Thomas Sowell Quotes on Greed, Socialism, Racism, and More

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 Decisions contrasts 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.

Dr. Thomas Sowell Quotes

“There a three questions that I think would destroy most of the arguments on the left. The first is, ‘Compared to what?’ The second is, ‘At what cost?’ And the third is, ‘What hard evidence do you have?’”
– The Difference Between Liberal and Conservative

“Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good. In area after area—crime, education, housing, race relations—the situation has gotten worse after the bright new theories were put into operation. The amazing thing is that this history of failure and disaster has neither discouraged the social engineers nor discredited them.”
Is Reality Optional? And Other Essays

Thomas Sowell Quotes - "The assumption that spending more of taxpayers' money will..."
“The assumption that spending more of the taxpayers’ money will make things better has survived all kinds of evidence that it has made things worse.”
Is Reality Optional? And Other Essays

“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.”
Thomas Sowell: Saying farewell by looking at how nation has changed

“Elections should be held on April 16th – the day after we pay our income taxes. That is one of the few things that might discourage politicians from being big spenders.”
6 Quotes: Sowell on economics and ideas

“Unfortunately, the real minimum wage is always zero, regardless of the laws, and that is the wage that many workers receive in the wake of the creation or escalation of a government-mandated minimum wage, because they either lose their jobs or fail to find jobs when they enter the labor force.”
Basic Economics

“Immigration laws are the only laws that are discussed in terms of how to help people who break them.”
A Thought on Illegal Immigration by Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Quotes - "Scarcity is the first lesson of economics..."
“Scarcity is the first lesson of economics. Now the first lesson of politics is to forget the first lesson of economics.”
Thomas Sowell on First Lessons of Economics & Politics

“It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer it.”
Knowledge And Decisions

“In the summer of 1959, as in the summer of 1957, I worked as a clerk-typist in the headquarters of the U.S. Public Health Service in Washington. The people I worked for were very nice and I grew to like them.

“One day, a man had a heart attack at around 5 PM, on the sidewalk outside the Public Health Service. He was taken inside to the nurse’s room, where he was asked if he was a government employee. If he were, he would have been eligible to be taken to a medical facility there. Unfortunately, he was not, so a phone call was made to a local hospital to send an ambulance. By the time this ambulance made its way through miles of Washington rush-hour traffic, the man was dead.

“He died waiting for a doctor, in a building full of doctors.

“Nothing so dramatized for me the nature of a bureaucracy and its emphasis on procedures, rather than results.”
– A Personal Odyssey

Thomas Sowell Quotes - "When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians..."
“When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup.”
Don’t Get Weak

“People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.”
The Ultimate Book of Quotations

“When we hear about rent control or gun control, we may think about rent or guns but the word that really matters is ‘control.’ That is what the political left is all about, as you can see by the incessant creation of new restrictions in places where they are strongly entrenched in power, such as San Francisco or New York.”
– The Audacity of Hype

“One of the most ridiculous defenses of foreign aid is that it is a very small part of our national income. If the average American set fire to a five-dollar bill, it would be an even smaller percentage of his annual income. But everyone would consider him foolish for doing it.”
Barbarians inside the Gates and Other Controversial Essays

Thomas Sowell Greed Quote

“I have never understood why it is ‘greed’ to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else’s money.”
Quoted by The American Experiment

Thomas Sowell Quotes on Obama

“Barack Obama’s political genius is his ability to say things that will sound good to people who have not followed the issues in any detail — regardless of how obviously fraudulent what he says may be to those who have.”
Obama’s “Balanced” Approach

“When President Obama keeps talking about ‘violent extremists’ in the abstract, you might wonder whether Presbyterians are running amok.”
Random thoughts on the passing scene

“Ronald Reagan had a vision of America. Barack Obama has a vision of Barack Obama.”
Dismantling America and Other Controversial Essays

“President Obama keeps telling us that he is ‘creating jobs.’ But more and more Americans have no jobs. The unemployment rate has declined slightly, but only because many people have stopped looking for jobs. You are only counted as unemployed if you are still looking for a job.”
Dismantling America and Other Controversial Essays

“While the Obama administration in Washington is not the root cause of the ominous dangers that face this country, at home and abroad, it is the embodiment, the personification and the culmination of dangerous trends that began decades ago. Moreover, it has escalated those dangers to what may be a point of no return. The specifics of the missteps and the misdeeds of this administration are among the things chronicled, here and there, in the essays that follow, which were first published as my syndicated newspaper columns.”
Dismantling America and Other Controversial Essays

Thomas Sowell Quotes Racism and Diversity

Thomas Sowell Quotes - "The next time some academics tell you how important diversity is..."
“The next time some academics tell you how important diversity is, ask how many Republicans there are in their sociology department.”
Random thoughts

“Racism has never done this country any good, and it needs to be fought against, not put under new management for different groups.”
‘Out of Context’

“The blacks, say, in the West Indies had all sorts of experiences growing their own food, selling the surplus in the market, and, in fact, being responsible for budgeting what they had. Blacks in the United States were deliberately kept from having that. Dependence was seen as the key to holding the slaves down. It’s ironic that that same principle comes up in the welfare state 100 years later.”
Thomas Sowell: The Welfare State

“The black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow, but it has disintegrated in the wake of the liberals’ expansion of the welfare state. Most black children grew up in homes with two parents during all that time but most grow up with only one parent today.”
Liberalism a de facto attack on blacks

“I haven’t been able to find a single country in the world where the policies that are being advocated for blacks in the United States have lifted any people out of poverty.”
Thomas Sowell: The Welfare State

“Nothing could be more jolting and discordant with the vision of today’s intellectuals than the fact that it was businessmen, devout religious leaders and Western imperialists who together destroyed slavery around the world. And if it doesn’t fit their vision, it is the same to them as if it never happened.”
It was conservatives who ended slavery

“What ‘multiculturalism’ boils down to is that you can praise any culture in the world except Western culture – and you cannot blame any culture in the world except Western culture.”
A Murder of Crows: America’s Raucous Right-Wing

“Are we to indulge in absolute fantasy and say that statistical ‘diversity’ promotes better intergroup relations, against blatant evidence that it is poisoning people against one another?”
Barbarians inside the Gates and Other Controversial Essays

Thomas Sowell Quotes on Liberals and Socialism

“If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today.”
The Ultimate Book of Quotations

Thomas Sowell Quotes - "Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that..."
“Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”
A Murder of Crows: America’s Raucous Right-Wing

“‘Socialism is a wonderful idea.’ It is only as a reality that it has been disastrous. Among people of every race, color, and creed, all around the world, socialism has led to hunger in countries that used to have surplus food to export.

“Its economic disasters have afflicted virtually every industry. In its Communist version, it killed far more innocent civilians in peacetime than Hitler killed in his death camps during World War II.

“Nevertheless, for many of those who deal primarily in ideas, socialism remains an attractive idea — in fact, seductive. Its every failure is explained away as due to the inadequacies of particular leaders.

“Many of the intelligentsia remain convinced that if only there had been better leaders — people like themselves, for example — it would all have worked out fine, according to plan.”
Disastrous Utopia — Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism

“The fact that so many successful politicians are such shameless liars is not only a reflection on them, it is also a reflection on us. When the people want the impossible, only liars can satisfy them, and only in the short run.”
Big lies order of the day in politics

“That people on the political left have a certain set of opinions, just as people do in other parts of the ideological spectrum, is not surprising. What is surprising, however, is how often the opinions of those on the left are accompanied by hostility and even hatred.”
Thomas Sowell quotations on the ‘vision of the political left’

“Anyone who studies the history of ideas should notice how much more often people on the political left, more so than others, denigrate and demonize those who disagree with them — instead of answering their arguments.”
Thomas Sowell quotations on the ‘vision of the political left’

“The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that they do not work. Therefore we should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive.”
The Survival of the Left

“The political left has never understood that, if you give the government enough power to create ‘social justice,’ you have given it enough power to create despotism. Millions of people around the world have paid with their lives for overlooking that simple fact.”
Thomas Sowell quotations on the ‘vision of the political left’

“The vision of the left, full of envy and resentment, takes its worst toll on those at the bottom — whether black or white — who find in that paranoid vision an excuse for counterproductive and ultimately self-destructive attitudes and behavior.”
Thomas Sowell quotations on the ‘vision of the political left’

Thomas Sowell Quotes Education

“One of the painful signs of years of dumbed-down education is how many people are unable to make a coherent argument. They can vent their emotions, question other people’s motives, make bold assertions, repeat slogans – anything except reason.”
Random Thoughts

“It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong. Know-it-alls in the school system do not lose one dime or one hour’s sleep if their bright ideas turn out to be all wrong, or even disastrous, for the child.”
Wake up, parents!

Thomas Sowell Quotes - "Too often what are called 'educated people are simply people who have been sheltered..."
“Too often what are called ‘educated’ people are simply people who have been sheltered from reality for years in ivy-covered buildings. Those whose whole careers have been spent in ivy-covered buildings, insulated by tenure, can remain adolescents on into their golden retirement years.”
A Murder of Crows: America’s Raucous Right-Wing

“I think the bussing thing was a classic example. You would be hard-pressed to show how black people, white people, or any other people were benefited by this. But the liberals loved it. It enabled them to be morally superior to those who were fighting against bussing, and the evidence one way or the other really did not interest them.”
The Difference Between Liberal and Conservative

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed this collection of our favorite Thomas Sowell quotes! If you would like to support America’s greatest living economist, then be sure to purchase a copy of his latest book Charter Schools and Their Enemies, now available at fine bookstores everywhere. Be sure to check out quotes from Thomas Sowell’s close friend Walter E. Williams and other great economists and libertarian thinkers.