Thomas Sowell on the Myths of Economic Inequality

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- It happens to me all the time and it happened just this week. A young person I'd never met introduced himself to me and said that when he saw our guest today, on an earlier episode of this program, he felt he was seeing a man who knew how to think. Dr. Thomas Sowell on Uncommon Knowledge now. (classical music) Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge. I'm Peter Robinson. Thomas Sowell has studied and taught economics, intellectual history, and social policy in institutions that include Cornell, Brandeis, UCLA, and Amherst. Now a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution Dr. Sowell has published more than a dozen books, including the classic a conflict of visions. Coming soon, a revised edition of his most recent volume, Discrimination and Disparities. Tom Sowell, welcome. - Thank you. - You grew up in Harlem, dropped out of high school to join the Marine Corps during the Korean War, received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a masters from Columbia, and your doctorate from the University of Chicago. All of which pales by comparison with the fact that you once tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers. (laughing) But during this period from Harlem to the University of Chicago, throughout your 20s you've said, you spent most of the decade of your 20s as a Marxist. - Yes. - Why? What was it... what was the attraction? - Well I guess I first was... very puzzled. See there's one little correction I would make. At age 16 I was a dropout, high school dropout, and I went to work full time as a Western Union messenger. - Delivering telegrams. - Delivering telegrams. - We better say that because there will be a generation that won't know what Western Union was, but go ahead. - Yeah that's true too. And so I were I worked in the area of Manhattan called Chelsea district, which is around 23rd Street, ninth Avenue, and at the end of the day I had several ways of getting back home. The easiest and fastest way was with a subway, which was a nickel in those days. When I was feeling flushed I might go for a bus for a dime and then when I was really getting reckless I would take the fifth Avenue bus, which was the elite of the buses for 15 cents. So I would walk over the fifth avenue, take that bus, and it would take me up through all the glamorous parts of fifth avenue, past the Empire State Building, past the great stores and things of that sort. And then on 57th Street it would turn and this is just a the elite part of town. - Sure, right there what park starts. - Yes and then... park starts at 59th. - Oh, sorry. - 57th that would turn over, again, the same kind of scene, pass Carnegie Hall. Columbus Circle, there was no Trump Tower at that time, and on up to about 72nd Street and out to Riverside Drive which is another elite area. So four miles after that you'd have all these wonderful luxury apartment buildings and so on. And finally around 129th, 30th street, it would go on a long viaduct and then he would do a right turn back into the occupied area and there you'd see the tenements. And I would wonder why is this? I mean, why this huge disparity? And there was nobody else, there was no other other explanation around. There was nothing there other than Marxism. I stumbled across, I had not read Marx, but I bought a secondhand pair, set of Encyclopedias. Small set for some ridiculously low price and there they met I looked up Karl Marx, I'd heard the name and the stuff that he said seemed to make sense. And later on I would get more and more into it. And the argument was that the rich had gotten rich by taking from the poor. And well that was one explanation, but what is interesting, there was no other explanation out there really. And that's true largely in our colleges/universities today. - But so by the time you went to Harvard undergrad, well so wait, you drop out at the age of 16, and you start reading Marx in your late teens. - I start reading Marx, yes, at age 19. - Age 19 and then you're in the Marine Corps for a couple years, what was it, two, three years? - Two years. It was actually one year, 11 months, and five days, but who's counting. (laughing) - So by the time you went to Harvard you had already become intellectually engaged with Marxism. - Yes. - And remained, and Harvard didn't talk you out of it and the study of economics at Harvard didn't talk you out of it, nor did getting a master's at Columbia, nor did getting a doctorate at Chicago dissuade you from Marxism. And you studied with Milton Friedman of all people, how could you have sat in Milton Friedman's classroom and remained a Marxist? - Some people are just stubborn. (laughs) But what really changed me was not the University of Chicago, it was my first job working in a professional capacity for the government. I was a summer intern. - This is after Chicago or? - No, no, while I was still a graduate student. - Got it. - And so during the summer vacation I worked in the US Department of Labor and I began to realize, a number of things, that the government is not simply the personification of the general will like Rousseau or others. The government is an institution, the government institutions have their own institutional interests. One involved in minimum wage law. I was a big supporter of that, but I also knew that there was an argument that minimum wage laws simply price low wage workers out of a job and my first assignment dealt with minimum wages in Puerto Rico and as I looked at the numbers, I would see as they would jack up the minimum wage, number of jobs would go down and so forth, but there were two explanations. One was that of the economists that you priced the people out of a job and the other was that were hurricanes that come through Puerto Rico, you see, during the sugar harvesting and therefore, and I was studying the sugar industry, and therefore it destroyed a lot of the crop, therefore you wouldn't hire as many workers. Now in Chicago I'd been taught that if there are two different theories, there should be some empirical evidence in principle that could distinguish what would happen under one theory from what would happen under the other. And so I wrestled with that for the most of the summer and one morning I came in and I said, I got it. We need a data on the amount of sugarcane standing in the fields before the hurricane struck and as I waited for the congratulations I could see stricken looks around me in the room, like this guy has stumbled on something that will ruin us all. (laughing) And they said well, we don't have those data. I said, oh, I'll bet the Department of Agriculture has it. He said, well, but that doesn't mean we have it. You'd have to have a request go off the chain of command to the Secretary of Labor. He would then confer it with the Secretary of Agriculture. It would come down the chain of command and the Department of Agriculture, whoever has those numbers and so on. I said, good, well they say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step so I will now submit my request to the Secretary of Labor, which I did. And I am still patiently awaiting this reply. (laughs) - And the institutional fear of the number was what? - Oh, the US Department of Labor administers the minimum wage law and the money and the careers of perhaps a third or some other significant percentage of the Labor Department's other sources come from administering the minimum wage law. One of the real forces of all this is that the law itself, section 4D I still remember, requires a Labor Department to study the employment effects of minimum wages and those studies are absolutely a farce. In fact some years after I left, I did an article saying why those studies were a farce and when I came back later on to the Labor Department to do some research, one of the older librarians who remembered me turn to the younger librarian and she said, this is the man who wrote that article that has everybody up in arms. (laughs) - So you began to be dissuaded of Marxism. - And of government in general because the government is not out there at the personification of the national interest. They have their own interests and the Labor Department's was clearly an interest in keeping the minimum wage, because that's their jobs and careers and power. - In your, which brings us if I may, to one of my favorite books, your 2000 book, this is a beat-up old copy. This book A Conflict of Visions. - Yes. - Which you published in 2007 and you layout, I'm sorry. - 1987. - I beg your pardon, 1987? - Reprinted in 2007. - Well beat up is this book, it turns out this is a reprint. Sorry, 1987. And you lay out two competing ways of looking at economics and policy, really two competing ways of looking at life that go back at least 200 years. The constrained vision and the unconstrained vision. The constrained vision, I'm quoting from A Conflict of Visions sees the evils of the world as deriving from the limited and unhappy choices available given the inherent moral and intellectual limitations of human beings. Close quote. So the constrained vision understands itself as constrained by the limitations of reality itself. - Yes. - That's correct? - Yes. In other words, they cannot proceed as so many do that good things happen automatically, but bad things are somebody's fault. - Got it, got it, and then to continue here, the constrained vision, again quoting from A Conflict Of Visions, for the amelioration improvement of the human condition, the constrained vision relies on certain social processes such as moral traditions, the marketplace, or families. Not government. So explain that. Why do we rely on on processes rather than the will of the people instituting changes to improve our condition? - Well it doesn't ignore government. Even for the market the work you have to have a government, as Europe discovered when the Roman Empire collapsed and the economy has collapsed also. But I guess one of the reasons would be with the government you have surrogate decision makers and they cannot possibly know as much as the individuals whose personal decisions have been preempted. - I see, I see, all right. Which brings us to the unconstrained vision. When again, I'm quoting you, when Rousseau said that man is born free but everywhere in chains, he expressed the essence of the unconstrained vision, in which the fundamental problem is not nature or man but institutions. Would you explain that one? - Well he has the notion that, again, that good things happen naturally and if they're bad things it's because institutions including civilization itself have have made these bad things happen. And I think that that's really the implicit assumption behind a lot of things that are said on the left today. And why in my most recent book I go to a lot of trouble to show that in nature there is nothing resembling equal opportunity. That wherever you look around the country, around the world, you find people who live up in the mountains poor and backwards, even in the richest countries. Including the United States. I believe the poorest country in the United States, county rather, was in a mountain community, which was almost 100% white. - Somewhere in Appalachia, West Virginia, Southern Ohio. - Yes and men in that county had a life expectancy 10 years less than men in a county in Virginia. - And the unconstrained vision says let's fix that. Surely we can pass a law that would improve that and the constrained vision says well now wait a moment, if people who live in isolated pockets in mountains are poor and backwards all around the world and we see this pattern over and over and over again, maybe there's something very deeply rooted in reality about that that's hard for us to get at. Correct? - Yes. - All right. So in the book of A Conflict of Visions, you're very dispassionate and very analytical and you lay out the unconstrained vision and you lay out the constrained vision and you don't really come out blazing in favor of one or the other. - That is not a book meant to commit to show one vision is better than the other. It's there to show you what what they are and what you're assuming if you go one direction or another. It's to encourage people to understand the implicit assumptions behind all this without which you're just loose ends. - All right. So pondering all this I noticed something, a column that you wrote, this is a couple years ago, in which you rebutted Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times and Kristof had ascribed the gaps between African-Americans and whites in America, gaps in wealth, gaps in educational achievement, the usual gaps and this is a quotation from Kristof, to the lingering effects of slavery, close quote. - Oh yeah. - And here's Tom Sowell, quote, if we wanted to be serious about evidence, we might compare where blacks stood a hundred years after the end of slavery with where they stood after 30 years of the liberal welfare state. In other words, we could compare hard evidence on the legacy of slavery with hard evidence on the legacy of liberals. Close quote. And so there it is, life is hard. You use the word hard, you use the words serious, you use evidence. Tom Sowell is a man of the constrained vision through and through and through, correct? - Yes. - No, no... - Yes. Part of a vanishing breed I might add. - So when you were a Marxist, explain that, because the Marxism... - Well but no, no. - So that's complicated. - Even when I was a Marxist, I had the same intellectual standards and that's what eventually led me away from it. - Oh, I see. - In other words I hadn't done all the research, I hadn't gone around the world-- - Looking for evidence. - Yes, yes. - Okay so... - And so socialism is a great idea. That does not mean it's a great reality. One of the things that disturbs me tremendously is about this enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders and socialism at a time when people are literally starving in Venezuela, an oil-rich country. And you know they're breaking into grocery stores to try to get food and they're fleeing to neighboring countries, most of which are not all that prosperous themselves, but at least you don't starve to death in them. And none of that makes a bit of difference. I don't think most of these people who are out there cheering for Bernie Sanders have given a thought to Venezuela. - To the evidence. - That's right. - Which brings us to something that you refer to in a number of columns as the retrogression. The experience of African-Americans in this country. Economic progress, I'm quoting you. Despite the grand myth that black economic progress began or accelerated with the passage of the Civil Rights laws and the 'War on Poverty' programs of the 1960's, the fact is that the poverty rate among blacks fell from 87% in 1940 to 47% in 1960, but over the next 20 years the poverty rate among blacks fell another 18% points. This was just the continuation of a previous economic trend, but at a slower rate of progress. It was not some grand deliverance. Close quote. That is so counter to what we are taught in school, what appears on the editorial pages of newspapers. (laughs) I feel as though I want to ask you, you really want to stick with that assertion. - I have more evidence in my most recent book, Discrimination and Disparities, I point out that this really is a pattern not peculiar to blacks or even to the United States, but you can see the same thing in England. You can see it in any number of other countries, that the poor we're much worse off economically. Let's say on the first day after the 20th century and yet the in terms of their own behavior they were far more decent societies. And afterwards, after this welfare state, they're supposed to make them better off, and better human beings. That's when the crime rates skyrocketed on both sides of the Atlantic. The British were famous for being perhaps the most polite, considerate society in the world prior to that. After that, you get things like the 2011 riots over there. Went through London Manchester where they anticipated Ferguson and Baltimore by a few years. And the same things, the burning down of buildings, the throwing of gasoline bombs at police, the whole schmear and none of those people were descendants of slaves. - So poor people were doing things, the lesson of the 20th century is something like poor people, including in this country African-Americans, we're improving their lot and leading fundamentally decent lives until the government decided to help them? - Yes. - That's a fair statement. - They're better off economically because of what's been given, but of course when you have the crime rate, I mean I got I got the first inkling of this some years back when I was a at some school in Harlem doing some research and I looked out the window and I mentioned in passing that when I was a little kid I used to walk my dog in that park and looks of horror came over the students faces. Nobody in his right mind would have a child going to that park walking a dog or not. The principal was warning these students not to cross this park, which is about a block a half wide. Even in groups of six. And when I tell them about how in these hot summer nights I would sleep out on the fire escapes in Harlem, they looked at me like I was a man from Mars. People were are doing that all over New York. They were doing it in Philadelphia, Washington, wherever I've known people. That was a common thing. We didn't have the money for air conditioning. You slept out and on a fire escape or in the parks. Where Walter grew up in a-- - Walter Williams. - Walter Williams grew up in a housing project in Philadelphia. He was saying on the hot summer nights the people would be, in this project we had little balconies, they'd sleep out on the balconies and the ones on the first floor who didn't have balconies would sleep out in the yard. And that there were old men who you could see sit on a hot summer night sitting outdoors into the wee hours playing cards or checkers or whatever. it was a different world. - It was a safe world. - Infinitely safer. - Now what about family structure? Tom again, I'm quoting you. Most black children were being raised in two-parent families in 1960. 30 years after the liberal welfare state, the great majority of black children were being raised by single parents. What's the, how does that, by the way we should note that Patrick Moynihan publishes the Moynihan report in 1965 and he's alarmed because the illegitimacy rate among black families is 25% then. Now among whites it's over a third, Hispanics it's over half and among African-Americans it's over 70%. What's going on there? - Well this is again, this too, you find the same thing in Britain, you find it in France and Norway, you find it in the Western world. In fact-- - Their dissolution of the family structure. - Oh yeah, there are a number of Western nations where 40% of the children are raised with only one parent. At the extremes, I compared Asian countries. At the extremes Iceland, it's two out of three children are born are raised in single-parent home. In South Korea is one out of 66. - Wow. Wow and so that's the welfare state? - [Tom] Yes. - It is. - You're creating a situation where the... first of all, well you're creating a situation where if the man stays there, the government will not give the woman welfare and if he leaves he it will. And so they're paying, when you pay people not to get married, more people don't get married. - Right, right. Okay so what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson instead of becoming a liberal had remained a crusty tough skeptical Texas conservative, which is certainly the way he started his career. If Lyndon Johnson had embraced the constrained vision instead of instituting the war on poverty and the Great Society and so forth, what would the country look like today? - A lot better. You would not have the same rates of crime and so on because you see, you can't have a welfare state in a democratic country unless you first have a welfare state vision and when you buy all the assumptions of that vision, then you're buying a lot of trouble. One of the episodes I think epitomized, it was in France in this case, that there were knife attacks by various people from North Africa against Chinese people in some suburb of Paris. And one of the things that the attacker said, you know, why are you attacking the Chinese? And it wasn't because anything the Chinese had done to them. He said they have nice clothes and big cars, that's not fair. I mean that's you know, egalitarianism as a philosophy is one thing but the actual consequences of it mean things like resenting other people's good fortune. - All right so one response to the gap, again I return to this gap between African Americans and other Americans. Affirmative action. Which brings us back to your alma mater, Harvard. According-- - I'll never live it down. - You'll never live it down, yes. You once told me that the principle benefit of a Harvard degree was never again having to be impressed by anybody who had a Harvard degree. (laughing) - Absolutely. - These are figures that were published in the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper. In the Harvard class of 2019, these are the kids will be graduating next June, the average SAT score for black students was 2149. By the way these are all good scores, but for black students 2149, white students 2218, Asian students 2300. Well now that must be reasonable because it's taking place at Harvard, the seat of reason. - Well that wasn't quite how I described it when I was there. - Affirmative action. Is that... we ought not to be doing this? - There are various laws and policies that benefit in one group at the expense of another ut I think affirmative action has the distinction of being one that it harms everybody though in different ways. And so there's a lot of evidence that there are black kids who have all the qualifications to be successors in college, who nevertheless are failures because they are systematically mismatched with institutions whose standards they don't meet. Even though they may meet the standards of 80 or 90% of the colleges in America. I remember I was first aware of this when I was teaching at Cornell and I found a half the black students at Cornell were on some kind of academic probation. And so I went over to the administration building to look up the SATs of these students. The average black student at Cornell at that time scored at the 75th percentile. - Which is pretty darn good. - Yes and so that means that in most colleges in this country they would have no trouble and many of them would be on the Dean's List. But at Cornell, the average a liberal arts student at that time was in the 99th percentile and when you're teaching students like that, you teach at a pace that most people of any race cannot keep up with. It was always complained that I was assigning all kinds of reading but heck, I'm teaching kids who are in the top 1%, they can keep up with the reading that I'm assigning. - So Cornell was taking very talented black kids and spending four years teaching them to feel inadequate. - Yes and succeeding at that. - A couple quotations. These are both from the last affirmative action case to reach the Supreme Court, last big affirmative action case to reach the Supreme Court. 2003 Grutter versus Bollinger. Here's the majority opinion, which was written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, quote: "The court expects that 25 years from now the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary." This upholding the use of in a decision, 5-4 decision, upholding the use of racial preferences. Now, that's quotation one. Here's quotation two, Justice Thomas. Justice Clarence Thomas in a dissent. Quote: "I believe that blacks can achieve "in every avenue of American life "without the meddling of university administrators. "The Court holds that racial discrimination "and admissions should be given another 25 years. "While I agree that in 25 years these practices "will be illegal, they are illegal now." (laughing) Close quote. So here's... what do you do with the argument that Justice O'Connor writing that majority opinion, there's something of the constrained vision there. Look we have these, all universities across the country are using these racial preferences as the basis of admission. The best we can hope to do is tell them they ought not to be doing it. That they should be developing other standards and give them a clock. (laughing) Is that a reasonable thing to do? - No, but it's a universal thing to do. I wrote a book about affirmative action, it was called Affirmative Action Around The World and I made a couple of international trips at the expensive of Hoover Institution around the world to check out affirmative action. This is one of the most common arguments. It is absolutely fallacious time and time again. The argument like so much in the unconstrained vision, it assumes that we have a power that we do not have, cannot have, and never have had. In England there was a man named Scarm and it was saying for the now we must do this in order. And in many countries these programs was set up with an actual cutoff date, so it was set up in Malaysia with a cut-off date I think of around 1990 and in Pakistan it was supposed to go for 10 years. None of those cut off dates has meant a thing. These programs not only continue, they increase. They spread. So the idea that you can control the future because of these wonderful sounding words. I can't think of a country in the world where that's ever happened. In the case of Pakistan, they did have an actual cutoff date and because people in the East Pakistan were, for whatever historical reason, way behind the people in West Pakistan, and so there's these preferences with East Pakistanis. Now before time for this thing to expire. The East Pakistanis succeed from Pakistan and form of a new nation to Bangladesh. And the preferences continued right on because there were other groups had been added to it and so once you get the constituency, you can't say no to them. It is an argument that has never worked out anywhere that I've been able to check. - All right. So Tom Sowell says no to the welfare state, no to affirmative action. What is to be done? And now you were kind enough to share with me the galleys of your forthcoming edition of Discrimination and Disparities. Let me give you a few quotations from some of the new chapter in that book. Quote, "The poverty rate among black married couples "has been less than 10% every year since 1994. "As far back as 1969, young black males "whose homes included newspapers, magazines, "and library cards had similar incomes "to those of their white counterparts. "Academic outcomes show a pattern of disparities "similar to the pattern of disparities "in the amount of time devoted to school work. "Apparently lifestyle choices have consequences." Close quote. So this is the constrained vision once again. Welfare state that's government, we don't rely on that. Affirmative action, government, we don't rely on that. We rely on hard work. We rely on the institution of marriage. That's correct? - Yes, in other words these things and I don't think it's the marriage as such, the library cards as such. It's that there are lifestyle choices that have been made and the comparison I made was between, if you look at the poverty rate among blacks, it was a 22% and among whites was 11%, but among black married couples it was 7.5%. So not only do better than blacks as a whole, they do better than whites as a whole, and so it's lifestyle choices. Similarly with the results and some of these more successful charter schools that you have these kids not only meeting but exceeding the national standards in places like Harlem and in the South Bronx. And these are not kids who are skimming the cream. They're kids chosen by lottery. They don't even test them for ability. They don't even look at their academic records. They take it into the schools and they and they have hard work and they make it clear at the outset and they don't tolerate a lot of nonsensical behavior and these kids are doing incredibly. - So Tom, here... Again, I think back to the Moynihan, well no I think the Moynihan report in '65, and he was very alarmed by the illegitimacy rate of 25% among African-Americans. By the way in fairness to the late Moynihan, we should point out, one reason he was alarmed by this was his own father had walked out on the family when he was 10 years old. He experienced what it meant to be two kids to have one parent. Okay and now it's all gotten dramatically worse for whites and Hispanics and blacks, for everybody. And then I think back beyond that to your experience of Harlem. You drop out of high school and do what? Go on welfare? Start cashing, no. You went to work and you spent some of that money to buy some inexpensive Encyclopedias. And Harlem was so... but I feel this counsel, it's almost a counsel of despair in that world just seems so utterly vanished. - No question. - So your argument is if we can stand up to the welfare state, we can somehow get back to that world, a family family structure will reassert itself? - That that's gonna be reconquering the same ground, which is very tough to do but it can be done. I was so lucky at the time I had no clue about all this. I left home in 1948, many decades later I learned that the unemployment rate among black teenagers in 1948 16, 17 year olds was 9.4%. Among whites the same age it was 10.2%. So both blacks and white teenagers had only a fraction of the unemployment that they have today. - You were expected to work, you were expected to be able to get a job. - And more importantly the jobs were there for you. And this is because of a fluke really. The minimum wage law in the United States, Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was passed with specified rates of pay that you're supposed to get. Almost immediately inflation took off during the 1940s, so by 1948 those numbers were in the law were meaningless. - Oh I see. - In other words when I started out as a Western Union messenger, the minimum wage was 40 cents an hour. I started out at the bottom at 65 cents an hour. So it was the same as if there was no minimum wage and this is what happened, you had this, and I was so lucky, I of course, had no clue about any of this. Now a black kid 20 years later comes in there. People have become compassionate. They've raised the minimum wage. So he can't get a job. And I don't think it does any community any good to have a whole lot of teenage males hanging around on the streets with no job and nothing to do. - Right. Tom so... another thought here. You're describing a world, Harlem the urban world, gone. But you made visits when you were young, you knew the south as well, didn't you? You went back to the south when you were young from time to time? I said back to the south because as I recall you were born in the south. - Yeah, I went to New York. Yeah, well I think this was courtesy of the Marine Corps, which happened to locate the boot camp in South Carolina and had Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. - So what I'm getting at is you were of the generation that saw Jim Crow with your own eyes. - Oh, no question, no question. - Okay. So well here's, let me read you a quotation. This is from a article that got a lot of attention in the Atlantic a couple years ago called The Case For Reparations by Ta-Nahesi Coates. Quote, "White supremacy is a force so fundamental "to America that it is difficult to imagine "the country without it. "Reparations is the price we must pay "to see ourselves squarely." Close quote. And Tom Sowell who actually saw Jim Crow with his own eyes and experienced it responds how? - It would be nice to know his evidence of what he said, just to be old-fashioned about it. No, it was a rotten system, but I don't know how we get from that to reparations. I mean what we see in the United States in terms of the bad things, you see all around the world. If you were to give reparations to everyone whose ancestors had been slaves, I suspect that you would have to give reparations to more than a half the entire population of the globe. Slavery was not confined to one set of races. I suspect that most of the people who either were slaves or slave owners around the world were neither white nor black. I mean this was this was a universal curse of the human species. - Africa, the Middle East, Asia, slavery took place everywhere. - And continued elsewhere long after it was abolished in the Western countries. - Let me try is sticking with Ta-Nahesi Coates. Shelby Steele talks about white guilt. And in Ta-Nahesi Coates you get almost the counterpart of that, a kind of African-American claim against the white guilt and this seems... beginning with the abolitionist, even beginning before the Civil War, you seem every generation there's some expression that racism and slavery as Shelby calls it, correctly of course, the sin of slavery is so deeply and it's something we still live with, how do we expiate it? How do we get past it? Is there something we can do to relieve ourselves of this legacy? - Oh, I'd like you to repeat If you were a slave owner, I don't see any reason why you should feel differently. On the other hand, I can't get over the idea of A apologizing for what B did. Even when their contemporaries much less when one is dead and the others alive. I mean Scalia I remember was saying you know, that I owe no man anything because people who look like me did something to people that look like him. - Okay, so just get past it. Get to work. - Yeah. - All right. Tom Sowell's view is get an education, stay married, and do your job. Roughly. - Yeah. - All right. - Charles Murray. You used to write a column every so often called Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene. So I'm giving you little snippets here of the Passing Scene in our final questions. Charles Murray in his 1984 book Losing Ground, and Charles Murray writes about discussions and academia and government about the effort to close the gap again between African-Americans and whites. Quote. 1984, quote, "White's had created the problem, "it was up to White's to fix it, "and there was very little in the dialogue "that treated blacks as responsible actors." Close quote. Has that changed? - No, it has not. - All right. On we go. (laughing) Your friend, your longtime friend Walter Williams, now we come to current politics. "The bottom line is that president Donald Trump "does not have the personal character "that we would want our children to imitate, "but save his misguided international trade policies "has turned out to be a good president." Tom? - I think his policies have by and large have been policies that were far better than that of previous Democratic or Republican administrations. I go by the consequences. - Okay. - I mean he hasn't produced the right rhetoric, but the fact is that unemployment among low-income people, black, Hispanic included, is at a level that is far lower than it's been in decades. The economy is booming in a way that no one had predicted. People like Paul Krugman was saying that when Trump gets in the economy is gonna tank. No, the economy to hit new highs. But there there are so many people among the intelligentsia especially who are absolutely immune to facts. It's as if they took their anti fact shots every year and the facts will just not affect them. - So this brings us back. I can understand, I mean I really can, my understanding is limited which is why I'm going to put this in the form of a question. I can understand the never Trumpers who don't bother me with economic boom because this man is on my television screen every single night and I can't stand him. I can understand, I can see that impulse. I can understand what they feel. - This second consecutive president United States that I automatically turn off when I'm watching television. - All right. Keep the remote right to next you. - Oh yeah. - Okay, who was the first? - Obama. - Got it. You're totally bipartisan in that regard. - Oh, always. No other way. But the great, the larger point that you've been making here, the Great Society, the war on poverty, this is now six decades of experience and we have, as you have said, the gap hasn't closed, we've got dissolution of the family structure, rising crime rates. That I don't understand. How can it be that the people... now I don't know how to remain bipartisan, but Democrats, liberals, the progressives, just are not... the evidence is in. This has not worked. Like after more than half a century there's still a refusal to look at the evidence. - Yes and has even a tendency to falsify the evidence. - And how come? - I think people become attached to a vision and that really walks the way they see... human beings have any enormous capacity to rationalize. - All right. Again, notes on the Passing Scene. An article from the New York Times just a couple of days ago, quote, now this is the longest quotation, but it's important to lay out the facts here. Over the last decade the charter school movement gained significant foothold in New York, the movement hoped to set a national example. If charter schools could make it in a deep blue state like New York that could make it anywhere. Over a 100,000 students in the city's charter schools are doing well on state tests and tens of thousands are waiting lists. But the election, the election of this November, suggested that the golden era of charter schools is over. The insurgent Democrats, Democrats did well across New York but especially in the state Senate, have repeatedly expressed hostility to the movement. Close quote. And Thomas Sowell responds to that set of facts how? - That really is one of the moral outrages that for many kids who were cut from a very poor background and who parents may not have had much education, a decent education is the one thing they have to have to have a better life. And these schools have been absolutely spectacular. - The charter schools. - The charter schools. The successful ones, now there are few that weren't. But for example a few years ago on a statewide, New York statewide math test, there was an elementary school grade four I believe in Harlem whose students passed those tests at a higher rate than any fourth grade kids anywhere in the state of New York. I mean we're talking Scarsdale, Briarcliff, places like that. The Success Academy schools as a whole, their students pass both the math and the English statewide tests at a higher rate than any school system, School District in the entire state of New York. The vast majority of the kids in the Success Academy schools are either black or Hispanic. If you look at the five highest-scoring district, school districts in the state in terms of the percentage of students who pass the math or the English tests, their average family income ranges from four times that of the kids in the success Academy Schools to more than nine times the family income of the kids in the Success Academy schools. And yet the mayor of New York is doing his darndest to put a stop to the expansion of schools in general but his special ire is aimed at the Success Academy schools. And this is happening all over the country. - Because they make the teachers unions look bad that run the public schools? What's the political motivation? Why would Mayor De Blasio have it out for the charter schools such a Success Academy? - Well the teachers union are the major reason and we're talking about the money they contribute, the number of votes they contribute, and the schools and what's happening again, not just in New York but other parts of the country, including California, is that they have all kind of chicanery to prevent this charter schools from expanding. That's why you have tens of thousands on the waiting list. It's not that the charter school is not willing to expand, but every conceivable obstacle is put in their way because if you let that go at the natural pace, it would be very hard for the public schools to compete. And one of the things they're doing is imposing the same kinds of restrictions on the on the charter schools that made this public school so bad. For example of restrictions on being able to get rid of kids who are running amok in this and ruining the education of everybody else and the charter schools don't tolerate that. The things that are tolerated in the public schools are unbelievable. - So when I asked you a moment ago how do we bring back the the standards of the Harlem in which you grew up, the answer is that's a hard thing to do but we do know how to do one thing. We do know how to establish schools where the kids in present-day Harlem have a shot, have a chance of getting a good education. - Yeah, you don't have to bring back the past, even if you could, because we have it in the present. We have this happening. - And so we know how to do that and the Democratic establishment in New York wants to shut it down. - Yes. - And the Republican establishment stands mute. - Stands mute. You know I love talking to you but I really don't know why. (laughing) It's all discouraging. Tom you mentioned a moment ago the way young Americans flocked to Bernie Sanders, Gallup poll this summer. The proportion of Americans aged 18 to 29 that holds a favorable view of capitalism 45%. The proportion that holds a favorable view of socialism 51%. Now I would like you to take a look at a brief video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who at the age of 29, calling herself a Democratic Socialist, has just been elected to the House of Representatives from New York and although she's not seated yet in the new Congress, she went to Washington and one of her first acts was to participate in a sit-in in the offices of House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi. That is to say the leader of her own party. So here's a brief video. - I just want to let you all know how proud I am of each and every single one of you for putting yourselves and your bodies and everything on the line to make sure that you save our planet, our generation, and our future. It's so incredibly important. We have to get to 100% renewable energy. There is no other option. - Tom? (laughing) To her supporters, to us supporters of Bernie Sanders, to young Americans, what would you say? - I would say get some facts first, know what you're talking about before you start spouting out this kind of stuff. One of the things I do in a new new book is I suggest that there's a certain opinion about what happened in the 1920s where the taxes were cut, the highest tax rate was cut down from 73% to 24% and the argument was oh, this is tax cuts for the rich and I have suggested that students and that the secretary of the Treasury did this in support of us trickle-down theory and so forth. And I suggested to the students, would be a wonderful project to go read what the secretary of the Treasury actually said. - Andrew Mellon in the 1920s about these tax cuts. - And then go on the Internet and get the Internal Revenue official data on who paid how much taxes in the 1920s and it turns out if you do that you find that Andrew Mellon said the exact opposite of what is attributed to him in textbooks that have been sold widely for decades on end through successive editions. And what you'll find is that when the tax rate was a 73%, the people who are making over a hundred thousand dollars a year, and that's maybe a couple of million in today's money, paid 30% of the taxes and after the so-called tax cuts for the rich they pay 65% of all the taxes. And the people with incomes under $5,000, which is also was a nice income in those days, we're paying 15% when the tax rate was was cut but before the tax cut and after it was cut, they paid just under a quarter of 1% of all the taxes and so there's all kinds of indignation in these scholarly books, we're not talking about just political propaganda. How this is a bonanza for the rich and so on and people would ordinary income paid practically nothing in income tax after the tax cuts and the share of millionaires was I think 4% before that and and it was 19% afterwards. But the facts simply do not matter. They say these words, they say trickle down, and it's like saying abracadabra and all the miraculous things follow from that. - Tom Sowell author of a forthcoming edition of Discrimination and Disparities. Would you close by reading a brief quotation from your 1987 book, one of my favorites, A Conflict of Visions. - Logic of course is not the only test of a theory. Empirical evidence is crucial and yet social visions have shown a remarkable ability to evade, suppress, or explain away discordant evidence. Historic invasions of evidence are a warning, not a model. Dedication to a cause may legitimately entail sacrifices of personal interests but not sacrifices of mind or conscience. - Dr. Thomas Sowell thank you. - Thank you. - For Uncommon Knowledge the Hoover Institution and Fox Nation, I'm Peter Robinson. (classic music)
Channel: HooverInstitution
Views: 581,185
Rating: 4.9042616 out of 5
Keywords: Thomas Sowell, racial inequality, racism, socialism, economic inequality, Affirmative Action, minimum wage, Democratic Socialism
Id: mS5WYp5xmvI
Channel Id: undefined
Length: 53min 34sec (3214 seconds)
Published: Mon Dec 03 2018
Reddit Comments

The types of cold hard facts more people need to hear and heed. Brilliant man.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 4 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/rainbow-canyon πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Jan 17 2019 πŸ—«︎ replies

Question for everyone here: Is Thomas Sowell and Hoover Institute something that can be considered part of the IDW?

I really appreciate both. They were fundamental in my intellectual development in my teenage years. I have absolute respect for what they are trying to do, but aren't the ideas espoused by Hoover and Sowell as status quo as it gets? It's basically the Reaganomics and pretty much what the Clinton and Bush eras were. I may be very wrong about this, which is why I'm asking. Thanks in advance :)

Just a tidbit from Hoover's Wiki

The institution has been a place of scholarship for individuals who previously held high-profile positions in government, such as George Shultz, Condoleezza Rice, Michael Boskin, Edward Lazear, John B. Taylor, Edwin Meese, and Amy Zegartβ€”all Hoover Institution fellows

Edit: Listening to this further and Sowell argues that the situation in Venezuela proves that the ideas Bernie Sanders expresses are invalid. This is not IDW...

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 1 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/farquezy πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Jan 16 2019 πŸ—«︎ replies

I love Thomas Sowell so much!

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 1 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/Benblog πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Jan 17 2019 πŸ—«︎ replies
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