Thomas Sowel Quotes

Politics offers attractive solutions but economics can offer only trade-offs. For example, when laws are proposed to restrict the height of apartment buildings in a community, politics presents the issue in terms of whether we prefer tall buildings or buildings of a more modest height in our town. Economics asks what you are prepared to trade off in order to keep the height of buildings below some specified level. In places where land costs may equal or even exceed the cost of the apartment buildings themselves, the difference between allowing ten-story buildings to be built and allowing a maximum of five stories may be that rents will be twice as high in the shorter buildings. The question then is not simply whether you prefer shorter buildings but how much do you prefer shorter buildings and what price are you prepared to pay to mandate height restrictions in your community. A doubling of rents and three additional highway fatalities per yet? A tripling of rents and six additional highway fatalities per year? Economics cannot answer such questions. It can only make you aware of a need to ask them. — P.127

The rule of law- 'a government of laws and not of men'- implies rules known in advance, applied generally, and constraining the rulers as well as the ruled. Freedom implies exemptions from the power of the rulers and a corresponding limitation on the scope of all laws, even those of democratically elected governments. -- P. 151

The language of politics, and especially of ideological politics, is often categorical language about 'rights,' about eliminating certain evils, guaranteeing certain benefits, or protecting certain habitats and species...Indirectly but inexorably, this language says that the preferences of the anointed are to supersede the preferences of everyone else. -- P. 142

Taxing away what other people have earned, in order to finance one‘s own moral adventures, is often depicted as a humanitarian endeavor, while allowing others the same freedom and dignity as oneself, so they can make their own choices with their own earnings, is considered to be pandering to 'greed.' -- P. 306

To help some hard pressed individual or group whose case is before them, judges may bend the law to arrive at a more benign verdict in that particular case-but at the cost of damaging the whole consistency and predictability of the law, on which millions of other people depend, an on which ultimately the freedom and safety of a whole society depend. -- P. 130

The family is inherently an obstacle to schemes for central control of social processes. Therefore the anointed necessarily find themselves repeatedly on a collision course with the family. It is not a matter of any subjective animus on their part against families. The anointed may in fact be willing to shower government largess upon families, as they do other social entities. But the preservation of the family as an autonomous decision- making unit is incompatible with the third-party decision making that is at the heart of the vision of the anointed. -- P. 62

As in the prisoner-of-war camp during World War II and in countries around the world, middleman activities have usually not been seen as producing wealth, but only as appropriating pre-existing wealth, since the middleman does not visibly create a material thing. -- P. 80

Social rules are as central to the constrained vision as unfettered individual judgment and individual conscience are at the heart of the unconstrained vision. -- P. 81

-when your salary depends on what other people are willing to pay you, you can be the greediest person on earth and that will not raise your pay by one dime. -- P. 141

The responses of the educational establishment to the academic deficiencies of their students today include: (1) secrecy, (2) camouflage, (3) denial, (4) shifting the blame elsewhere, and (5) demanding more money. -- P. 8

Facts do not "speak for themselves." They speak for or against competing theories. Facts divorced from theory or visions are mere isolated curiosities.

Life does not ask what we want. It presents us with options. Economics is just one of the ways of trying to make the most of those options. -- P. 4

Recycling is not categorically justified or unjustified, but is incrementally either worth or not worth the costs...-studies of government-imposed recycling programs in the United States have shown that what they salvage is usually worth less than the cost of salvaging it. -- P. 14 - 15

Groups with a demonstrable history of being discriminated against have, in many countries and in many periods of history, had higher incomes, better educational performance, and more 'representation' in high-level positions than those doing the discriminating. -- P. 20

To the anointed, their vision and reality are one and the same. Yet the world inside their minds has few of the harsh constraints of the world inhabited by millions of other human beings... The world of the anointed is a very tidy place- or, put differently, every deviation of the real world from the tidiness of their vision is considered to be someone‘s fault. -- P. 24

The general orientation of white liberals has been one of 'what can we do for them?' What blacks can do for themselves has not only been of lesser interest, much of what blacks have in fact already done for themselves has been overshadowed by liberal attempts to get them special dispensations- whether affirmative action, reparations for slavery, or other race-based benefits- even when the net effect of these dispensations has been much less than the effects of black‘s own self-advancement. -- P. 55

(in 1969) Harvard economist Richard Freeman compared blacks and whites whose homes included newspapers, magazines, and library cards, and who had also gone on to obtain the same number of years of schooling. There was no difference in the average income of these whites compared to these blacks. -- P. 80

History as a balm for wounded egos is likewise suspect. -- P. 252

on making a profit, and the implicit costs of their decisions were paid out of the endowments and donations supplied by others. -- P. 171

There is a fundamental difference between a society where a ruler can seize the wealth or the wife of any subject and one in which the poorest citizen can refuse to allow the highest official of the land inside their home. -- P. 219