stanford, Calif."


    Hayek, Life and Times, by Jim Powell
    Lengthy biographical essay, with extensive quotes both from Hayek and others (including Keynes)
    "Hoover Institution scholar, prolific author and popular columnist Thomas Sowell acknowledged that Hayek influenced his book Knowledge and Decisions (1980), citing Hayek's 'deeply penetrating insight into the way societies function and malfunction, and clues as to why they are so often and so profoundly misunderstood.'"
    Sowell and Spying, by William L. Anderson, 9 Feb 2006
    Criticizes Sowell for his 7 Feb 2006 column titled "Point of no return" in which he defended the George W. Bush administration's warrantless domestic phone surveillance program on utilitarian grounds
    "In my early libertarian days, Thomas Sowell was one of my heroes. First, he was a very good scholar ... His book, Knowledge and Decisions is a rigorous and excellent economic analysis, using F.A. Hayek's classic paper, 'The Use of Knowledge in Society' as a foundation. Second, Sowell has been prolific as a writer, and I always admire productive people. Third, the personal attacks that leftists — black and white — have laid upon him have been merciless and mostly evil ... However, I fear the Former Great Man has crossed his own Rubicon, with his recent column in support of the administration's post-9/11 domestic spying."
    Related Topics: Jeremy Bentham, Government
    The Quest for Cosmic Justice, by Richard Ebeling, Future of Freedom, Dec 1999
    Review of The Quest for Cosmic Justice (1999) by Thomas Sowell
    "The underlying theme ... is that the idea behind the brutality of the Bolshevik nightmare is still the specter that haunts the Western world, in spite of the fall of Soviet-style socialism in eastern Europe. It is what Sowell refers to as the appeal and politics of cosmic justice. "Implicit in much discussion of a need to rectify social inequities is the notion that some segments of society, through no fault of their own, lack things which others receive as windfall gains, through no virtue of their own," he argues ... [He] reminds us of just how unique the American experiment in free government was from its very founding."


    Bad Teachers, 19 Apr 1998
    Review of the 1998 book Bad Teachers: The Essential Guide for Concerned Parents by Guy Strickland, a former teacher and principal turned education consultant
    "Once you have gotten used to a whole vocabulary of euphemisms, it can be shocking to come across the plain truth. The title of a new book may therefore jolt some people: Bad Teachers by Guy Strickland. If every parent whose child has had a bad teacher were to buy this book, it would hit the top of the best-seller list in no time. ... If you buy only one book on education in your lifetime, this is the one to buy. I say that as the author of a couple of books on education myself. But I am willing pass up some sales of my own books in order to urge you to buy this one."
    Related Topic: Learning
    Barry and the Babe, 16 Oct 2001
    Explains what is a slugging average, the significance of it being over .800 and compares the records of Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth and others
    "This season, Barry Bonds has been a Giant in more than name. While baseball fans and the media have been focussed on his record-breaking home-run feats, far less attention has been paid to his other feats that have been even more spectacular — and, in fact, unique. Barry Bonds is the first batter in the entire history of the National League ... to have a slugging average over .800. ... While Bonds' incredible performance gave new prominence to slugging averages, Ruth's lifetime dominance in that statistic makes clear that the Babe was still the greatest all-around slugger of them all ..."
    Related Topic: Baseball
    Bundling and unbundling, 13 Apr 1998
    Argues that the government should not be telling Microsoft (or any other company) what it can or cannot bundle in one of its software products or otherwise interfere in private transactions, except for holding sellers responsible for what they sell
    "The government's legal attacks on Microsoft for bundling various computer programs in its Windows operating system are attacking precisely what there needs to be more of in the computer industry, where too many products are unbundled now. It is a frustrating business to phone one of the computer companies' technical support systems and be told that what you have is a software problem, not a hardware problem. Then you phone the software company's technical support people, who tell you that you have a hardware problem and that you should call the computer company. ... We need an umpire, not a nanny."
    Related Topics: Government, Technology
    Clinton in Africa, 15 Apr 1998
    Crititcizes Bill Clinton for his "apology for slavery" and suggests he was playing the "race card ... to escape the consequences of his own actions"
    "President Clinton in Africa was ... as phony as a three-dollar bill. His apology for slavery while in Uganda was a complete farce. Most people of African ancestry in the United States originated in West Africa, not in Uganda, which is much farther east. It is doubtful whether anyone from Uganda was ever brought to the United States. ... It is not Clinton himself who is dangerous — at least not now, as a lame-duck president. What is dangerous is letting any president get away with flaunting the law, for others are certain to follow in his footsteps and continue dismantling the barriers against abuses of power."
    Related Topics: Africa, Bill Clinton, Rule of Law
    Joe DiMaggio — icon of an era, 10 Mar 1999
    In memoriam for "Joltin' Joe" DiMaggio, reviewing many of his accomplishments and being grateful that "the fine qualities he represented as a man have not all 'left and gone away'" (as in The Sound of Silence)
    "The recent death of baseball great Joe DiMaggio came as a personal blow to those of us who remember him as an icon of an era. He was judged by many to be the greatest ballplayer of his time and, for some, long after his retirement, as the greatest living ballplayer. ... Last year's two most talked-about ballplayers, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, likewise exhibited that elusive thing called 'class' at a time when it was most needed and most lacking in other public figures. May the qualities that Joe DiMaggio epitomized never be something that has 'left and gone away.' We would be a much poorer society without them."
    Related Topic: Baseball
    Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war, 12 Feb 1998
    Memorial essay, pointing out that Simon's death occurred near the 200th anniversary of Thomas Malthus' Essay on the Principle of Population
    "The recent death of Julian Simon was a special loss because he was one of those people who took on the thankless task of talking sense on a subject where nonsense is all the rage. A professor of economics at the University of Maryland, Julian Simon wrote fact-filled books about population -- all of them exposing the fallacies of those who were promoting 'overpopulation' hysteria. ... his best-known book [was] The Ultimate Resource. To him, the ultimate resource was human intelligence. We should also add, in honor of Julian Simon, the courage to use that intelligence."
    Related Topics: Economics, Julian Simon
    "Living wage" kills jobs, 5 Nov 2003
    Explains what a "living wage" is supposed to be and the effect that "artificially higher wage rates" have on employment
    "Give credit where credit is due. The political left is great with words. Conservatives have never been able to come up with such seductive phrases as the left mass produces. While conservatives may talk about a need for 'judicial restraint,' liberals cry out for 'social justice.' ... Do you want social injustice? ... I would love to believe that the Hoover Institution would continue to hire me if I demanded double my current salary. But you notice that I don't make any such demand. Third parties need to stop making such demands for other people. It is more important for people to have jobs than for busybodies to feel noble."
    McGwire, Maris and the Babe, 21 Oct 1998
    Compares Mark McGwire to Roger Maris and Babe Ruth and concludes that the latter was "the greatest ballplayer that ever lived"
    "Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have been a godsend at a time when we desperately needed somebody in public life to show some class and be someone that young people could look up to. Incidentally, it shows how time flies that neither of these guys had been born when Roger Maris set the home-run record that they both broke. Now that Big Mac is the new home-run king, how does he compare with Roger Maris and with Babe Ruth before him? ... Obviously, no one can slug .800 all season — unless he is Babe Ruth. The Babe was the only man to have slugged over .800 — and he did two seasons in a row. He is still the greatest."
    Related Topic: Baseball
    Milton Friedman at 90, 29 Jul 2002
    Recounts some of Sowell's experiences as Friedman's student and later as friend and admirer
    "Milton Friedman's 90th birthday on July 31st provides an occasion to think back on his role as the pre-eminent economist of the 20th century. To those of us who were privileged to be his students, he also stands out as a great teacher. ... Without Milton Friedman's role in changing the minds of so many Americans, it is hard to imagine how Ronald Reagan could have been elected president. Nor was Friedman's influence confined to the United States. His ideas reached around the world, not only among economists, but also in political circles which began to understand why left-wing ideas that sounded so good produced results that were so bad."
    Related Topic: Milton Friedman
    Pete vs. Joe, 17 Mar 2003
    Counters the argument of those in favor of admitting Pete Rose to the Baseball Hall of Fame by relating the story of Shoeless Joe Jackson and discussing the results of permissiveness
    "A San Francisco sports writer has joined the chorus of those who argue that Pete Rose should be admitted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, despite being banned from baseball for violating one of its cardinal rules, against betting on ball games. The argument is: What have Pete's personal shortcomings got to do with the fact that he had a great career on the field? ... Forgetting the past endangers the future. After Shoeless Joe Jackson has been admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame will be time enough to talk about Pete Rose. But neither of them should be admitted, now or ever."
    Related Topics: Baseball, Children
    Religion and the Constitution, 28 Jun 2002
    Discusses the implications of the decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Newdow v. United States Congress challenging the constitutionality of the phrase "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance (added in 1954)
    "Now that the decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to ban 'under God' from the pledge of allegiance has been protested all over the landscape, perhaps we might step back and consider the broader implications of the fact that such a decision could have been made in the first place. ... We could elect a Senate that will confirm judicial nominees who have a record of sticking to what the written law says, not those who rule on the basis of their own whims or the dictates of political correctness. We have a chance to try that this November before resorting to more drastic measures."
    Roasting Walter Williams, 19 Sep 2003
    Recounts how Sowell first met Williams, discovering they thought along similar lines, providing other factual and anecdotal information on Williams since that meeting
    "At George Mason University, they are giving a 'roast' — that peculiarly American combination of praise and ridicule — to Walter Williams, professor of economics and columnist extraordinaire. ... Although Walter often comes across as hard-boiled on social issues — he once said that the government has no right to take a dime of his money to spend on someone else —the fact is that he has been very generous using his own money and his own time to help others. He just doesn't want politicians doing it and messing things up. This is a long overdue tribute to a great guy."
    Related Topic: Walter E. Williams
    Senator Feinstein and property rights, 10 Nov 2003
    Discusses Dianne Feinstein's comment that private property is "alive and well" in San Francisco as evidenced by its high property values
    "One of the reasons given by California's liberal Senator Dianne Feinstein for opposing the confirmation of state Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown to the federal judiciary is that Justice Brown has refused to put property rights on a lower plane than other constitutional rights and has criticized the destruction of property rights in San Francisco. ... How many members of her family will have to sacrifice how much of their paychecks to carry this crushing mortgage burden is a question that doesn't bother most liberals. Senator Feinstein doesn't seem to understand why such things bother Justice Brown."
    Talkers versus doers, 9 Jun 2004
    Contrasts the pharmaceutical, automobile, housing and tech companies and entrepreneurs to those who create nothing yet criticize those businesses and are popularly regarded as heroes instead of those who truly improve lives
    "The big divide in this country is not between Democrats and Republicans, or women and men, but between talkers and doers. Think about the things that have improved our lives the most over the past century — medical advances, the transportation revolution, huge increases in consumer goods, dramatic improvements in housing, the computer revolution. The people who created these things — the doers — are not popular heroes. ... Why can't the talkers leave the doers alone? Perhaps it is because that would leave the talkers on the sidelines, with their uselessness being painfully obvious to all ..."
    Talkers versus doers, Part II, 10 Jun 2004
    Explains how those who criticize businesses and entrepreneurs obtain an advantage over the "doers" and how that even affects corporate contributions to the critics' causes
    "The fact that benefits have costs means that those who create these benefits are tempting targets for accusations from those who know how to dramatize the costs. This means that the doers are constantly on the defensive when attacked by the talkers. These attacks are especially effective in a society where most people have not been taught to weigh costs against benefits or to subject hot rhetoric to cold logic. ... The talkers' admirers include people struggling to pay inflated apartment rents and make huge monthly mortgage payments. Even their victims often admire the talkers more than the doers."
    Related Topics: Business, Health
    The lessons of Indonesia, 22 May 1998
    Highlights the plight of Chinese minorities in the 1998 Indonesian riots (that led to the fall of Suharto) and blames both Suharto's regime and the IMF bailout for the economic crisis leading to the riots
    "Tragic as the lethal rioting in Indonesia has been, what is an additional tragedy for Americans is how few of us seem to have understood what went wrong there — and what could go wrong here. While the media depict the riots as being directed against Indonesia's corrupt and despotic President Suharto, the biggest victims are in fact members of the Chinese minority in that country. It is their stores that are being looted and burned, and it is they who are being assaulted and killed. ... When you see rioting in Indonesia, you are seeing your tax dollars at work. You are also seeing what can happen when a corrupt president is above the law."
    Related Topics: Entrepreneurship, Indonesia
    The Wrong Filter, 26 Feb 1998
    Discusses the state of the American public education system, pointing a finger at the National Education Association's political influence and the "incredibly bad courses in education" at the college level
    "Headlines were made by the latest results of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study. ... American 12th graders fell below the international average in general mathematics and general science. In advanced mathematics, our students were tied for last place and in physics they had sole possession of last place. ... Just as you are not going to catch ocean fish in mountain lakes, no matter how expensive your fishing equipment, so you are not going to get an academically proficient or even academically oriented class of people coming out of education schools and education courses."
    Related Topic: Self-Esteem
    Vindication, 6 Mar 1998
    Compares the vilification of Larry Elder and other "black conservatives" to the similar tribulations and eventual vindication of Billy Mitchell, criticizing "race hustlers" for emphasizing 1960's problems rather than dealing with today's issues
    "A recent thought-provoking television special on race, hosted by young black talk-show host Larry Elder, made me think back to World War II and to what might seem like an unrelated experience. As a teenager then, I noticed that there was a Billy Mitchell bomber and a Billy Mitchell airfield, so naturally I wondered who this man was. When I looked him up in the library, I discovered that, when Billy Mitchell was alive, he was court-martialed for saying the very things for which he was now being honored. ... it is time to leave the 1960s behind and start dealing with today's problems and tomorrow's opportunities."
    Related Topics: Conservatism, World War II

    Books Authored

    Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study, 2004
    Contents: An International Perspective - Affirmative Action in India - Affirmative Action in Malaysia - Affirmative Action in Sri Lanka - Affirmative Action in Nigeria - Affirmative Action in the United States - The Past and the Future
    A Personal Odyssey, 2000
    Autobiography; contents: Carolina in the Morning - In Old New York - A Four-Leaf Clover - Halls of Montezuma - Halls of Ivy - Drifting Along - Cayuga's Waters - Movin' On - California, Here I Come - Arrivederci - September Song - Memories
    Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One, 2003
    Contents: Politics versus Economics - Free and Unfree Labor - The Economics of Medical Care - The Economics of Housing - Risky Business - The Economics of Discrimination - The Economic Development of Nations
    Related Topic: Economics
    Barbarians Inside the Gates: And Other Controversial Essays, 1999
    Partial contents: I: The Social Scene - Barbarians Inside the Gates - II: The Economic Scene - The Social Security Pyramid - III: The Political Scene - IV: The Legal Scene - V: The Racial Scene - VI: The Education Scene - VII: Random Thoughts
    Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy, 2000
    Partial contents: What Is Economics? - The Role of Prices - Price Controls - The Rise and Fall of Businesses - Productivity and Pay - Investment and Speculation - National Output - Money and the Banking System - International Trade - "Non-Economic" Values
    Related Topic: Economics
    Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality?, 1984
    Contents: The Civil Rights Vision - From Equal Opportunity to "Affirmative Action" - From School Desegregation to Busing - The Special Case of Blacks - The Special Case of Women - Rhetoric or Reality? - Epilogue: The Degeneration of Racial Controversy
    Related Topic: Rights
    Conquests and Cultures: An International History, 1998
    Contents: Conquests and Cultures - The British - The Africans - The Slavs - Western Hemisphere Indians - An Overview
    Controversial Essays, 2002
    Partial contents: I: Economic Issues - "Saving" Social Security - II: Racial Issues - III: Political Issues - Poverty and the Left - IV: Educational Issues - Too Many Ph.D.s? - V: Legal Issues - Property Rites - VI: Social Issues - VII: Random Thoughts
    Knowledge and Decisions, 1980
    Partial contents: I: Social Institutions - The Role of Knowledge - Decision-Making Process - Economic Trade-Offs - Social Trade-Offs - Political Trade-Offs - An Overview - II: Trends and Issues - Historical Trends - Trends in Economics - Trends in Law
    Race and Culture: A World View, 1992
    Contents: A World View - Migration and Culture - Conquest and Culture - Race and Economics - Race and Politics - Race and Intelligence - Race and Slavery - Race and History
    The Economics and Politics of Race: An International Perspective, 1983
    Contents: The Role of Race - The Overseas Chinese - European Emigrants - Blacks and Coloreds - An International Perspective - The American Experience - The Third World - The Past and the Future
    The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late, 2001
    Contents: Patterns: Family and Child - Adults Who Talked Late - Children Who Talk Late - Groping for Answers - Tests and Evaluations - "Early Intervention" - Coping with Uncertainties
    Related Topic: Children
    The Quest for Cosmic Justice, 1999
    Contents: The Quest for Cosmic Justice - The Mirage of Equality - The Tyranny of Visions - The Quiet Repeal of the American Revolution
    The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy, 1995
    Contents: Flattering Unction - The Pattern - By the Numbers - The Irrelevance of Evidence - The Anointed versus the Benighted - Crusades of the Anointed - The Vocabulary of the Anointed - Courting Disaster - Optional Reality

    The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Thomas Sowell" as of 9 Aug 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.