Thomas Sowell Quotes #10

“History can be cruel to theories, as it has been cruel to peoples … But history is what happened, not what we wish had happened, or what a theory says should have happened. History cannot be prettified in the interests of promoting ‘acceptance’ or ‘mutual respect’ among peoples and cultures. There is much in the history of every people that does not deserve respect. Whether with individuals or with groups, respect is something earned, not a door prize handed out to all. It cannot be prescribed by third parties, for what is to be respected depends on each individual’s own values or the social values accepted by that individual–and ‘equal respect’ is an internally contradictory evasion. If everything is respected equally, then the term respect has lost its meaning.”

~from the Preface of Migrations and Cultures: A World View

Thomas Sowell Quotes #9

“Those among us who are constantly rhapsodizing about ‘change’ in vague and general terms seem to have no fear that a blank cheque for change can be a huge risk in a world where so many other [non-western] countries that are different are also far worse off.”

~from The Thomas Sowell Reader: Social Issues, page 6-7

Thomas Sowell Quotes #8

“[U]nder any movement or set of collective beliefs, a feeling of being on the side of angels can be a dangerous self-indulgence in a heedless willfulness that is sometimes called idealism. This kind of idealism can replace realities with preconceptions, and make the overriding goal the victory of some abstract vision, in defiance of reality or in disregard of the fate of fellow human beings. The symbols of the preconception can become goals in themselves.”

~from Wealth, Poverty and Politics, page 420

In a vision driven group, “buying into the vision” is seen as more virtuous than actually doing something useful. Even those in the group who aren’t doing anything, or who are doing things poorly, will be held in high regard if they “get a hold of” and celebrate the vision. Conversely, those who may be doing productive work which is good for others, but show little enthusiasm for the vision, will be seen as dangerously independent and not “team players.”

Further reading: Shop Class as Soulcraft (Brief Book Review)

Thomas Sowell Quotes #7

Moral condemnation is not causal explanation, despite how often the two have been combined in a politically attractive package. Despite the tendency of political, and especially ideological, explanations of economic disparities to combine moral and causal factors, the reason so many mountain peoples [for example] around the world have been poor has not been that others went up into those mountains and took away their wealth, but that the mountain peoples seldom produced much wealth in the first place…

“…it is staggering that some people imagine that they can take on the [large] task of righting the wrongs of the past, committed by people long dead, without igniting dangerous new hostilities among the living.”

~from Wealth, Poverty and Politics, page 271-272

Thomas Sowell Quotes #6


“One of the difficulties with trying to create ‘solutions’ is the uncertainty of defining what is a ‘problem.’ When A and B make a transaction between themselves that C does not like, is that a problem to be solved?

A and B may be employer and employee, landlord and tenant or lender and borrower. No doubt each of the primary parties to any of these transactions would prefer terms more favourable to himself or herself, but the transactions would not have taken place unless at least one, and probably both, were willing to accept something less than they might hope for.

“But many among the intelligentsia press for government to ‘do something’ about transactions terms that the parties themselves have agreed to, this call for government intervention often being based on ideas similar to those expressed by John Rawls in A Theory of Justice. However, the question must be raised as to the basis for arming intellectual coteries with the massive powers of government to forcibly undo economic transactions terms made by millions of people intimately familiar with their own individual circumstances and alternatives, in a way that distant intellectuals or government functionaries cannot possibly be familiar.”

~from Wealth, Poverty and Politics, page 361