Thomas Sowell Retires: Nine of His Greatest Hits

The seasoned libertarian-conservative columnist shaped the political debate for decades

Thomas Sowell is retiring.

At 86 years of age.

“Like so many people, in so many countries, who started out to ‘spread the wealth,’ Barack Obama has ended up spreading poverty.”

The author and Hoover Institution fellow said he will be discontinuing his syndicated column. He wrote for Creators Syndicate alone for the last 25 years.

The announcement brought loads of plaudits from his admirers over the decades.

Sowell is a great writer, not because of his substantial education or his off-the-chart IQ, but because of his ability to cut through the nonsense and get to the heart of each issue. This usually meant tearing apart arguments for bigger government, which he believed destroyed wealth, urban communities, and the family structure.

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It’s hard to describe Sowell, an African-American intellectual with degrees from Harvard and Columbia universities, and an economics doctorate from the University of Chicago. It’s easier to list the people he influenced, from LifeZette Editor-in-Chief Laura Ingraham to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. His imprint is evident in the governing styles and ideologies of President Ronald Reagan and many others.

LifeZette looked through his work for some great quotes posted by news agencies, admirers such as the American Enterprise Institute, and Sowell himself, at his website, TSowell.com.

Barack Obama
Despite seeing the first black president in U.S. history, Sowell was not impressed by President Obama’s work. In 2011, he lambasted Obama with a simple quote in a “Random Thoughts” column: “Like so many people, in so many countries, who started out to ‘spread the wealth,’ Barack Obama has ended up spreading poverty.”

Sowell often tormented the Left with his accusations that they relied on ad hominem attacks to make political arguments, especially when they defended Obama.

“Former big-time TV journalist Sam Donaldson and current fledgling CNN host Don Lemon have already proclaimed racism to be the reason for criticisms of Obama, and we can expect more and more other talking heads to say the same thing as the election campaign goes on,” Sowell wrote in 2012. “The word ‘racism’ is like ketchup. It can be put on practically anything — and demanding evidence makes you a ‘racist.'”

Living Standards, Liberals and the Poor
Sowell is fascinated by how innovation and economics have eliminated many of the past’s problems.

“It was Thomas Edison who brought us electricity, not the Sierra Club,” he wrote in 2010. “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.”

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Dumb Politicians
Not surprisingly, Sowell, an economics professor, was appalled at what politicians did not know about money and goods, or what they disregarded.

In the tome “Basic Economics,” he wrote: “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”

The Family v. Welfare State
Sowell believed the welfare state caused the breakup of the black family and families in general.

In 2013, he wrote: “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.”

One reason liberals and the NAACP did not like Sowell was the columnist’s unflinching criticism of government programs. In 1995, he wrote: “Among the many other questions raised by the nebulous concept of ‘greed’ is why it is a term applied almost exclusively to those who want to earn more money or to keep what they have already earned — never to those wanting to take other people’s money in taxes or to those wishing to live on the largess dispensed from such taxation.”

Affirmative Action
Another reason Sowell was disliked by liberals was his opposition to racial quotas or preferences of any kind.

In 2011, he reminded readers that governments used such programs usually to harm people: “Do people who advocate special government programs for blacks realize that the federal government has had special programs for American Indians, including affirmative action, since the early 19th century — and that American Indians remain one of the few groups worse off than blacks?”

Like the best economists, including Milton Friedman, Sowell’s mentor, Sowell was disturbed by growing government regulation.

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After Obamacare passed, he wrote: “Just as there is no free lunch, there is no free red tape. Bureaucrats have to eat, just like everyone else, and they need a place to live and some other amenities. How do you suppose the price of medical care can go down when the costs of new government bureaucracies are added to the costs of the medical treatment itself?”

Liberal Intolerance
In 2002, Sowell, who preferred Fox News over CNN, noticed many liberals just didn’t like dissent.

“Liberals seem to assume that, if you don’t believe in their particular political solutions, then you don’t really care about the people that they claim to want to help,” Sowell wrote.

His retirement, of course, was celebrated by liberals — which means he was effective.

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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