Great American thinker and economist Thomas Sowell turned 89 on Sunday.  Some people have called him the one of the greatest living economists in the world as well as one of the greatest living intellectuals.

AEI’s Mark J. Perry wished him happy birthday by pulling fifteen of this best quotes.  It got me thinking of my favorite Sowell bits of wisdom. I’ve included a few of the ones Mark pulled below but added some of my own favorites as well.

Here’s a bonus one: “While it is true that you learn with age, the down side is that what you learn is often what a damn fool you were before.”I don’t think anyone could called Sowell a fool, now or ever.

Enjoy the wisdom of this great man below:

1.      How the Left Dodges Actual Arguments:

“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.”

2. The Fundamental Problem of Both Economics and Politics: 

“Economics and politics confront the same fundamental problem: What everyone wants adds up to more than there is. Market economies deal with this problem by confronting individuals with the costs of producing what they want and letting those individuals make their own trade-offs when presented with prices that convey those costs. That leads to self-rationing, in the light of each individual’s own circumstances and preferences.”

3.      The Abject Failure of the Left’s Vision:

The whole political vision of the left, including socialism and communism, has failed by virtually every empirical test, in countries all around the world. But this has only led leftist intellectuals to evade and denigrate empirical evidence.

4.      Equality of Rights:

“Equality of rights does not mean equality of results. I can have all the equal treatment in the world on a golf course and I will not finish within shouting distance of Tiger Woods.”

5.      Moving on Up:

 “Only by focusing on the income brackets, instead of the actual people moving between those brackets, have the intelligentsia been able to verbally create a ‘problem’ for which a ‘solution’ is necessary. They have created a powerful vision of ‘classes’ with ‘disparities’ and ‘inequities’ in income, caused by ‘barriers’ created by ‘society.’ But the routine rise of millions of people out of the lowest quintile over time makes a mockery of the ‘barriers’ assumed by many, if not most, of the intelligentsia.”

6.      The Impossibility of Predicting Politicians:

“Economists are often asked to predict what the economy is going to do. But economic predictions require predicting what politicians are going to do– and nothing is more unpredictable.”

7.      Politicians as Santa Claus:

“The big question that seldom— if ever— gets asked in the mainstream media is whether these are a net increase in jobs. Since the only resources that the government has are the resources it takes from the private sector, using those resources to create jobs means reducing the resources available to create jobs in the private sector.

So long as most people do not look beyond superficial appearances, politicians can get away with playing Santa Claus on all sorts of issues, while leaving havoc in their wake— such as growing unemployment, despite all the jobs being ‘created.’”

8.      Racism: 

“Racism is not dead. But it is on life-support, kept alive mainly by the people who use it for an excuse or to keep minority communities fearful or resentful enough to turn out as a voting bloc on election day.” 

9.      Diversity:

 “If there is any place in the Guinness Book of World Records for words repeated the most often, over the most years, without one speck of evidence, ‘diversity’ should be a prime candidate. Is diversity our strength? Or anybody’s strength, anywhere in the world? Does Japan’s homogeneous population cause the Japanese to suffer? Have the Balkans been blessed by their heterogeneity — or does the very word ‘Balkanization’ remind us of centuries of strife, bloodshed and unspeakable atrocities, extending into our own times? Has Europe become a safer place after importing vast numbers of people from the Middle East, with cultures hostile to the fundamental values of Western civilization?

“When in Rome do as the Romans do” was once a common saying. Today, after generations in the West have been indoctrinated with the rhetoric of multiculturalism, the borders of Western nations on both sides of the Atlantic have been thrown open to people who think it is their prerogative to come as refugees and tell the Romans what to do — and to assault those who don’t knuckle under to foreign religious standards. It has not been our diversity, but our ability to overcome the problems inherent in diversity, and to act together as Americans, that has been our strength.”

10.    A Journalist’s Two Masters:

Journalists cannot serve two masters. To the extent that they take on the task of suppressing information or biting their tongue for the sake of some political agenda, they are betraying the trust of the public and corrupting their own profession.

11.    Charity:

 “It was Thomas Edison who brought us electricity, not the Sierra Club. It was the Wright brothers who got us off the ground, not the Federal Aviation Administration. It was Henry Ford who ended the isolation of millions of Americans by making the automobile affordable, not Ralph Nader.

“Those who have helped the poor the most have not been those who have gone around loudly expressing ‘compassion’ for the poor, but those who found ways to make industry more productive and distribution more efficient, so that the poor of today can afford things that the affluent of yesterday could only dream about.”

12.    Greed:

“It is amazing how many of the intelligentsia call it “greed” to want to keep what you have earned, but not greed to want to take away what somebody else has earned, and let politicians use it to buy votes.”

Image Credit: Wikimedia

Hat Tip: AEI and Twitter

About The Author

Mark Meckler

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at MarkMeckler.com, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.