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Thomas Sowell Quotes

Categories: Psychology

Thomas Sowell is a best-selling author, economist, photographer, syndicated columnist, historian, and academic. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest minds of the past half-century.

Do enjoy some thought-provoking, insightful quotes from his pen.

Part 1

“Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.”

Part 2

“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.”

Part 3

“Virtually no idea is too ridiculous to be accepted, even by very intelligent and highly educated people, if it provides a way for them to feel special and important. Some confuse that feeling with idealism.”

Part 4

“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.”

Part 5

“Rhetoric is no substitute for reality.”

Part 6

“It’s amazing how much panic one honest man can spread among a multitude of hypocrites.”

Part 7

“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.”

Part 8

“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.”

Part 9

“Intellect is not wisdom.”

Part 10

“Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.”

Part 11

“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.”

Part 12

“Despite a voluminous and often fervent literature on “income distribution”, the cold fact is that most income is not distributed: it is earned.”

Part 13

“Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”

Part 14

“Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric.”

Part 15

“Bailing out people who made ill-advised mortgages makes no more sense that bailing out people who lost their life savings in Las Vegas casinos.”

Part 16

“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.”

Part 17

“When people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment seems like discrimination.”

Part 18

“The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best.”

Part 19

“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.”

Part 20

“Competition does a much more effective job than government at protecting consumers.”

Part 21

“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.”

Part 22

“What is history but the story of how politicians have squandered the blood and treasure of the human race?”

Part 23

“If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else’s expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves.”

Part 24

“One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain.”

Part 25

“Life does not ask what we want. It presents us with options.”

Part 26

“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 50 years ago, a liberal 25 years ago and a racist today.”

Part 27

“We seem to be getting closer and closer to a situation where nobody is responsible for what they did but we are all responsible for what somebody else did.”

Part 28

“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.”

Part 29

“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.”

Part 30

“The concept of “microaggression” is just one of many tactics used to stifle differences of opinion by declaring some opinions to be “hate speech,” instead of debating those differences in a marketplace of ideas. To accuse people of aggression for not marching in lockstep with political correctness is to set the stage for justifying real aggression against them.”

Part 31

“What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don’t like something to saying that the government should forbid it. When you go down that road, don’t expect freedom to survive very long.”

Part 32

“As an entrepreneur in India put it: ‘Indians have learned from painful experience that the state does not work on behalf of the people. More often than not, it works on behalf of itself.’”

Part 33

“Extrapolations are the last refuge of a groundless argument.”

Part 34

“A society that puts equality — in the sense of equality of outcome — ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.”

Part 35

“Whatever we wish to achieve in the future, it must begin by knowing where we are in the present- not where we wish we were, or where we wish others to think we are, but where we are in fact.”

Part 36

“One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them.”

Part 37

“It is usually futile to try to talk facts and analysis to people who are enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their ignorance.”

Part 38

“If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.”

Part 39

“People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.”

Part 40

“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.”

Part 41

“The fatal attraction of government is that it allows busybodies to impose decisions on others without paying any price themselves. That enables them to act as if there were no price, even when there are ruinous prices — paid by others.”

Part 42

“What is called an educated person is often someone who has had a dangerously superficial exposure to a wide spectrum of subjects.”

Part 43

“Reality does not go away when it is ignored.”

Part 44

“Seldom do people think things through foolishly. More often, they do not bother to think things through at all, so that even brainy individuals can reach untenable conclusions because their brainpower means little if it is not deployed and applied.”

Part 45

“The media are less a window on reality, than a stage on which officials and journalists perform self-scripted, self-serving fictions.”

Part 46

“Misconceptions of business are almost inevitable in a society where most people have neither studied nor run businesses. In a society where most people are employees and consumers, it is easy to think of businesses as “them” — as impersonal organizations, whose internal operations are largely unknown and whose sums of money may sometimes be so huge as to be unfathomable.”

Part 47

“But that such an administration could be elected in the first place, headed by a man whose only qualifications to be President of the United States at a dangerous time in the history of the world were rhetoric, style and symbolism — and whose animus against the values and institutions of America had been demonstrated repeatedly over a period of decades beforehand — speaks volumes about the inadequacies of our educational system and the degeneration of our culture.”

Part 48

“Various mental tests or scholastic tests have been criticized as unfair because different groups perform very differently on such tests. But one reply to critics summarized the issue succinctly: “The tests are not unfair. Life is unfair and the tests measure the results.””

Part 49

“When people are presented with the alternatives of hating themselves for their failure or hating others for their success, they seldom choose to hate themselves.”

Part 50

“The essence of bigotry is denying others the same rights you claim for yourself.”

Part 51

“What is called “planning” in political rhetoric is the government’s suppression of other people’s plans by superimposing on them a collective plan, created by third parties, armed with the power of government and exempted from paying the costs that these collective plans impose on others.”

Part 52

“’Justice at all costs’ is not justice.”

Part 53

“Where beliefs are not checked against facts, but instead facts must meet the test of consonance with the prevailing vision, we are in the process of sealing ourselves off from feedback from reality. Heedless of the past, we are flying blind into the future.”

Part 54

“Perhaps the most important thing about risk is its inescapability. Particular individuals, groups, or institutions may be sheltered from risk — but only at the cost of having someone else bear that risk. For a society as a whole, there is no someone else.”

Part 55

“There have always been ignorant people, but they haven’t always had college degrees to make them unaware of their ignorance. Some people imagine that they are well informed because they have memorized a whole galaxy of trendy dogmas and fashionable attitudes.”

Part 56

“The monumental tragedies of the 20th century — a world-wide Great Depression, two devastating World Wars, the Holocaust, famines killing millions in the Soviet Union and tens of millions in China — should leave us with a sobering sense of the threats to any society. But this generation’s ignorance of history leaves them free to be frivolous — until the next catastrophe strikes, and catches them completely by surprise.”

Part 57

“In short, numbers are accepted as evidence when they agree with preconceptions, but not when they don’t.”

Part 58

“Freedom must be distinguished from democracy, with which it is often confused.”

Part 59

“The purpose of education is to give the student the intellectual tools to analyze, whether verbally or numerically, and to reach conclusions based on logic and evidence.”

Part 60

“There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life.”

Part 61

“People who have time on their hands will inevitably waste the time of people who have work to do.”

Part 62

“The cavemen had the same natural resources at their disposal as we have today, and the difference between their standard of living and ours is a difference between the knowledge they could bring to bear on those resources and the knowledge used today.”

Part 63

“Too much of what is called ‘education’ is little more than an expensive isolation from reality.”

Part 64

“Only in the light of this agenda does it make sense that so-called “sex education” should be advocated to take place throughout the school years—from kindergarten to college—when it could not possibly take that much time to teach basic biological or medical information about sex. What takes that long is a constant indoctrination in new attitudes.”

Part 65

“In an age of artificial intelligence, too many of our schools and colleges are producing artificial stupidity.”

Part 66

“It is scary how easily so many people can be brainwashed by sheer repetition of a word.”

Part 67

“Today, despite free speech and the mass media, the prevailing social vision is dangerously close to sealing itself off from any discordant feedback from reality.”

Part 68

“The ignorance, prejudices, and groupthink of an educated elite are still ignorance, prejudice, and groupthink—and for those with one percent of the knowledge in a society to be guiding or controlling those with the other 99 percent is as perilous as it is absurd.”

Part 69

“Whether blatant or subtle, brainwashing has become a major, time-consuming activity in American education at all levels. Some zealots have not hesitated to use the traditional brain-washing technique of emotional trauma in the classroom to soften up children for their message. Gruesome and graphic movies on nuclear war, for example, have reduced some school children to tears—after which the teacher makes a pitch for whatever movement claims to reduce such dangers. Another technique is the ambush shock: A seventh-grade teacher in Manhattan, for example, innocently asked her students to discuss their future plans—after which she said: “Haven’t any of you realized that in this world with nuclear weapons no one in this class will be alive in the year 2000?””

Part 70

“Nothing is more complex than avoiding the obvious.”

Part 71

“People who have already been out in the real world, practicing for years whatever their particular specialty might be, have some basis for determining which things are relevant enough to go into a curriculum to teach those who follow. The idea that students can determine relevance in advance is one of the many counterproductive notions to come out of the 1960s.”

Part 72

“Ours may become the first civilization destroyed, not by the power of our enemies, but by the ignorance of our teachers and the dangerous nonsense they are teaching our children. In an age of artificial intelligence, they are creating artificial stupidity.”

Part 73

“Other countries whose educational systems achieve more than ours often do so in part by attempting less. While school children in Japan are learning science, mathematics, and a foreign language, American school children are sitting around in circles, unburdening their psyches and “expressing themselves” on scientific, economic and military issues for which they lack even the rudiments of competence. Worse than what they are not learning is what they are learning—presumptuous superficiality, taught by practitioners of it.”

Part 74

“One-day-at-a-time rationalism risks restricting its analysis to the immediate implications of each issue as it arises, missing the wider implications of a decision that may have merit as regards the issue immediately at hand, considered in isolation, but which can be disastrous in terms of the ignored longer-term repercussions.”

Part 75

“Much of what is taught in our schools and colleges today seeks to break down traditional values, and replace them with more fancy and fashionable notions, of which “a duty to die” is just one.”

Part 76

“One of the first things taught in introductory statistics textbooks is that correlation is not causation. It is also one of the first things forgotten.”

Part 77

“…lifelong benefits [to students who learn to think for themselves] include a healthy skepticism towards political slogans and a healthy desire to check out the facts before repeating rhetoric on other issues.”

Part 78

“If we go back to the beginning of the twentieth century, before government intervention became pervasive in housing markets, we find people paying a smaller percentage of their expenditures for housing than at the end of that century.”

Part 79

“No small part of the existing problems of the public schools is that the school day is already so long and boring, with so little to challenge the ablest students. Moreover, many average and below-average students who have lost all interest are retained by compulsory attendance laws for years past the point where their presence is accomplishing anything other than providing jobs for educators.”

Part 80

“Some things are believed because they are demonstrably true. But many other things are believed simply because they have been asserted repeatedly—and repetition has been accepted as a substitute for evidence.”

Part 81

“Among the greatest external costs imposed in a society can be those imposed politically by legislators and officials who pay no costs whatever, while imposing billions of dollars in costs on others, in order to respond to political pressures from advocates of particular interests or ideologies.”

Part 82

“In contemporary America, many colleges and universities have whole departments devoted to promoting a sense of racial and ethnic grievances against others, while celebrating the isolation of group identities, epitomized by ethnically separate residences on campus and sometimes even ethnically separate graduation ceremonies.”

Part 83

“Drug prevention and sex education might seem to be very different activities, and a program for gifted and talented students still more different from both of these. But that is true only where these programs are legitimately confined to what they claim to be. Far too often, however, these words are mere flags of convenience under which schools set sail on an uncharted sea of social experimentation.”

Part 84

“Many desirable things are advocated without regard to the most fundamental fact of economics, that resources are inherently limited and have alternative uses. Who could be against health, safety, or open space? But each of these things is open-ended, while resources are not only limited but have alternative uses which are also valuable.”

Part 85

“As Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said: “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.””

Part 86

“Today, poverty in America means whatever government statisticians in Washington say it means.”

Part 87

“Definitions being what they are, young people who waste their time around the house or on street corners are called “unemployed”, while those who waste their time in classrooms are called “students.””

Part 88

“Blaming economic crises on “greed” is like blaming plane crashes on gravity. Certainly planes wouldn’t crash if it wasn’t for gravity. But when thousands of planes fly millions of miles every day without crashing, explaining why a particular plane crashed because of gravity gets you nowhere. Neither does talking about “greed,” which is constant like gravity.”

Part 89

“The strategic location of the intelligentsia, whether in the mass media or in educational institutions, enables them to filter what information gets through to the general public, protecting the welfare state vision and with it a flattering vision of themselves.”

Part 90

“You cannot subsidize irresponsibility and expect people to become more responsible.”

Part 91

“How can this be, when the whole purpose of rent control is to keep rents down? First of all, the purpose of any policy tells you absolutely nothing about what will actually happen under that policy. Too many disastrous laws get passed because those who pass them win political points for their good intentions and nobody bothers to check up later to see what actually happened.”

Part 92

“A cynic once said that there is nothing more permanent than a temporary government policy.”

Part 93

“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.”

Part 94

“’Access’ is one of the great dishonest words of our times. I have had as much access to a career in professional basketball as Michael Jordan had. He just happened to play the game a lot better. Indeed, practically everybody has played the game a lot better than I did.”

Part 95

“In short, honesty is more than a moral principle. It is also a major economic factor. While government can do little to create honesty directly, in various ways it can indirectly either support or undermine the traditions on which honest conduct is based. This it can do by what it teaches in its schools, by the examples set by public officials, or by the laws that it passes. These laws can create incentives toward either moral or immoral conduct. Where laws create a situation in which the only way to avoid ruinous losses is by violating the law, the government is in effect reducing public respect for laws in general, as well as rewarding specific dishonest behavior.”

Part 96

“Even when “both sides” are presented in the media, seldom are the reasons for each side presented.”

Part 97

“When laws and policies make honesty increasingly costly, then government is, in effect, promoting dishonesty. Such dishonesty can then extend beyond the particular laws and policies in question to a more general habit of disobeying laws, to the detriment of the whole economy and society.”

Part 98

“The reason so many people misunderstand so many issues is not that these issues are so complex, but that people do not want a factual or analytical explanation that leaves them emotionally unsatisfied.”

Part 99

“The people I feel sorry for are those who insist on continuing to do what they have always done but want the results to be different from what they have always been.”

Part 100

“Have we reached the ultimate stage of absurdity where some people are held responsible for things that happened before they were born, while other people are not held responsible for what they themselves are doing today?”

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