“Who Decides What Is Best?”

 

Thomas Sowell’s ideas have taken root in the soil of the next generation. Sowell has written over thirty books over forty years of weekly writings. Hundreds of Sowell’s interviews can be found everywhere on YouTube. Jason Riley, himself a prolific writer, has done the world a service by reviewing the lifetime impact of Thomas Sowell in Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell.

Maverick should be read by everyone everywhere. Everyone in the sciences or the humanities needs exposure to the intellectual history and ideas that Maverick provides. Not only does Riley give an exceptional review of Sowell’s life and thought, but he also shows how the Hoover Institution fellow establishes the basis for how to think. Every person on the planet asks enduring questions about philosophy, knowledge, interpretation, and justice. Sowell always approaches his subjects with our views of human nature in mind. Summarizing Sowell, you either believe in the tension between human depravity and human dignity or you believe that you can make humans perfectible by human rules.

As a matter of full disclosure, I have been reading Thomas Sowell’s books and columns and watching his videos for decades. Sowell’s thinking has been influential to my own intellectual processing for most of my teaching life. As Hebraic-Christian thinkers know, it is important to weave biblical, doctrinal thinking through an explanation of Sowell’s visions. Essential to biblical understanding is the origin of ideas, acknowledging that The Personal Eternal Triune Creator of all things has set the stage for human understanding of everything.

Sowell’s concern should be the concern for all citizens of all countries everywhere,

“The most basic question is not what is best but who shall decide what is best”

Answering the question, “Who says?” should be at the center of our concern as well. For Truth in Two, this is Dr. Mark Eckel, president of the Comenius Institute, personally seeking truth wherever it’s found.

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  1. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Whenever some policy proposal comes up, my wife is likely to ask, “who decides?” With respect to whether something or someone fits into the advantaged or disadvantaged group. Too often that question reveals how easily a noble-sounding policy can be abused. 

    • #1
  2. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    Good review, definitely will have to read the book, though it’s currently behind Dune and a book on the war in Afghanistan.  

    It is so unfortunate that more people don’t know who Tom Sowell is, much less read anything he has to say.

    • #2
  3. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Me.

    I should decide what is best for me.

    • #3
  4. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    A genetically engineered Adam should decide what is best.

    • #4
  5. Podkayne of Israel Member
    Podkayne of Israel
    @PodkayneofIsrael

    A great man and a national treasure. 

    • #5
  6. Morley Stevenson Member
    Morley Stevenson
    @MorleyStevenson

    Thomas Sowell is the wisest man in America.

    • #6
  7. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Me.

    I should decide what is best for me.

    Well, we can’t have that, can we?

    Back to work, slave.

    • #7
  8. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    A genetically engineered Adam should decide what is best.

     

    Agreed.

    Snapshot of Adam Curry

    • #8
  9. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Gazpacho Grande' (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    A genetically engineered Adam should decide what is best.

     

    Agreed.

    Snapshot of Adam Curry

    Well he may not be genetically engineered but he sure is artificial.  This is a photo before he did his transformation with botoxing and hair dying and lightening.

    • #9
  10. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    A genetically engineered Adam should decide what is best.

    Who is going to decide what the genetically engineered Adam looks like? Lewis’s The Abolition of Man is pertinent here.

    • #10
  11. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    I discovered Sowell in 1986 looking for speech material in a public library in Wellington N.Z   Read dozens of his books and every article that came out after that.  I’m delighted to hear about the book and will get it.  I’ve forgotten most things I’ve read, but Sowell sticks.

    • #11
  12. Quintus Sertorius Coolidge
    Quintus Sertorius
    @BillGollier

    This post should be pinned….Tomas Sowell is the most important American thinker of the last 75 years….he is the last intellectual standing between us and the abyss….I am having my politics class read “ Maverick” this semester….they are dumbfounded that there are African Americans who do not think like Coates Jackson Kendi et al……

    Please pin this post so more may look into Thomas Sowell

    • #12
  13. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    In this context, if Thomas Sowell is the wisest man in America, it sounds like he should decide. I’m pretty sure he would demur, being the wisest man in America. . .

    This is an argument for objective truth — that is widely agreed upon civil and moral standards. There’s one body (Body) I can think of that’s been holding the line for 2,000 years on what it means to be human and to conform to God’s will for us as his creatures: the Church. Specifically, the Catholic Church with its umpire having the final say in disputed matters. But, I would say that.

    And, I know Pope Francis worries non-Catholics about the papacy (adherent Catholics don’t worry about the office, but the office-holder — gotta pray for him), but I also recognize that even non-Catholics make a joke out of “Is the pope Catholic?” with him. There’s that Foundation that everyone with any familiarity with Christianity and the Church recognizes as authoritative, and similarly recognizes when a pope (Francis, in this case) appears to be stepping out of bounds.

    In my sure to be wildly unpopular opinion, it’s the American (which is to say, Protestant) emphasis on private interpretation (“I” decide!) that doomed the country from the get-go. Well, now, everyone has his, or her, or zir own “truth” and moral standards. Objectivity be damned (literally). There’s no authority anyone trusts on practically anything. It’s very clear to me that we flawed humans need an external (God-ordained) authority to tamp down the chaos. It’s clearer every day.

    • #13
  14. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    J Climacus (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    A genetically engineered Adam should decide what is best.

    Who is going to decide what the genetically engineered Adam looks like? Lewis’s The Abolition of Man is pertinent here.

    And Science Fiction and the Abolition of Man: Finding C. S. Lewis in Sci-Fi Film and Television, written by me, Eckel, and others.

    • #14
  15. Mark Eckel Coolidge
    Mark Eckel
    @MarkEckel

    Quintus Sertorius (View Comment):

    This post should be pinned….Tomas Sowell is the most important American thinker of the last 75 years….he is the last intellectual standing between us and the abyss….I am having my politics class read “ Maverick” this semester….they are dumbfounded that there are African Americans who do not think like Coates Jackson Kendi et al……

    Please pin this post so more may look into Thomas Sowell

    I would be glad to, but here, I must confess, my lack of experience on the site. How does one “pin a post”?

    • #15
  16. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Who determines what is best in life?

    Conan.

    “Conan! What is best in life?”

    “To crush your enemies. See them driven before you. And to hear the lamentations of their women.”

    • #16
  17. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    In my sure to wildly unpopular opinion, it’s the American (which is to say, Protestant) emphasis on private interpretation (“I” decide!) that doomed the country from the get-go. Well, now, everyone has his, or her, or zir own “truth” and moral standards. Objectivity be damned (literally). There’s no authority anyone trusts on practically anything. It’s very clear to me that we flawed humans need an external (God-ordained) authority to tamp down the chaos. It’s clearer every day.

    This is correct.  I’m stealing the italicized passage and posting it on Facebook.  

    • #17
  18. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    It’s very clear to me that we flawed humans need an external (God-ordained) authority to tamp down the chaos. It’s clearer every day.

    Human corruption wins out even in the Catholic church. Also, if the Catholic Church is so good at governing. Why do so many South American countries stink?

    • #18
  19. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    It’s very clear to me that we flawed humans need an external (God-ordained) authority to tamp down the chaos. It’s clearer every day.

    Human corruption wins out even in the Catholic church. Also, if the Catholic Church is so good at governing. Why do so many South American countries stink?

    There are sinners governing the Church???? OMG!

    It’s the teachings that carry weight more than the people promulgating them. Pope Peter was a weak, sinful man, but he was given a singular authority to guard the teachings, which has been passed down through apostolic succession through the generations. 

    If you’re not going to submit to the moral authority of the First Church of Christ, which authority will you submit to? Many Christians will say the Bible, right after they insist that the Bible is subject to private interpretation. In other words, they’re their own popes. 

    The Bible is inerrant and authoritative, but it isn’t an authority capable of providing unity and objectivity. It doesn’t “speak for itself,” otherwise there wouldn’t be tens of thousands of Christian denominations arguing about what it says.

    As to South American countries stinking, that has more to do with Marxism than Catholicism. And, yes, even Catholics can be swayed by lousy economic and social philosophies. You mean there are sinners in the Church??? OMG!

    • #19
  20. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    It’s the teachings that carry weight more than the people promulgating them. Pope Peter was a weak, sinful man, but he was given a singular authority to guard the teachings, which has been passed down through apostolic succession through the generations. 

    As it says in Romans, and I paraphrase:  “do not be conformed to the world, but renew your minds so that you can test what is right.”  What that means to me, among other things, is that if we are guarding our soul, studying our Bible, seeking God, we can be “wise as serpents but meek as doves” to know false teaching, corruption, when we see it.  

    • #20
  21. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    In this context, if Thomas Sowell is the wisest man in America, it sounds like he should decide. I’m pretty sure he would demur, being the wisest man in America. . .

    The question really has a straightforward answer in theory, but no permanent answer in practice. Who should rule? Well, the virtuous and the wise should rule. Plato built his Republic on this principle.

    The problem is that sin has disfigured human nature to such a degree that anyone who thinks he’s virtuous and wise enough to rule, is almost assuredly suffering from the sin of pride, and is exactly the guy who should not rule. This much we learned from Christianity. It’s why there are no political campaigns to be Pope, and any papabili who so much as hints as being ambitious for the job, isn’t likely to get it. The same thing is manifested more cynically in our political campaigns where the candidate has to feign being a “regular guy” or pretend he’s just serving the cause rather than his own ambition. George Washington is the model here (although he was the real deal, not a cynic, and really didn’t want to be President.)

    But the problem remains how you find the rulers when anyone who shows the ambition to rule is by that very fact unfit to rule. The solution in Christendom was to allow rule by hereditary monarchy, hope for the best, and restrain the sinful nature of Kings by making the religious authority separate from and superior to the political authority (at least in moral matters). Thus you got the phenomenon, unique to the West, of Kings like Henry IV making penitential pilgrimages to Canossa to beg absolution from the Pope. That solution was specific to the historical circumstances of Christendom, however, and disappeared with the disintegration of Christendom in the early modern era, and was far from perfect in any case. But then any solution to this quandary will be less than perfect and never permanent.

    The modern solution was to make the rulers responsible not to religious authorities, but to the people. I think this is the real import of Adams’s opinion that our Constitution is fit only for a moral and religious people. The hope is that they will be moral and religious enough to elect the virtuous and the wise, rather simply vote their crude self-interest. A danger here – which seems to have happened – is that if the people become corrupted there is no longer any moral authority to check the government. That wasn’t a danger in Christendom; the people might be corrupted, but the King was still answerable to the Church.  Now our political authorities are really answerable to no one.

    • #21
  22. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Percival (View Comment):

    Who determines what is best in life?

    Conan.

    “Conan! What is best in life?”

    “To crush your enemies. See them driven before you. And to hear the lamentations of their women.”

    50 years later Conan says:

    “Hot water, good dentishtry and shoft lavatory paper.”

    • #22
  23. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Quintus Sertorius (View Comment):

    ….I am having my politics class read “Maverick” this semester….they are dumbfounded that there are African Americans who do not think like Coates Jackson Kendi et al……

    Liberal professors, journalists, and book reviewers do all they can to make sure that this ignorance continues: If you are a leftist–even if you are a hardcore communist–your books will be respectfully reviewed. But turn away from Marxism and you will mysteriously disappear as if you never existed.

    • #23
  24. Quintus Sertorius Coolidge
    Quintus Sertorius
    @BillGollier

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):

    Quintus Sertorius (View Comment):

    ….I am having my politics class read “Maverick” this semester….they are dumbfounded that there are African Americans who do not think like Coates Jackson Kendi et al……

    Liberal professors, journalists, and book reviewers do all they can to make sure that this ignorance continues: If you are a leftist–even if you are a hardcore communist–your books will be respectfully reviewed. But turn away from Marxism and you will mysteriously disappear as if you never existed.

    Indeed they do!!! Almost all of my students have been to “diversity” training seminars and conferences…..they all know who Kendi is but none know who Thomas Sowell (nor Clarence Thomas)  is…until we began to read Maverick….I doubt I change any minds but want them to know there are other voices of African Americans/Thinkers out there…..

    Some wonder why the right has reacted the way it has the past 5-7 years (i.e turning to Trump)…the reason is that the left has been at war with America since the Port Huron Statement and are about to cross the finish line…..many of the “commoners” on the right have woken up to see it even if most of the right thinking class has not. Never see Thomas Sowell on The Dispatch or Commentary either….Dr. Sowell is not a Trump supporter but he knows and has written that the left has been waging war for 2 generations and the war is about over. We are at Richmond and weather Jonah Goldberg or David French et al know it doesn’t really matter….you can’t erase facts.

    As exhibit A see the Commentary Podcast today….I got through 10 min of it and Noah’s analysis made me realize none of them ever listened to Larry Elder. I really enjoy this podcast but today they well show why we are at Richmond in 1865 right now….

    • #24
  25. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    As to South American countries stinking, that has more to do with Marxism than Catholicism. And, yes, even Catholics can be swayed by lousy economic and social philosophies. You mean there are sinners in the Church??? OMG!

    Protestant countries tend to be better than Catholic countries. That’s kind of a big deal.

    • #25
  26. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    If you’re not going to submit to the moral authority of the First Church of Christ, which authority will you submit to? Many Christians will say the Bible, right after they insist that the Bible is subject to private interpretation. In other words, they’re their own popes. 

    Do we need to talk about this?

    No one is his own Pope.

    The Bible is not subject to private interpretation in any sense resembling that.

    Sola Scriptura is correct.

    • #26
  27. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Who determines what is best in life?

    Conan.

    “Conan! What is best in life?”

    “To crush your enemies. See them driven before you. And to hear the lamentations of their women.”

    50 years later Conan says:

    “Hot water, good dentishtry and shoft lavatory paper.”

    i-understood-that-reference.gif

    • #27
  28. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    If you’re not going to submit to the moral authority of the First Church of Christ, which authority will you submit to? Many Christians will say the Bible, right after they insist that the Bible is subject to private interpretation. In other words, they’re their own popes.

    Do we need to talk about this?

    No one is his own Pope.

    The Bible is not subject to private interpretation in any sense resembling that.

    Sola Scriptura is correct.

    Nah, I’m not feeling well and I have too much to do to take on the “sola” errors. Probably shouldn’t hijack this thread either. But, you go. You’re the philosopher. I’m just a housewife with opinions. 

    • #28
  29. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    If you’re not going to submit to the moral authority of the First Church of Christ, which authority will you submit to? Many Christians will say the Bible, right after they insist that the Bible is subject to private interpretation. In other words, they’re their own popes.

    Do we need to talk about this?

    No one is his own Pope.

    The Bible is not subject to private interpretation in any sense resembling that.

    Sola Scriptura is correct.

    Nah, I’m not feeling well and I have too much to do to take on the “sola” errors. Probably shouldn’t hijack this thread either. But, you go. You’re the philosopher. I’m just a housewife with opinions.

    Very reasonable.

    But the immediate point was to understand SS right before objecting to it. It doesn’t set up everyone as his own Pope; that’s not what the doctrine means.

    • #29
  30. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    If you’re not going to submit to the moral authority of the First Church of Christ, which authority will you submit to? Many Christians will say the Bible, right after they insist that the Bible is subject to private interpretation. In other words, they’re their own popes.

    Do we need to talk about this?

    No one is his own Pope.

    The Bible is not subject to private interpretation in any sense resembling that.

    Sola Scriptura is correct.

    Actually, in a sense every man is his own pope.  There is no intermediary between God and man but Jesus Christ.

    • #30