Here’s a great piece on one of my personal heroes, Dr. Thomas Sowell. What a remarkable man, and what an inspiring life! Excerpt:
Measured by his contributions to economics, political theory, and intellectual history, Thomas Sowell ranks among the towering intellects of our time. Yet, rare among such thinkers, Sowell manages never to provoke, in the reader, the feeling of being towered over. As Kevin Williamson observed, Sowell is “that rarest of things among serious academics: plainspoken.” From 1991 until 2016, his nationally syndicated column set the bar for clear writing, though the topics he covered were often complex. “Too many academics write as if plain English is beneath their dignity,” Sowell once said, “and some seem to regard logic as an unconstitutional infringement of their freedom of speech.” If academics birth needlessly complex prose, editors too often midwife it. An editor, Sowell once quipped, would probably have changed Shakespeare’s “To be or not to be, that is the question” to something awful, like “The issue is one of existence versus non-existence.”
Consider Sowell’s clear, brief explanation of the economic idea of “scarcity.” “What does ‘scarce’ mean?” he asks in his layman’s textbook, Basic Economics. “It means that what everybody wants adds up to more than there is.” Not only is pointless complexity absent from Sowell’s prose; so is the first-person perspective. The words “I” or “me” scarcely show up in his 30-odd books, but for his memoir, A Personal Odyssey.
To his critics, Sowell’s writing style is severe. But to his fan base—which includes figures as different as Steven Pinker and Kanye West—it’s a refreshing break from the self-absorbed drivel that frequently passes for cultural commentary nowadays. Pinker, a Harvard psychologist and leading public intellectual, named Sowell the most underrated writer in history. West, for his part, tweeted out a handful of Sowell quotes to millions of followers in 2018.
I’ve been an admirer of Dr. Sowell for years. While I was studying economics as part of my MBA work, at my instructor’s recommendation I read Dr. Sowell’s Basic Economics, and then began seeking out more of his work. Since then I have read millions of words from the mind of this great man, and have been more and more impressed by his history, his intellect, his grasp of good and bad policy, and his uncanny ability to clearly and simply explain complicated subjects – like economics.
One of the things I admire the most about Thomas Sowell is his personal story; the son of sharecroppers, growing up in the Jim Crow South, he rose and educated himself driven by the power of his personal will. And his own statement on those achievements is simple; if he can do it, others can as well.
Dr. Sowell once famously said:
Imagine a political system so radical as to promise to move more of the poorest 20% of the population into the richest 20% than remain in the poorest bracket within the decade? You don’t need to imagine it. It’s called the United States of America.
Go, then, and read the whole thing. Read Basic Economics. Read anything you can find my Dr. Sowell. You’ll be richer for it.