Acton Institute Powerblog

6 Quotes: Sowell on economics and ideas

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sowellOver the past few decades, economist Thomas Sowell, age 86, has been one of the most effective, yet under-appreciated, proponents of conservative and libertarian economic thought. He is also one of our most powerful critics of the often destructive and harmful effects of liberal economic policies. Today he announced he’s retiring from writing his syndicated column.

In honor of his retirement, here are six quotes by Sowell:

On government spending: “Elections should be held on April 16th—the day after we pay our income taxes. That is one of the few things that might discourage politicians from being big spenders.”

On healthcare: “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.” (Source)

On economic class: “What sense would it make to classify a man as handicapped because he is in a wheelchair today, if he is expected to be walking against in a month and competing in track meets before the year is out? Yet Americans are given “class” labels on the basis of their transient location in the income stream. If most Americans do not stay in the same broad income bracket for even a decade, their repeatedly changing “class” makes class itself a nebulous concept.” (Source)

On leftist ideas: “The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that they do not work. Therefore we should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive.” (Source)

On economics and government spending: The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics. When politicians discover some group that is being vocal about not having as much as they want, the “solution” is to give them more. Where do politicians get this “more”? They rob Peter to pay Paul. After a while, of course, they discover that Peter doesn’t have enough. Bursting with compassion, politicians rush to the rescue. Needless to say, they do not admit that robbing Peter to pay Paul was a dumb idea in the first place. On the contrary, they now rob Tom, Dick, and Harry to help Peter. (Source)

On character and children: In the constrained vision, each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late. Their prospects of growing up as decent, productive people depends on the whole elaborate set of largely unarticulated practices which engender moral values, self-discipline, and consideration for others. (Source)

Bonus quote: Sowell on the difference between liberals and conservatives.

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

Comments

  • Michael Smith

    If any man should be accurately quoted, it’s Dr. Sowell. Please revise: ” . . . if he is expected to be walking [[against]] –again– in a month and competing in track meets before the year is out? . . . .”