Thomas Sowell Announces His Retirement; Here are 20 of His Greatest Pearls of Wisdom

God broke the mold with great conservative economist, author, philosopher and speaker, Thomas Sowell, who announced his retirement on Monday, at the ripe young age of 86, more than 20 years later than when most Americans hang it up.

The brilliant Thomas Sowell, who has an amazing gift for making the complex understandable with wit, humor, and snark, while still being deep and thought-provoking, wrote his final column, his “farewell column,” reminiscing about some of the changes in American life that have occurred over his long and distinguished career that spanned several decades (emphasis added for awesomeness effect):

“Looking back over the years, as old-timers are apt to do, I see huge changes, both for the better and for the worse.

In material things, there has been almost unbelievable progress. Most Americans did not have refrigerators back in 1930, when I was born. Television was little more than an experiment, and such things as air-conditioning or air travel were only for the very rich.

My own family did not have electricity or hot running water in my early childhood, which was not unusual for blacks in the South in those days.

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.

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.

The last sentence above is vintage Sowell, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution who has authored classics like Basic Economics, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, and Intellectuals and Race.

Sowell, who plans on spending a lot less time on politics and more time doing photography, adding more pictures to his website, reflected on the declining state of American politics in his final column, noting that “Years of lying presidents,” beginning with former presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon “destroyed not only their credibility, but the credibility which the office itself conferred.” As we’ve seen, we’ve had many numerous lying presidents since those two liars and keep electing habitual liars.

Below are twenty Thomas Sowell quotes for the ages — not a comprehensive list — but in the Sowell heritage of brevity, here are a few of his all-time greatest on a variety of topics from government meddling to socialism to racism to “greed” and more. It goes without saying that these are timeless truths and wisdom that come with no expiration date:

  • “Since this is an era when many people are concerned about ‘fairness’ and ‘social justice,’ what is your ‘fair share’ of what someone else has worked for?”
  • “Socialism, in general, has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “Competition does a much more effective job than government at protecting consumers.”
  • “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.”
  • ““If politicians stopped meddling with things they don’t understand, there would be a more drastic reduction in the size of government than anyone in either party advocates.”
  • “One of the consequences of such notions as ‘entitlements’ is that people who have contributed nothing to society feel that society owes them something, apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence.”
  • “Rhetoric is no substitute for reality.”
  • “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 lose their jobs or fail to find jobs when they enter the labor force. Making it illegal to pay less than a given amount does not make a worker’s productivity worth that amount—and, if it is not, that worker is unlikely to be employed.”
  • “Intellect is not wisdom.”
  • “Can you cite one speck of hard evidence of the benefits of ‘diversity’ that we have heard gushed about for years? Evidence of its harm can be seen — written in blood — from Iraq to India, from Serbia to Sudan, from Fiji to the Philippines. It is scary how easily so many people can be brainwashed by sheer repetition of a word.
  • “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.”
  • “The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.”
  • “Racism does not have a good track record. It’s been tried out for a long time and you’d think by now we’d want to put an end to it instead of putting it under new management.”
  • “The fact that the market is not doing what we wish it would do is no reason to automatically assume that the government would do better.”
  • “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.”
  • “It’s amazing how much panic one honest man can spread among a multitude of hypocrites.”
  • “In short, killing the goose that lays the golden egg is a viable political strategy, so long as the goose does not die before the next election and no one traces the politicians’ fingerprints on the murder weapon.”
  • No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems — of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind.

Thomas Sowell is 86, and he’s blessed us with words of wisdom for all these years. Thankfully, his brilliance has been recorded so that it can be passed on for generations to come.

About the Author

Matthew K. Burke
Matthew K. Burke
A former Washington State U.S. Congressional candidate in 2010, Matthew attended the nation’s first modern day Tea Party in 2009 in Seattle, Washington. He also began writing and blogging that year. Matthew became a Certified Financial Planner in 1995 and was a Financial Advisor for 24 years in his previous life. Matthew was one of the three main writers leading a conservative news site to be one of the top 15 conservative news sites in the U.S. in a matter of months. He brings to PolitiStick a vast amount of knowledge about economics as well as a passion and commitment to the vision that our Founding Fathers had for our Republic.

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