Thomas Sowell is stopping his column

by on December 27, 2016 at 2:11 pm in Current Affairs, Economics | Permalink

Here is his statement, excerpt:

After enjoying a quarter of a century of writing this column for Creators Syndicate, I have decided to stop. Age 86 is well past the usual retirement age, so the question is not why I am quitting, but why I kept at it so long.

It was very fulfilling to be able to share my thoughts on the events unfolding around us, and to receive feedback from readers across the country — even if it was impossible to answer them all.

Being old-fashioned, I liked to know what the facts were before writing. That required not only a lot of research, it also required keeping up with what was being said in the media.

During a stay in Yosemite National Park last May, taking photos with a couple of my buddies, there were four consecutive days without seeing a newspaper or a television news program — and it felt wonderful. With the political news being so awful this year, it felt especially wonderful.

This made me decide to spend less time following politics and more time on my photography, adding more pictures to my website (www.tsowell.com).

For a relevant pointer I thank Charles Jackson.

1 Ray Lopez December 27, 2016 at 2:25 pm

I hope TC blogs until 86! Happy New Year’s.

2 Jazi Zilber December 28, 2016 at 1:27 am

I hope TC enjoys blogging so much that nothing will stop him.

120 I wanted to say. But up pops out my grandpa yelling “120? are you nuts? Do not be so stingy. Say 150… you know what 180. ok?”

3 rayward December 27, 2016 at 3:22 pm

Although he died long ago, Mr. Sowell continued to write, publish, and speak; I’m an eye witness, having seen him interviewed on C-SPAN as recently as this past year. How he was able to do it is a mystery, as long dead people seldom write, publish, or speak, C-SPAN having somehow perfected the art of interviewing the dead. While most long dead people mellow after death, Mr. Sowell was as unpleasant in death as he was in his too-long life. May he suffer, not for ever, but for as long as he was insufferable.

4 Daniel Weber December 27, 2016 at 3:37 pm

And I was about to call out the 2:55pm poster for being uncharitable and spite-driven and making up a strawman.

5 Art Deco December 27, 2016 at 3:58 pm

self-hating black man

Thanks for outing yourself as a person of zero insight.

6 TMC December 27, 2016 at 4:11 pm

You really are an asshole.

7 Ray Lopez December 27, 2016 at 4:18 pm

I think somebody is impersonating ‘rayward’, as the impersonator is not as verbose as the regular ‘rayward’ nym.

8 Brian Donohue December 27, 2016 at 4:39 pm

You forgot ‘uppity’. Always getting above hisself.

Folks used to know their place.

9 Art Deco December 27, 2016 at 3:56 pm

You aren’t fit to clean his bedpans.

10 Evidently December 27, 2016 at 4:19 pm

We are deleting satires of progressive racism, sexism, and anti-semitism but leaving up the real deal.

11 Massimo Heitor December 28, 2016 at 10:45 pm

well said art. sowell is legendary. even his recent writings in his later years are still excellent.

12 Kitty December 27, 2016 at 5:11 pm

FUCK YOU little man. Wish we knew you in person. Evil POS.

13 RJ December 28, 2016 at 1:11 am

Sowell is a smart and good man. Unlike you.

14 john December 29, 2016 at 12:50 am

what an ugly thing to say. wasn’t even clever.

15 mdv1959 December 27, 2016 at 3:50 pm

I don’t know about his blog but the dude takes some damn nice photos..
Thomas Sowell photographs

16 Alain December 27, 2016 at 4:58 pm

+1

Great photos. I’ll have to go read his blog now.

17 Alain December 27, 2016 at 5:12 pm

From an earlier post of his:

when I was an undergraduate at Harvard, and worked as a photographer for the university news office, in order to help pay the bills.

Seems like a life long passion.

18 too hot for MR December 27, 2016 at 6:03 pm

Nice subjects and composition, could stand to take it easy on the contrast and saturation sliders.

19 derek December 27, 2016 at 8:50 pm

If I’m not mistaken, he shoots film.

20 too hot for MR December 28, 2016 at 1:56 am

Whoa, if that’s true in 2016 he’s a heckuva hipster.

21 Careless December 28, 2016 at 8:09 am

He is 86. I don’t think being retro at his age counts for hipster points

22 albatross December 29, 2016 at 1:41 pm

+1

23 JC December 28, 2016 at 7:08 am

Indeed. Top economist with great photography skills.

24 Art Deco December 27, 2016 at 3:55 pm

He’ll be very much missed. He’s just about the most lucid purveyor of topical commentary there is, and you often find yourself saying, ‘why didn’t I think of that’ in regard to some angle of a public controversy that only he’d noticed in print.

He taught economics, but his scholarly work was in intellectual history – the history of economic thought and, more broadly, social thought. It would be hard to find someone more insightful about the features of post-war controversies (and their antecedents). He could write for academic specialists, but he preferred writing for general audiences. No one’s quite like him and no one can replace him.

25 Gurney Halleck December 27, 2016 at 4:23 pm

Wasn’t his all schtick endless strawmanning of “the Left” rather than taking on the arguments of specific left-leaning thinkers?

26 Art Deco December 27, 2016 at 4:42 pm

A large part of his work was elucidating public controversies and determine what was latent and common in various stances. No one did it better. He likely did irritate leftoids who found their remarks reframed in ways that stripped away the gamesmanship and rhetorical trumpery.

He also wrote work on economic history, on the history of economic thought, on child development, on teacher’s colleges and their issue, &c. His body of work wasn’t scholarly in the manner of (say) Glenn Loury’s (who has a couple dozen papers under his belt in economics journals), but he could and did write at every level.

27 rayward December 27, 2016 at 4:39 pm

I grew up in a different era, when blacks and whites were segregated, which meant that blacks didn’t shop at “Walmart” (Walmart didn’t exist then, I’m using Walmart as representative) but at the local, black-owned store. Those black-owned stores are mostly history, as is the racism that prevented blacks form shopping in the same stores as whites. The civil rights act ended the overt racism that prevented blacks from shopping in the sames stores as whites. Sowell believes the civil rights act hurt blacks for that reason: it put black businesses out of business. And I agree, as the civil rights act made it possible for blacks to be part of the same commerce as whites. Are blacks worse off that they don’t have their own segregated black-owned stores or are they better off that they can shop at the same stores as whites?

28 Art Deco December 27, 2016 at 4:45 pm

Sowell believes the civil rights act hurt blacks for that reason:

Sowell has certainly written about the ironies incorporated into the effects of civil rights legislation. That’s perfectly in keeping with his general world view, which sees the trade-offs in any course of action. You’re problem, really, is that you’re too crude to understand his well-ordered and well-rendered points.

29 Rich Berger December 27, 2016 at 5:40 pm

The anti-discrimination legislation is usually seen as an unalloyed good, only because the negatives are seldom explored. These laws have trampled the right of free association and have most recently been used to force business owners and Catholic groups to participate in activities that violate their beliefs. Even those who are supposedly helped by the laws are stigmatized as unworthy, and the laws sharpen senses of grievance and stoke unending charges of racism. We can never know what would have happened in the absence of such laws, but is it so unreasonable to assume that prejudice would have diminished over time? Every immigrant group faced prejudice after arriving in the US, but most have succeeded in the end.

BTW, Sowell’s Ethnic America is a very interesting book that details the experiences of immigrant groups.

30 prior_test2 December 28, 2016 at 1:51 am

‘The anti-discrimination legislation is usually seen as an unalloyed good, only because the negatives are seldom explored.’

Let us reword that idea, especially as the basis for that legislation is found in the Constitution, with the idea that all citizens are granted equal rights, as pointed out by numerous Supreme Court rulings (admittedly, some of those rulings overturned earlier ones – separate but equal is no longer seen as valid law). So, with the Constitution in mind – ‘The separation of church and state is usually seen as an unalloyed good, only because the negatives are seldom explored. These laws have trampled the right of free association and have most recently been used to force business owners and Catholic groups to participate in activities that violate their beliefs.’ Yes, being involved with contraception as part of a framework of mandatory provision of health insurance certainly causes a lot of problems when those involved in commercial activity are not treated the way they want to be treated, where they decide which laws apply and which don’t.

‘Every immigrant group faced prejudice after arriving in the US, but most have succeeded in the end.’

Slaves weren’t immigrants, they were property. Further, those people who were transported from Africa and were no longer property were still not considered citizens of the United States until the 14th Amendment, as noted in this Supreme Court ruling, which denied the ability for anyone ‘imported’ from Africa, or their anyone descended from such ‘immigrants’ to sue in federal court – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dred_Scott_v._Sandford

(Here is the key, hopefully concise enough, quote for those who cannot be bothered to read anything too taxing – ‘In the opinion of the court, the legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show, that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument.’)

31 peri December 27, 2016 at 5:13 pm

I think they’re better off when they’re free if they wish to lament the loss of their local businesses, as pretty much the rest of America does, without being sneered at.

32 Anon7 December 27, 2016 at 7:23 pm

You’re a senile old bat if you can’t remember, say, Woolworth’s as the predecessor to Walmart (and younger folks can look up references that they don’t immediately recognize using the intertubes).

The current issue of the Economist has an article noting the decline of gay bars in the West as a result of the normalization of homosexuality (along with social media and rising rents). Are the people who lament the decline also self-hating (which is the vicious subtext of your comment)?

33 derek December 28, 2016 at 12:15 am

I think of my experience as a young man getting a start in employment and learning the basic skills needed. My father was in construction, worked for himself much of the time. I worked for him in the summers. He had connections to others who needed laborers and I had opportunities open to me. My neighbor had a business, and I worked for him for a while. There was no question of having work, it was what I would do. This was in an area with chronic high unemployment.

Those social and familial connections turned a rather useless young man with no marketable skills into someone who has been able be employed and look after my and my family’s needs. Schooling or training was on top of that; the opportunities for training came as a result, rather than as a start in itself.

For a young african american man who has no family or social connections who are involved in businesses, where do these opportunities come from? In a thriving economy anyone who shows up can find a job. But that isn’t the norm.

So maybe the lack of small businesses who employ young people is a serious social problem. The usual thing is to blame racism, except that without those connections no one would have hired the white skinny kid that I was either. There were lots like me who didn’t get that start, whose families and social groups didn’t offer those opportunities.

34 Thomas December 28, 2016 at 1:01 am

Why is the solution to the problem of impoverished black people giveaways to wealthy black people? Decades of preference for the black children of doctors of the white children of Appalachian meth heads and has not benefited the inter-cities one iota. It has benefited the upper class blacks. Gee I wonder if this is similar to the naacps opposition to charter schools that help poor blacks?

35 John December 28, 2016 at 12:23 pm

I guess I’m missing something but just how did the Civil Rights Act put black owned businesses out of business? Were they inferior to the white owned businesses? Was it a case of on-going racism where the whites refused to shop in the black-owned establishments but blacks didn’t have the same inhibitions? Was it a regulatory bit where the black-owned stores were never policed well until after the passage of the Act?

Don’t take this as suggesting there were neither bad unintended consequences to the Act or even intentional application/implementation of the laws that harmed minorities (I think the law has actually had a much wider impact, negative, as should have been seen as a temporary case to address a current problem and then rolled itself in to the general “all equal” Constitutional rule related to discriminatory behavior considered harmful to society/justice).

36 itsallrigged December 27, 2016 at 4:40 pm

This is a powerful statement:

“It is hard to convey to today’s generation the fear that the paralyzing disease of polio inspired, until vaccines put an abrupt end to its long reign of terror in the 1950s.”

37 Cassiodorus December 27, 2016 at 4:49 pm

While I don’t share Sowell’s views, but I can certainly share in his feeling that there becomes a point to focus on what’s beautiful in life.

38 Alain December 27, 2016 at 5:04 pm

A fantastic quote:

Most people living in officially defined poverty in the 21st century have things like cable television, microwave ovens and air-conditioning. Most Americans did not have such things, as late as the 1980s. People whom the intelligentsia continue to call the “have-nots” today have things that the “haves” did not have, just a generation ago.

So true, and the evil, vile, left would have the world forget this fact, and decry all of the progress that we have wraught or the last 100 years, despite their constant attempts at destroying progress.

Sowell will be missed.

39 Kitty December 27, 2016 at 5:12 pm

+1

40 too hot for MR December 27, 2016 at 6:08 pm

Excellent.

41 Thomas December 27, 2016 at 9:43 pm

The racism toward and hatred of blacks and the poor reveals your wicked heart.

42 Michael December 28, 2016 at 9:46 pm

Is calling the entire left side of politics “evil” and “vile” part of the quote? Or just something you added for a bit of flavor.

43 Thomas December 27, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Sowell is a favorite of mine and I enjoy watching him speak with that same joy I feel watching Milton Friedman or Christopher Hitchens. All of thise men spent their lives speaking truth to progressive institutions. Sowell’s public discourse is as much a story of his ideas as it is a story of the virulent hatred of progressives against him. They hate him because he didn’t define himself by black victimhood and so refused to be another unfortunate and mistreated client of the left.

It is a pity that whomever is moderating this board prefers decorum to the raw honesty of racist progressive hatred for what they call [something I can’t say here but you can read in Salon headlines and hear at DNC conventions]. Sowell deserves respect, but he seems to be a man that places high value on honesty and the truth is that the progressives have never had any respect for a Black man that doesn’t need them. Let’s see the truth.

44 Curt Doolittle December 27, 2016 at 7:13 pm

Sowell is one of the people who influenced me most. Honesty, clarity, depth, and without petulance in his writing.

45 Luke December 28, 2016 at 12:01 am

I enjoyed his basic economics books, but the writing I’ve seen from him these past years has long since drifted away from analysis and empiricism, and towards narratives of good versus evil, with conservatives playing the heroes.

46 derek December 28, 2016 at 12:20 am

I got the impression that he feels that much of what he said was a waste of time. Pearls thrown to swine.

47 Thomas December 28, 2016 at 1:07 am

Notice the absence of the liberal commentariat. They hate Sowell. They hate him because he is black and successful and disagrees with them. He is stands in stark opposition to their ideology of black franchise ownership. Obama send his girls to private school but opposes poor blacks being able to send their children to private school. He gets 95% of the black vote selling victimhood and race war. What a scam

48 lurker December 28, 2016 at 8:18 am

‘He gets 95% of the black vote selling victimhood and race war.’

AND does nothing about it!

49 carlospln December 28, 2016 at 1:31 am

But how are the ‘poor blacks’ going to pay for the private school tuition?

Go watch your re runs of ‘The Cosby Show’

http://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/2004/05/25/bravo_for_bill_cosby

On cable.

50 Steve December 28, 2016 at 6:56 am

The lesson is to develop and enjoy your other interests before you are too old to enjoy them anymore.

51 Golden Elephant December 28, 2016 at 7:41 am

Tom Sowell is more than a Conservative Black Man like many conservatives are quick to point, he’s a decent and honest man. Sowell influenced me greatly and helped me reshape the way I see the world and human relations, including race relations and the value of culture.

Still, I don’t agree with him in many points, like (I) his tendency to downplay institutional racism (I understand he lived in much tougher times and beat the system) and (ii) his harsh assessment of Barack Obama’s presidency (“the worst president ever”).

His column is gone but his books are still there, rich in content and knowledge. Enjoy the time you have left sir, you made it.

52 blah December 28, 2016 at 9:40 am

A bit surprised to see no praise of Sowell in this clinical matter-of-fact post, as opposed to say Kareem Abdul Jabbar being called one of America’s leading public intellectuals. Well, may be it is that the author just likes to state the non-obvious. Hopefully.

53 albatross December 28, 2016 at 9:51 am

Sowell’s books had a huge influence on how I see the world–especially _Knowledge and Decisions_ and his “X and Culture” trillogy. His columns are often entertaining but don’t teach me anything, and sometimes they have the feel of an old guy yelling at the kids to turn down their damned music.

I wish him a very happy retirement–he has surely earned it.

54 Alvin December 28, 2016 at 10:21 am

Thomas Sowell is the reason I became a conservative when I started reading his columns in Forbes magazine as a young college student in the early-to-mid- 90’s. He was saying things that I had never read before, like why affirmative action was harmful to blacks, how welfare programs hurt those who were most vulnerable, and the law of supply and demand to rent control and minimum wage laws. I also liked his book Knowledge and Decisions, as my intro into economic thinking.

Sowell is also the reason I left conservatism in the mid-to-late 2000’s. As somebody above questioned, he made up strawmen on the left, painted with too broad of a brush and wasn’t as deep in his understanding of various positions as others on the right, He opined on topics he knew nothing about, like genocide, reflexively defended every cuckservative/neoconservative position on issues of foreign policy, war, judicial restraint (judicial abdication) and gay marriage. He also had no knowledge of increasingly important areas of intellectual property, bankruptcy, rate regulation of common carriers, telecommunications, etc.

One of Sowell’s mantras was to bash liberals for supporting failed programs that made them “feel good”. Well the same can be said about Sowell for supporting failed wars and interventions and leg-humping one middle east country in particular that have gotten us nowhere but trouble, but only if we sent in more troops and had more resolve – play the Neville Chamberlain card when anybody questions military action – could we achieve success.

Rayward is right. Like Robert Bork, Sowell became a more mean-spirited and angry man in his old age.

55 albatross December 28, 2016 at 12:47 pm

The analysis of liberal policies in _The Vision of the Annointed_ seemed to me to be a perfect fit with the post-9/11 foreign policy vision of the Bush administration. He was describing a general failing of human reason, even if the examples he used to illustrate them came from liberal policies. (And maybe his own role in some of those partisan wars made it hard for him to see where those critiques applied to his side.)

Long term, the best thing you can hope for as a thinker is to leave some mental tools that are useful for understanding the world, long after you’re gone. I think a lot of his work did that–I don’t know to what extent his books were news to scholars in those areas, but they certainly taught me a lot–facts, a framework into which they fit, and some mental tools for thinking about them clearly.

56 middyfeek December 29, 2016 at 9:06 am

Sowell is the clearest thinker I’ve ever come across. Rayward is NOT right. He (and apparently you) dislikes much of what Sowell says and resorts to childish ad hominem behavior. Typical lefty nonsense.

57 Ali Choudhury December 28, 2016 at 4:15 pm

I would read some of his National Review columns in the mid ’00s but quit since they seemed to repeat the same content. He would also occasionally complain about the IT issues he was encountering which made me reckon he was a little short on new things to say.

Still major props for all he accomplished in life, it can not have been easy to work yourself up from poverty and spend your career as a black, conservative academic. There is an angry undercurrent of bitterness towards both him and Clarence Thomas from a number of liberals since their being on the other side rather undercut their over-weening sense of moral righteousness.

Favourite Sowell quotes:

“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”

“Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”

“People who pride themselves on their “complexity” and deride others for being “simplistic” should realize that the truth is often not very complicated. What gets complex is evading the truth.”

“Maturity is not a matter of age. You have matured when you are no longer concerned with showing how clever you are, and give your full attention to getting the job done right. Many never reach that stage, no matter how old they get.”

“Before the Iraq war I was quite disturbed by some of the neoconservatives, who were saying things like, “What is the point of being a superpower if you can’t do such-and-such, take on these responsibilities?” The point of being a superpower is that people will leave you alone. “

58 Tribute to Thomas Sowell from a reader of 30 years December 28, 2016 at 9:40 pm

Thomas Sowell has an almost Faulkneresque gift for mixing the simplicity of being a human who cares about other humans with an unusual-for-an-intellectual-not-completely-vague awareness of the real world. He has been fundamentally unsound on many of the subjects he writes about – at some point, he must have decided not to work on a deeper understanding of accounting principles (my tax law professor noted that his co-writer (on the treatise they wrote together – before they both became multimillionaires – on mergers and acquisitions) decided one day, a few years out of law school , that he ought to know about accounting if he were going to make his life’s work tax law: two or three years later he got the best score on something that was called the Illinois Accounting Exam (I am sure no such thing exists, I am just relaying what I remember hearing). Thomas Sowell, as wide as his interests have been, would not have taken those post-graduate accounting classes. Well, good for him, non omnes omnia possum – but the flip side of that is “it is not really a negative thing to say about someone you respect that their views on many subjects are fundamentally unsound.” Anyway, while Thomas Sowell has seen fit to spend more intellectual energy on understanding things that are rather distant from the mercantilist controversies of our youth than on the ‘rubber hits the runway’ facts of economic life that neither he nor any public intellectual of his level of fame has ever been clear about, he did, nevertheless, write like the genius he is on many subjects – for example, on the nasty curse of leftist and atheist-sponsored preferential placement of abortion clinics in minority neighborhoods he has been almost as good as Sobran was before his sad decline; and on the world-wide tragedy of slavery, its tragic effects in America, and the American exceptionalism of hundreds of thousands of people dying in battle to stop it, he wrote as well as anyone could have, as far as I can tell; and on the joy – hopefully not as short-lived as he expected it to be – of living in a country like America where people respect each other – which is why he was paid to write hundreds of thousands of words over several decades – he has written many sentences and paragraphs that are worth reading. Happy Trails, Professor Sowell!!!

59 T.T. T.S. from a reader of 30 years December 28, 2016 at 9:54 pm

Also (like me, but, in his case, to a greater degree) he was a friend of a friend of Kerensky’s. Sad to see him retire. Time goes on, though, and God refreshes our youth (Introibo ad altare Dei qui laetificat iuventutem meam)….

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