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Thomas Sowell. Oh, how I love this man.
From a self-proclaimed Marxist (think Bernie Sanders and bump a couple of notches to the left) to a free market economy loving Conservative (think Ben Shapiro). I love his story because his conversion was not based on emotion, sensationalism, or even spiritualism, but on…
The son of a single mother and raised in Harlem during the days of Jim Crow, at 16 he dropped out of high school and worked delivering telegrams. He would ride the bus through the glittery, elite parts of Manhattan then back into the shabby tenements of Harlem and wonder, why the huge disparities?
He stumbled across the writings of Karl Marx and the things he said seemed to make sense, that “the rich had gotten rich by taking from the poor.” That didn’t seem fair to young Thomas Sowell and he supported this ideology until he was 30.
What changed? Research. Facts. Evidence.
When I was Marxist I hadn’t done all the research and gone around the world looking for evidence.
This transformation began when he worked as a summer intern for the US Department of Labor. He saw, first hand, that the institution of government had its own interest, rather than “personifying the will of the general public.”
He was studying the effectiveness of minimum wage laws in Puerto Rico: he noticed “as they kept raising the minimum wage, employment kept going down.” (Funny how that happens.)
In his search for the answers, he realized he needed one specific piece of data and he could figure it out; figure out how they could better help low-income workers. He was thrilled!
His co-workers were not. Instead of jumping on board to find these answers with him and help the poor, he was met with looks of horror as if he had “stumbled onto something that would ruin them all.”
He received no help. Instead, he was directed to the arduous process of bureaucratic red tape to request said information. (Please note that 60 years later, he is still waiting for that request to be granted.)
Why the looks of horror and reluctance to help? Thomas Sowell realized if he was to prove that minimum wage laws do not help low wage workers, then the Department of Labor, the very organization he was interning under who had administered the minimum wage law, would be useless. He estimated one-third of the jobs within the Department of Labor came from administering this law.
No law equals no jobs. Yes, the government has its own interest indeed.
After this eye-opening experience, Thomas Sowell spent the following 60 years studying this phenomenon; the effectiveness of government on the economy and people’s lives.
He has degrees from Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Chicago, has written at least 50 books, and dozen upon dozens of essays, research papers, and articles. He has taught at multiple universities and is widely considered one of the greatest economists and thinkers of our time.
To summarize all of his findings in one sentence: “Government is really not the answer.”
Note the double emphasis, folks.
Now read that once more and let it set in, because he’s going to reinforce this fact again and again with his findings. “The things that they thought were going to help, didn’t help, and in fact made things much worse.”
Why It Matters
Before you roll your eyes and click away, or start to angry type, consider one question: What does this man stand to gain from his assertions? He was a devout Marxist, an angry black man who just wanted things to be fair.
Later in life as part of the academic community, he was at odds with those of his race to defend the free market, limited government, and other extremely unpopular opinions within that community, as well as the African American community today.
In this article, I have included link after link of his writings and interviews. View them for yourself. Watch as this brilliant, bold black man takes every single liberal-leftist-progressive-democratic socialist talking point and smacks it back in its place with his pragmatic, even-keeled voice of reason, research, and results (or lack of). It is irrefutable.
If you care about African Americans, if you care about the poor, if you care about any minority group or people in general, read his work.
Here are just a few of his key findings:
1) The legacy of liberal policies has “wreaked more havoc” on African Americans today than the legacy of slavery.
- African Americans were improving their lives just fine until the government decided to help them, especially starting with the 1960s welfare programs.
- Poverty rates among African Americans fell from 87 percent in 1940 to 47 percent by 1960, before the “war on poverty” even began.
- Poverty rates dropped only 18 percent over the next 20 years after the welfare state began and has stayed roughly the same.
- Black incomes in 1900 were increasing at a rate of growth higher than the American economy was as a whole.
- Dunbar High School, an elite black high school in Washington DC, “sent more graduates to college in the depths of The Depression than in 1993.”
- The murder rate among blacks in 1960 was one-half of what it became in 1980.
- Crime and rampant violence among low-income people (including murder of black males) from 1900-1950 were nowhere as common as it is from 1950 to today.
- Dr. Sowell can attest to this as he grew up in Harlem in the 1940s. He tells stories of sleeping on balconies or park benches on hot summer nights, things “no one in their right minds would even consider today.”
- He has studied this phenomenon in a number of countries and found the same pattern to be true: “people were improving their lives and leading fundamentally decent lives until the government decided to help them.”
- “As of 1960, two-thirds of all black American children were living with both parents. That declined over the years, until only one-third were living with both parents in 1995…. Among black families in poverty, 85 percent of the children had no father present.”
- “the black family, which survived centuries of slavery and generations of government-imposed discrimination in the Jim Crow era … began coming apart in the wake of the expansion of the liberal welfare state and its accompanying social dogmas.”
- “So it is not the legacy of slavery that destroyed the African American family, it’s the legacy of the welfare state.”
- War on poverty actually created a war on the family.
- Father absence is problematic all over the Western world: 1 in 4 children in the US grow up in a home without a father. In South Korea it’s 1 in 66.
3) How does the welfare state dissolve the family structure?
- It makes it unnecessary for fathers to support their offspring.
- If the man stays, the government will not give money, if he leaves, the government will pay.
- If a poor man realizes his family is better off without him, he can leave and they can be better supported by governments.
- “When a man or a woman, or both, act irresponsibly, neither of them pays a price for being irresponsible, the tax payers pay the price for their irresponsibility.”
- When you pay people not to get married, more people will not get married.
4) Minimum wage has not helped lift people out of poverty.
- It created a surplus of low-income, unskilled, often minority workers unable to get hired.
- In 1948, the unemployment rate for black 17-year-old males was the same as the unemployment rate for white 17-year-old males. In 1948! Today that discrepancy is nearly doubled.
5) School Choice does help lift children out of poverty.
- School choice is the greatest chance for kids living in poverty to receive a decent education and lift themselves out of poverty.
- He cites Success Academy Charter Schools in NYC; these schools teach “students in the city’s poorest communities [and they] outperformed kids in the wealthiest suburbs” anywhere in the state of NY.
- He blames unions and the politicians who rely on their financial support for the strong opposition to charter schools and school choice voucher systems. “[A] new low, even for politicians.”
6) Affirmative Action
- Harms everybody in different ways and has not helped blacks.
- There is evidence of students who are systematically mismatched for universities where they don’t meet the standards, and they struggle.
- Graduate from high school, wait to have kids until your married, maintain a full-time job — all are critical factors in the determination of living in poverty.
- Venereal diseases and teenage pregnancy were in steep decline in the 1950s, this suddenly reversed in the 1960s when Sex Education became more widespread in public schools.
9) Views on Donald Trump
“I’ve seen no hard evidence [that he’s a racist]. And, unfortunately, we’re living in a time where no one expects hard evidence.”
“You just repeat some familiar words and people will react pretty much the way Pavlov’s dog was conditioned to react to certain sounds.”
- He doesn’t love the man. Trump is only the second president he’s had to turn off the TV because he can’t stand listening to him. (Can you guess the first?)
- But he finds his policies have been far better than previous administrations, Democrat or Republican. “I look at results. Unemployment among low-income people is far lower than it’s been in decades. The economy is booming.”
10) Views on Barack Obama
- The first president Dr. Sowell had to turn off the TV because he could not stand listening to him.
- Dr. Sowell is fiercely critical and unimpressed with Barack Obama and his presidency. “The worst president ever.”
11) Al Sharpton and the likes
- Critical of him and similar black community leaders, claiming they play the role of rescuers and advocate how the government can help.
- To maintain power, the leaders of lagging populations have to tell those lagging populations that it is the fault of someone else that they are lagging.
- These leaders are more agitators of racial strife than contributors of solid ideas. “Race hustlers.”
12) Why do people today not look at the evidence? Why the insistence of continuing practices that do not work?
- People become attached to a vision and it warps the way they see things. “Too many observers… reason as if intentions automatically translate directly into outcomes.“
- People, especially politicians, have staked their entire careers, lives, studies, etc. in an idea, and to refute that or admit that you were wrong is career suicide.
- Liberal turned conservative activist Candace Owens speaks about this: “It takes much humility to admit that you are wrong. It borders on the sense of insanity to know that all you stood for and know is naught.”
Small government. Free market economy. Limited government. Strong family units, including married mothers and fathers. Less government meddling. Individual liberty and accountability. And, in case you forgot, a reduced government.
I want to close with a quote that is a favorite of Dr. Sowell. After reading about how government interference of the 1960s has done more harm than good for African Americans, this quote from Frederick Douglass, former slave turned statesman, holds even more power and relevance:
Everybody has asked the question. . .”What shall we do with the Negro?” I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are wormeaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature’s plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!
What You Can Do
- Research, research, research.
- You can find his books from libraries or anywhere books are sold. Do so.
- YouTube has dozens of interviews he’s done over the years. I must warn you; he is dull to listen to. His voice is a drab monotone and he is not one for flare. (You need to pay attention and have all distractions gone when you watch to him.) But he is amazing! His words are so powerful I often celebrate them from my couch.
- Instead of a Netflix binge, try a Thomas Sowell binge; you’ll feel much better about yourself when you’re done.
- If you wanna start light, try grazing some of his best quotes here.
- Be a critical thinker. When reading the news or any political issue, look for evidence. Ask for evidence. Demand it.
- If you find yourself in a discourse or spat, ask for evidence. What proof do they have that government intervention x, y, z has worked or will work?
- And, just for kicks, watch minute 49 of this video when the great Thomas Sowell views a clip of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez …it’ll make you smile.
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