Thomas Sowell quotes are music to the ears of conservatives, libertarians, and anyone else who has actually put some thought into forming their economic and political beliefs.
Sowell came from humble circumstances. His mother, a housemaid, was widowed before he was born. He was adopted by his great-aunt, and moved from Charlotte to Harlem when he was nine years old. Although the first in his family to advance past the sixth grade, he had to drop out of high school at age 17 due to financial and domestic issues. Sowell was drafted into the Marines in 1951.
Sowell attended night classes at Howard University following his service in the Korean War. As a young man he had considered himself a Marxist. One summer internship working for the federal government corrected this.
Sowell earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago while working as an assistant professor of economics at Cornell. He proceeded to teach economics at his alma maters as well as Rutgers, Brandeis, Amherst, and UCLA. Throughout his long and prestigious academic career Sowell became one of the Chicago school of economics’ most prominent representatives, as well as famous for his books, newspaper columns, and frequent appearances as a commentator on radio and television.
Summarizing the essays and books of so prodigious a writer necessarily glosses over the nuances of Sowell’s beliefs. Much of his work advocates for an economy unhindered by government interference, the abolishment of the ineffective Federal Reserve, and the disastrous consequences of striving toward a “utopian” society. Sowell supports ending the war on drugs and the abolishment of gun control, two measures he would point out create more crime rather than preventing it. His award-winning book Knowledge and Decisionscontrasts the (often incompatible) processes of government and the free market.
Sowell is often labeled a “black conservative,” although not by his own choice. The simple title of “conservative” would suit him well enough. Still, he has written extensively on the subject of race, elaborating on his belief that “systemic racism” is at once arguably nonexistent and an effective tool of propagandists. He has criticized affirmative action in part because it leads to the failure of black and Hispanic students who are accepted to schools with academic standards which they are poorly equipped to meet.
Whether they are welcomed or not, Sowell frequently offers his opinions on American politics as well. While he favored Cruz in the 2016 presidential election, he voted against Clinton in part to prevent her appointees from reaching the Supreme Court. He later expressed great concern that a Biden victory would amount to a leftist coup over world politics, and that his radical progressive policies would effect the imminent downfall of the United States. Who else is excited to see if he’s right?
Sowell is one of the most revered figures in the conservative and libertarian worlds. On his 90th birthday the Mises Institute honored Sowell by declaring him the greatest living economist. We agree that he is whole-heartedly. Conversely, Sowell is rather disliked (and occasionally reviled) by left-leaning intellectuals, some of whom are no doubt driven mad that they can’t just brand him a racist and be done with him.
Hailed as the godfather of conservative libertarianism, Milton Friedman quotes openly attacked Keynesianism in an era when most economists widely accepted its fundamental premises. Friedman won the 1976 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences “for his achievements in the fields of consumption analysis, monetary history and theory and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization policy.”
An Austrian School economist, Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises devoted much of his life to writing and educating on the subject of classical liberalism. While several classical libertarians including John Locke and Jean-Baptiste Say preceded him, Mises’ revival of the ideology following the Second World War has cemented his place as one of libertarianism’s most revered figures.