Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell

Know what you don’t know

by Thomas Sowell on Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Those of us who admit that we were not there, and do not know what happened when Michael Brown was shot by a policeman in Ferguson, Mo., seem to be in the minority.

We all know what has happened since then — and it has been a complete disgrace by politicians, the media and mobs of rioters and looters. Despite all the people who act as if they know exactly what happened, nevertheless when the full facts come out, that can change everything.

This is why we have courts of law, instead of relying on the media or mobs. But politics is undermining law.

On the eve of a grand jury being convened to go through the facts and decide whether there should be a prosecution of the policeman in this case, Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri has gone on television to say that there should be a “vigorous prosecution.”

There was a time when elected officials avoided commenting on pending legal processes, so as not to bias those processes. But Governor Nixon apparently has no fear of poisoning the jury pool.

The only alternative explanation is that this is exactly what he intends to do. It is a disgrace either way.

Race is the wild card in all this. The idea that you can tell who is innocent and who is guilty by the color of their skin is a notion that was tried out for generations, back in the days of the Jim Crow South. I thought we had finally rejected that kind of legalized lynch law. But apparently it has only been put under new management.

Television people who show the home of the policeman involved, and give his name and address — knowing that he has already received death threats — are truly setting a new low. They seem to be trying to make themselves judge, jury and executioner.

Then there are the inevitable bullet counters asking, “Why did he shoot him six times?” This is the kind of thing people say when they are satisfied with talking points, and see no need to stop and think seriously about a life and death question. If you are not going to be serious about life and death, when will you be serious?

By what principle should someone decide how many shots should be fired? The bullet counters seldom, if ever, ask that question, much less try to answer it.

Since the only justifiable reason for shooting in the first place is self-protection, when should you stop shooting? Obviously when there is no more danger. But there is no magic number of shots that will tell you when you are out of danger.

Even if all your shots hit, that doesn’t mean anything if the other guy keeps coming and is still a danger. You can be killed by a wounded man.

Different witnesses give conflicting accounts of exactly what happened in the shooting of Michael Brown. That is one of the reasons why grand juries collect facts. But, if Michael Brown — a 6 foot 4 inch, 300 pound man — was still charging at the policeman, as some allege, there is no mystery why the cop kept shooting.

But, if Michael Brown was surrendering, as others allege, then there was no reason to fire even one shot. But the number of shots tells us nothing.

None of this is rocket science. Why bullet counters cannot be bothered to stop and think is a continuing mystery.

Among the other unthinking phrases repeated endlessly is “he shot an unarmed man.” When does anyone know that someone is unarmed? Unless you frisk him, you don’t know — until, of course, after you have shot him.

The only time I ever pointed a firearm at a human being, I had no idea whether he was armed or unarmed. To this day I don’t know whether he was armed or unarmed. Fortunately for both of us, he froze in his tracks.

Was I supposed to wait until I made sure he had a gun before I used a gun? Is this some kind of sporting contest?

Some critics object when someone with a gun shoots someone who only has a knife. Do those critics know that you are just as dead when you are killed with a knife as you are when you are killed by a gun?

If we can’t be bothered to stop and think, instead of repeating pat phrases, don’t expect to live under the rule of law. Do you prefer the rule of the media and/or the mob?

Lots to comment on

by Thomas Sowell on Monday, August 18, 2014

Random thoughts on the passing scene:

I don’t know why we are spending our hard-earned money paying taxes to support a criminal justice system, when issues of guilt and innocence are being determined on television — and even punishment is being meted out by CNN’s showing the home and address of the policeman accused in the Ferguson, Mo., shooting.

One of the big differences between Democrats and Republicans is that we at least know what the Democrats stand for, whether we agree with it or not. But, for Republicans, we have to guess.

It is amazing how many otherwise sane people want Israel to become the first nation in history to respond to military attacks by restricting what they do, so that it is “proportionate” to the damage inflicted by the attacks.

Amid all the things being said on all sides about the massive, illegal influx of children from countries in Central America, we have yet to hear some American parent saying, “I don’t owe it to anybody to have my child exposed to diseases brought into this country, no matter what problems exist in other countries!”

Two headlines in the August 10 New York Times speak volumes about Barack Obama. The top headline reads: “Iraq Strikes May Last Months, Obama Says.” A secondary headline reads: “No Ground Force Will Be Sent, He Repeats.” Time was when enemy spies had to risk their lives to acquire such information. Now all they have to do is read the headlines.

It is amazing how many people think they are doing blacks a favor by exempting them from standards that others are expected to meet.

If you want to know who was the greatest baseball player of all time, please check out the pitcher who led the American League with the lowest earned run average in 1916. He was the only ballplayer who could do it all, including stealing home.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was a hawk compared to Barack Obama. At least Chamberlain was building up his country’s military forces while trying to appease Hitler. Obama is cutting back on our military forces while our enemies around the world are expanding theirs.

Medical authorities who are trying to reassure us that safeguards will prevent the spread of Ebola in the United States may be unconvincing to those of us who remember how they lied about whether AIDS could be transmitted by blood transfusions. They may be telling the truth this time, but credibility is one of those things that are far easier to maintain than to repair.

Too many people in Washington are full of themselves, among other things that they are full of.

However common it may be in politics to “split the difference” when making decisions, it is unconscionable to send American troops into a war zone in numbers too small to defend themselves.

The smug and smirking contempt of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, when he began testifying before a congressional committee in the IRS scandal investigation, told us all we needed to know, even if we never get the information that was supposedly “lost” when Lois Lerner’s computer supposedly crashed.

Ted Williams’ great career was interrupted twice by military service — once during World War II and again when he returned to the Marine Corps during the Korean war. What sports star today would voluntarily interrupt a Hall of Fame career to go fight for America, after having already served in the military?

Despite TV pundits who say that public opinion polls show Barack Obama is in trouble, the president is not in the slightest trouble. He is doing whatever he feels like doing, regardless of the Constitution and regardless of how many people don’t like it, because he is virtually impeachment-proof. The country is in huge trouble and real danger because of his policies, but he is not.

One of the most frustrating aspects of watching television news programs that feature debates is the guests who sidestep any question that gets to the heart of the issue at hand, and just go off on a tangent, repeating their standard talking points. That’s usually a good time to change the channel or turn off the TV.

If politics were like sports, we could ask Israel to trade us Benjamin Netanyahu for Barack Obama. Of course, we would have to throw in trillions of dollars to get Israel to agree to the deal, but it would be money well spent.

Disheartening

by Thomas Sowell on Thursday, May 8, 2014

If you want to get some idea of the moral bankruptcy of our educational system, read an article in the May 4th issue of the New York Times Magazine titled, “The Tale of Two Schools.”

The article is not about moral bankruptcy. But it is itself an example of the moral bankruptcy behind the many failures of American education today.

Someone had the bright idea of pairing public high school kids from a low-income neighborhood in the Bronx with kids from a private high school that charges $43,000 a year.

When the low-income youngsters visited the posh private school, “they were just overwhelmed” by it, according to the New York Times. “One kid ran crying off campus.” Apparently others felt “so disheartened about their own circumstances.”

What earthly good did that do for these young people? Thank heaven no one was calloused enough to take me on a tour of a posh private school when I was growing up in Harlem.

No doubt those adults who believe in envy and resentment get their jollies from doing things like this — and from feeling that they are creating future envy and resentment voters to forward the ideological agenda of the big government left.

But at the expense of kids?

There was a time when common sense and common decency counted for something. Educators felt a responsibility to equip students with solid skills that could take them anywhere they wanted to go in life — enable them to become doctors, engineers or whatever they wanted to be.

Too many of today’s “educators” see students as a captive audience for them to manipulate and propagandize.

These young people do not yet have enough experience to know that posh surroundings are neither necessary nor sufficient for a good education. Is anyone foolish enough to think that making poor kids feel disheartened is doing them a favor?

This school visit was not just an isolated event. It was part of a whole program of pairing individual youngsters from a poverty-stricken neighborhood with youngsters from families that can pay 43 grand a year for their schooling.

What do these kids do? They tell each other stories based on their young lives’ unripened judgment. They go to a big park in the Bronx together and take part in a garden project there. They talk about issues like gun violence and race relations.

They have a whole lifetime ahead of them to talk about such issues. But poor kids, especially, have just one time, during their school years, to equip their minds with math, science and other solid skills that will give them a shot at a better life.

To squander their time on rap sessions and navel-gazing is unconscionable.

This is just one of many programs dreamed up by “educators” who seem determined to do anything except educate. They see school children as guinea pigs for their pet notions.

The New York Times is doing these youngsters no favor by publishing page after page of their photographs and snippets of things they said. More than two centuries ago, Edmund Burke lamented “everything which takes a man from his house and sets him on a stage.”

Setting adolescents on a stage is even more ill-advised, at a time of life when they do not yet have the experience to see what an inconsequential distraction such activities and such publicity are.

At a time when American youngsters are consistently outperformed on international tests by youngsters in other countries, do we have the luxury of spending our children’s time on things that will do absolutely nothing for them in the years ahead? Are children just playthings for adults?

Maybe the affluent kids can afford to waste their time this way, because they will be taken care of, one way or another, in later life.

But to squander the time of poor kids, for whom education is often their only hope of escaping poverty, is truly an irresponsible self-indulgence by adults who should know better, and it is one more sign of the moral bankruptcy of too many people in our schools.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

The disarming allure of liberal intentions

by Thomas Sowell on Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Liberals can be disarming. In fact, they are for disarming anybody who can be disarmed, whether domestically or internationally.

Unfortunately, the people who are the easiest to disarm are the ones who are the most peaceful — and disarming them makes them vulnerable to those who are the least peaceful.

We are currently getting a painful demonstration of that in Ukraine. When Ukraine became an independent nation, it gave up all the nuclear missiles that were on its territory from the days when it had been part of the Soviet Union.

At that time, Ukraine had the third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world. Do you think Putin would have attacked Ukraine if it still had those nuclear weapons? Or do you think it is just a coincidence that nations with nuclear weapons don’t get invaded?

Among those who urged Ukraine to reduce even its conventional, non-nuclear weapons as well, was a new United States Senator named Barack Obama. He was all for disarmament then, and apparently even now as President of the United States. He has refused Ukraine’s request for weapons with which to defend itself.

As with so many things that liberals do, the disarmament crusade is judged by its good intentions, not by its actual consequences.

Indeed, many liberals seem unaware that the consequences could be anything other than what they hope for. That is why disarmament advocates are called “the peace movement.”

Whether disarmament has in fact led to peace, more often than military deterrence has, is something that could be argued on the basis of the facts of history — but it seldom is.

Liberals almost never talk about disarmament in terms of evidence of its consequences, whether they are discussing gun control at home or international disarmament agreements.

International disarmament agreements flourished between the two World Wars. Just a few years after the end of the First World War there were the Washington Naval Agreements of 1921-1922 that led to the United States actually sinking some of its own warships. Then there was the celebrated Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, in which nations renounced war, with France’s Foreign Minister Aristide Briand declaring, “Away with rifles, machine guns, and cannon!” The “international community” loved it.

In Britain, the Labour Party repeatedly voted against military armaments during most of the decade of the 1930s. A popular argument of the time was that Britain should disarm “as an example to others.”

Unfortunately, Hitler did not follow that example. He was busy building the most powerful military machine on the continent of Europe.

Nor did Germany or Japan allow the Washington Naval Agreements to cramp their style. The fact that Britain and America limited the size of their battleships simply meant that Germany and Japan had larger battleships when World War II began.

What is happening in Ukraine today is just a continuation of the old story about nations that disarm increasing the chances of being attacked by nations that do not disarm.

Any number of empirical studies about domestic gun control laws tell much the same story. Gun control advocates seldom, if ever, present hard evidence that gun crimes in general, or murder rates in particular, go down after gun control laws are passed or tightened.

That is the crucial question about gun control laws. But liberals settle that question by assumption. Then they can turn their attention to denouncing the National Rifle Association.

But neither the National Rifle Association nor the Second Amendment is the crucial issue. If the hard facts show that gun control laws actually reduce the murder rate, we can repeal the Second Amendment, as other Amendments have been repealed.

If in fact tighter gun control laws reduced the murder rate, that would be the liberals’ ace of trumps. Why then do the liberals not play their ace of trumps, by showing us such hard facts? Because they don’t have any such hard facts. So they give us lofty rhetoric and outraged indignation instead.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Immigrants show mobility still possible

by Thomas Sowell on Thursday, March 20, 2014

Professor Amy Chua of the Yale law school is better known as a “Tiger Mom” because of her take-no-prisoners, tough love approach to raising children. She and her husband Jed Rubenfeld, a fellow Yale law professor, have written what may turn out to be the best book this year.

It is titled The Triple Package because it argues that three qualities are found in spectacularly successful groups in America. These three qualities, they say, are a superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control.

Whether you buy their theory or not, you will be enormously enlightened by their attempts to prove it. In the process they shoot down many of the popular beliefs about upward mobility in America and about the kinds of people who succeed.

At a time when so many in academia and the media are proclaiming that the poor are no longer able to rise in America, Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld point out that a major research project on which that conclusion has been based left out immigrants.

In their own words, “Although rarely mentioned in media reports, the studies said to show the demise of upward mobility in America largely exclude immigrants and their children. Indeed, the Pew Foundation study most often cited as proof of the death of upward mobility in the United States expressly cautions that its findings do not apply to ‘immigrant families,’ for whom ‘the American dream is alive and well.’”

Some immigrant groups have risen spectacularly, even when they arrived here with very little money and sometimes with little knowledge of English. “Almost 25 percent of Nigerian households make over $100,000 a year” in America, the authors point out, compared to just 11 percent of black American households.

Other groups that have risen dramatically over the years include Mormons, immigrants from India and Iran, and refugees who fled Cuba when Fidel Castro took over there, back in 1958.

Those Cubans had to leave most of their wealth behind and, even when they had been doctors or other professionals in Cuba, they had to start out at the bottom in America, “crammed into small apartments and became dishwashers, janitors, and tomato pickers.” But, by 1990, Cuban American households had middle class incomes twice as often as Anglo Americans.

Americans from India have the highest income of any ethnic group the Census keeps track of, “with Chinese, Iranian and Lebanese Americans not far behind.”

Despite many who argue that black Americans cannot rise because of racist barriers, black immigrants rise. A majority of the black students at Harvard are from Africa or the Caribbean, and Nigerians “are already markedly overrepresented at Wall Street investment banks and blue-chip law firms.”

Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld write about America. But similar patterns can be found in England, where the white underclass seems to be stuck at the bottom, while low-income non-white immigrant children outperform them in the schools, just as Asian immigrant children outperform black underclass children in America.

Those in the media, in politics and in academia who seem determined to blame American society for individuals and groups who do not rise would be hard-pressed to explain why immigrants of various colors come in at the bottom and proceed to rise, both in the schools and in the economy — on both sides of the Atlantic.

It would probably never occur to those who are eager to blame “society” that it is they and their welfare-state ideology who have, for generations, burdened the underclass with a vision of hopeless victimhood that immigrants have been spared.

By the time various immigrant groups have been here for generations, they have already risen, despite the welfare state ideology that says that they cannot rise.

That so many in the media and in academia who proclaim the end of social mobility in America leave out the fact that data they cite do not include various immigrant groups tells you all you need to know about them.

The Triple Package is a book that tells us much that we all need to know about America — especially if we want to keep the welfare state ideology from destroying the American Dream.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

What really keeps people down

by Thomas Sowell on Wednesday, February 26, 2014

It seems as if, everywhere you turn these days, there are studies claiming to show that America has lost its upward mobility for people born in the lower socioeconomic levels.

But there is a sharp difference between upward “mobility,” defined as an opportunity to rise, and mobility defined as actually having risen.

That distinction is seldom even mentioned in most of the studies. It is as if everybody is chomping at the bit to get ahead, and the ones that don’t rise have been stopped by “barriers” created by “society.”

When statistics show that sons of high school dropouts don’t become doctors or scientists nearly as often as the sons of Ph.D.s, that is taken as a sign that American society is not “fair.”

If equal probabilities of achieving some goal is your definition of fairness, then we should all get together — people of every race, color, creed, national origin, political ideology and sexual preference — and stipulate that life has never been fair, anywhere or any time in all the millennia of recorded history.

Then we can begin at last to talk sense.

I know that I never had an equal chance to become a great ballet dancer like Rudolph Nureyev. The thought of becoming a ballet dancer never once crossed my mind in all the years when I was growing up in Harlem. I suspect that the same thought never crossed the minds of most of the guys growing up on New York’s lower east side.

Does that mean that there were unfair barriers keeping us from following in the footsteps of Rudolph Nureyev?

A very distinguished scholar once mentioned at a social gathering that, as a young man, he was not thinking of going to college until someone else, who recognized his ability, urged him to do so.

Another very distinguished scholar told me that, although his parents were anti-Semitic, it was the fact that he went to a school with many Jewish children that got him interested in intellectual matters and led him into an academic career.

All groups, families and cultures are not even trying to do the same things, so the fact that they do not all end up equally represented everywhere can hardly be automatically attributed to “barriers” created by “society.”

Barriers are external obstacles, as distinguished from internal values and aspirations — unless you are going to play the kind of word games that redefine achievements as “privileges” and treat an absence of evidence of discrimination as only proof of how diabolically clever and covert the discrimination is.

The front page of a local newspaper in northern California featured the headline “The Promise Denied,” lamenting the under-representation of women in computer engineering. The continuation of this long article on an inside page had the headline, “Who is to blame for this?”

In other words, the fact that reality does not match the preconceptions of the intelligentsia shows that there is something wrong with reality, for which somebody must be blamed. Apparently their preconceptions cannot be wrong.

Women, like so many other groups, seem not to be dedicated to fulfilling the prevailing fetish among the intelligentsia that every demographic group should be equally represented in all sorts of places.

Women have their own agendas, and if these agendas do not usually include computer engineering, what is to be done? Draft women into engineering schools to satisfy the preconceptions of our self-anointed saviors? Or will a propaganda campaign be sufficient to satisfy those who think that they should be making other people’s choices for them?

That kind of thinking is how we got ObamaCare.

At least one of the recent celebrated statistical studies of social mobility leaves out Asian Americans. Immigrants from Asia are among a number of groups, including American-born Mormons, whose achievements totally undermine the notion that upward mobility can seldom be realized in America.

Those who preach this counterproductive message will probably never think that the envy, resentment and hopelessness they preach, and the welfare state they promote, are among the factors keeping people down.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

 

Defeating tyranny takes unity

by Thomas Sowell on Thursday, February 20, 2014

Freshman Senator Ted Cruz says many things that need to be said and says them well. Moreover, some of these things are what many, if not most, Americans believe wholeheartedly.

Yet we need to remember that the same was true of another freshman senator, just a relatively few years ago, who parlayed his ability to say things that resonated with the voters into two terms in the White House. Who would disagree that if you want your doctor, you should be able to keep your doctor? Who would disagree with the idea of a more transparent administration in Washington, or a president of the United States being a uniter instead of a divider?

There are many things like this that freshman Sen. Barack Obama said that the overwhelming majority of Americans — whether liberal or conservative — would agree with. The only problem is that what he has actually done as president has repeatedly turned out to be the direct opposite of what he said as a candidate.

Sen. Ted Cruz has not yet reached the point where he can make policy, rather than just make political trouble. But there are already disquieting signs that he is looking out for Ted Cruz — even if that sets back the causes he claims to be serving.

Those causes are not being served when Sen.r Cruz undermines the election chances of the only political party that has any chance of undoing the disasters that Barack Obama has already inflicted on the nation — and forestalling new disasters that are visible on the horizon.

ObamaCare is not just an issue about money or even an issue about something as important as medical care. ObamaCare represents a quantum leap in the power of the federal government over the private lives of individual Americans.

Chief Justice Roberts’ decision declaring ObamaCare constitutional essentially repeals the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which declares that powers not given to the federal government belong to the states “or to the people.”

That central support of personal freedom has now been removed. The rest of the structure may not last very long, now that the Obama administration is busy quietly dismantling other bulwarks against the unbridled power of the government in general, and the unbridled power of the presidency in particular.

The Federal Communications Commission, for example, is already floating the idea of placing observers in newspaper editorial offices to “study” how decisions are made there. Nothing in the Constitution grants the FCC this dangerous power, nor is there any legislation authorizing any such activity.

But what the federal government can do is not dependent on what the Constitution authorizes it to do or what Congressional legislation gives them the power to do.

The basic, brutal reality is that the federal government can do whatever it wants to do, if nobody stops them. The Supreme Court’s ObamaCare decision shows that we cannot depend on them to protect our freedom. Nor will Congress, as long as the Democrats control the Senate.

The most charitable interpretation of Ted Cruz and his supporters is that they are willing to see the Republican Party weakened in the short run, in hopes that they will be able to take it over in the long run, and set it on a different path as a more purified conservative party.

Like many political ideas, this one is not new. It represents a political strategy that was tried long ago — and failed long ago.

In the German elections of 1932, the Nazi party received 37 percent of the vote. They became part of a democratically elected coalition government, in which Hitler became chancellor. Only step by step did the Nazis dismantle democratic freedoms and turn the country into a complete dictatorship.

The political majority could have united to stop Hitler from becoming a dictator. But they did not unite. They fought each other over their differences. Some figured that they would take over after the Nazis were discredited and defeated.

Many who plotted this clever strategy died in Nazi concentration camps. Unfortunately, so did millions of others.

What such clever strategies overlook is that there can be a point of no return. We may be close to that point of no return, not only with ObamaCare, but also with the larger erosion of personal freedom, of which ObamaCare is just the most visible part.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

 

Why not secure the borders first?

by Thomas Sowell on Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Some supporters of President Obama may be worried about how he and the Democrats are going to fare politically as the problems of ObamaCare continue to escalate, and it looks like the Republicans have a chance to win a majority in the Senate.

But Democrats may not need to worry so much. Republicans may once again come to the rescue of the Democrats, by discrediting themselves and snatching defeat from the very jaws of victory.

The latest bright idea among Republicans inside the Beltway is a new version of amnesty that is virtually certain to lose votes among the Republican base and is unlikely to gain many votes among the Hispanics that the Republican leadership is courting.

One of the enduring political mysteries is how the Republicans can be so successful in winning governorships and control of state legislatures, while failing to make much headway in Washington. Maybe there are just too many clever GOP consultants inside the Beltway.

When it comes to national elections, just what principles do the Republicans stand for? It is hard to think of any, other than their hoping to win elections by converting themselves into Democrats lite. But voters who want what the Democrats offer can vote for the real thing, rather than Johnny-come-lately imitations.

Listening to discussions of immigration laws and proposals to reform them is like listening to something out of “Alice in Wonderland.”

Immigration laws are the only laws that are discussed in terms of how to help people who break them. One of the big problems that those who are pushing “comprehensive immigration reform” want solved is how to help people who came here illegally and are now “living in the shadows” as a result.

What about embezzlers or burglars who are “living in the shadows” in fear that someone will discover their crimes? Why not “reform” the laws against embezzlement or burglary, so that such people can also come out of the shadows?

Almost everyone seems to think that we need to solve the problem of the children of illegal immigrants because these children are here “through no fault of their own.” Do people who say that have any idea how many millions of children are living in dire poverty in India, Africa or other places “through no fault of their own,” and would be better off living in the United States?

Do all children have some inherent right to live in America if they have done nothing wrong? If not, then why should the children of illegal immigrants have such a right?

More fundamentally, why do the American people not have a right to the protection that immigration laws provide people in other countries around the world — including Mexico, where illegal immigrants from other countries get no such special treatment as Mexico and its American supporters are demanding for illegal immigrants in the United States?

The very phrase “comprehensive” immigration reform is part of the bad faith that has surrounded immigration issues for decades. What “comprehensive” reform means is that border control and amnesty should be voted on together in Congress.

Why? Because that would be politically convenient for members of Congress, who like to be on both sides of issues, so as to minimize the backlash from the voting public. But what “comprehensive” immigration reform has always meant in practice is amnesty up front and a promise to control the border later — promises that have never been kept.

The new Republican proposal is to have some border control criteria whose fulfillment will automatically serve as a “trigger” to let the legalizing of illegal immigrants proceed. But why set up some automatic triggering device to signal that the borders are secure, when the Obama administration is virtually guaranteed to game the system, so that amnesty can proceed?

What in the world is wrong with Congress taking up border security first, as a separate issue, and later taking responsibility in a congressional vote on whether the border has become secure? Congress at least should come out of the shadows.

The Republican plan for granting legalization up front, while withholding citizenship, is too clever by half. It is like saying that you can slide halfway down a slippery slope.

Republicans may yet rescue the Democrats, while demoralizing their own supporters and utterly failing the country.

        Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Liberals have long held others in contempt

by Thomas Sowell on Wednesday, January 22, 2014

One of the things that attracted me to the political left, as a young man, was a belief that leftists were for “the people.” Fortunately, I was also very interested in the history of ideas — and years of research in that field repeatedly brought out the inescapable fact that many leading thinkers on the left had only contempt for “the people.”

That has been true from the 18th century to the present moment. Even more surprising, I discovered over the years that leading thinkers on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum had more respect for ordinary people than people on the left who spoke in their name.

Leftists like Rousseau, Condorcet or William Godwin in the 18th century, Karl Marx in the 19th century or Fabian socialists like George Bernard Shaw in England and American Progressives in the 20th century saw the people in a role much like that of sheep, and saw themselves as their shepherds.

Another disturbing pattern turned up that is also with us to the present moment. From the 18th century to today, many leading thinkers on the left have regarded those who disagree with them as being not merely factually wrong but morally repugnant. And again, this pattern is far less often found among those on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum.

The visceral hostility toward Sarah Palin by present day liberals, and the gutter level to which some descend in expressing it, is just one sign of a mindset on the left that goes back more than two centuries.

T.R. Malthus was the target of such hostility in the 18th and early 19th centuries. When replying to his critics, Malthus said, “I cannot doubt the talents of such men as Godwin and Condorcet. I am unwilling to doubt their candor.”

But William Godwin’s vision of Malthus was very different. He called Malthus “malignant,” questioned “the humanity of the man,” and said “I profess myself at a loss to conceive of what earth the man was made.”

This asymmetry in responses to people with different opinions has been too persistent, for too many years, to be just a matter of individual personality differences.

Although Charles Murray has been a major critic of the welfare state and of the assumptions behind it, he recalled that before writing his landmark book, “Losing Ground,” he had been “working for years with people who ran social programs at street level, and knew the overwhelming majority of them to be good people trying hard to help.”

Can you think of anyone on the left who has described Charles Murray as “a good person trying hard to help”? He has been repeatedly denounced as virtually the devil incarnate — far more often than anyone has tried seriously to refute his facts.

Such treatment is not reserved solely for Murray. Liberal writer Andrew Hacker spoke more sweepingly when he said, “conservatives don’t really care whether black Americans are happy or unhappy.”

Even in the midst of an election campaign against the British Labour Party, when Winston Churchill said that there would be dire consequences if his opponents won, he said that this was because “they do not see where their theories are leading them.”

But, in an earlier campaign, Churchill’s opponent said that he looked upon Churchill “as such a personal force for evil that I would take up the fight against him with a whole heart.”

Examples of this asymmetry between those on opposite sides of the ideological divide could be multiplied almost without limit. It is not solely a matter of individual personality differences.

The vision of the left is not just a vision of the world. For many, it is also a vision of themselves — a very flattering vision of people trying to save the planet, rescue the exploited, create “social justice” and otherwise be on the side of the angels. This is an exalting vision that few are ready to give up, or to risk on a roll of the dice, which is what submitting it to the test of factual evidence amounts to.

Maybe that is why there are so many fact-free arguments on the left, whether on gun control, minimum wages, or innumerable other issues — and why they react so viscerally to those who challenge their vision.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Going over media’s heads

by Thomas Sowell on Friday, January 17, 2014

The first time I saw New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on television, a few years ago, my first reaction was astonishment: “A talking Republican!”

It would scarcely have been more astonishing if there had been a talking giraffe. For reasons unknown, most Republican leaders seem to pay very little attention to articulation — certainly as compared to leading Democrats, who seem to pay little attention to anything else.

Governor Christie’s nearly two-hour-long press conference recently showed again that he is in a class by himself when it comes to Republicans who can express themselves in the heat of political battle.

When it comes to policies, I might prefer some other Republican as a 2016 presidential candidate. But the bottom line in politics is that you have to get elected, in order to have the power to accomplish anything. It doesn’t matter how good your ideas are, if you can’t be bothered to articulate them in a way that the voting public can understand.

Chris Christie’s press conference showed that, unlike Barack Obama, Christie did not duck the media or sidestep questions. Nor did he resort to euphemisms or cry out, like Hillary Clinton, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

He met the questions head on and gave unequivocal answers — the kind of answers that could, and should, destroy his political future if they are not true.

More important, Governor Christie quickly fired the people he held responsible for deliberately creating a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge. Contrast that with the many scandals in Washington, for which President Obama has not fired anyone.

While the creation of a traffic jam in a small New Jersey town shows the calloused ugliness too often found among political operators puffed up with their own power, this cannot compare with the threat to freedom when the Internal Revenue Service targets the administration’s political opponents during an election year.

Nor can a traffic jam compare with the Department of Justice’s gun-running operation that led to the death of an American Border Patrol agent in the southwest, or the State Department’s actions and inactions that led to the deaths of four American officials killed by terrorists in Benghazi.

Nevertheless, media coverage of the traffic jam in New Jersey was several times as extensive as any — or all — of these far more consequential scandals in Washington. Moreover, many of these media reactions simply assumed that Governor Christie must have known about the traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge.

Does anyone who thinks that a traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge should attract a governor’s attention have any idea how many traffic jams there are on the various highways leading into Manhattan?

The Long Island Expressway, for example, long ago acquired the title “the world’s longest parking lot.” Traffic backed up heading into, or out of, the Holland Tunnel or the Lincoln Tunnel is nothing new. My recollections of driving on highways in and around Manhattan include very few memories of free-flowing traffic.

Any governor who devoted his time to looking into traffic jams between New Jersey and New York would have very little time left for doing anything else.

If anything good comes out of this shabby episode of political vindictiveness by Governor Christie’s staffers, it showed what a skewed sense of perspective most of the media have on what kinds of issues are important. It is not that the media consider traffic jams more important than human lives. But the fact that Christie is the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 — and is ahead of Hillary Clinton in the polls — makes him a target for a partisan media.

Given that blatant partisanship, the need for a Republican candidate in 2016 who can make his case to the public, in spite of the media, is especially acute — even though it is much too early to try to predict who that candidate will be.

Whatever the political fate of Governor Christie, he has provided an example of the kind of articulation that is needed — indeed, imperative — if the Republicans are to have any chance of rescuing this country from the ruinous policies of the past few years.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com.

Race-Hustling Results: Part III

by Thomas Sowell on Thursday, October 24, 2013

One of the reasons for being glad to be as old as I am is that I may be spared living to see a race war in America. Race wars are often wars in which nobody wins and everybody ends up much worse off than they were before.

Initial skirmishes in that race war have already begun, and have in fact been going on for some years. But public officials pretend that it is not happening, and the mainstream media seldom publish it at all, except in ways that conceal what is really taking place.

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Race-Hustling Results: Part II

by Thomas Sowell on Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bob Costas is one of the premier sportscasters and a very smart guy, so it was somewhat surprising to see him join the chorus of those decrying the fact that the owner of the Washington Redskins is resisting the pressures to change the name of his football team.

The argument is that American Indians are offended by the name, though there is no compelling evidence that most American Indians are worked up about it. Nor is there any evidence that anyone intended the name to be insulting, either by this team or any number of other sports teams that have called themselves some variation of the name “Indians.”

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Race-Hustling Results

by Thomas Sowell on Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Years ago, someone said that, according to the laws of aerodynamics, bumblebees cannot fly. But the bumblebees, not knowing the laws of aerodynamics, go ahead and fly anyway.

Something like that happens among people. There have been many ponderous academic writings and dour editorials in the mainstream media, lamenting that most people born poor cannot rise in American society any more. Meanwhile, many poor immigrants arrive here from various parts of Asia, and rise on up the ladder anyway.

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A Return to Keynes?

by Thomas Sowell on Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The nomination of Janet Yellen to become head of the Federal Reserve System has set off a flurry of media stories. Since she will be the first woman to occupy that position, we can only hope that this will not mean that any criticism of what she does will be attributed to sex bias or to a “war on women.”

The Federal Reserve has become such a major player in the American economy that it needs far more scrutiny and criticism than it has received, regardless of who heads it.

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Inarticulate Republicans

by Thomas Sowell on Tuesday, October 8, 2013

If the continued existence of mathematics depended on the ability of the Republicans to defend the proposition that two plus two equals four, that would probably mean the end of mathematics and of all the things that require mathematics.

Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, epitomized what has been wrong with the Republicans for decades when he emerged from a White House meeting last Wednesday, went over to the assembled microphones, briefly expressed his disgust with the Democrats’ intransigence and walked on away.

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Destroying Household Jobs

by Thomas Sowell on Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Despite evidence from around the world that minimum wage laws can price low-skilled workers out of jobs, the U.S. Department of Labor is planning to extend minimum wage coverage to domestic workers, such as maids or those who drop in from time to time to do a few household chores for the sick and the elderly.

This coverage is scheduled to begin in January 2015 — that is, after the 2014 elections and nearly two years before the 2016 elections. Politicians show a lot of cleverness in protecting their own interests, even if they show very little wisdom as far as serving the public interest.

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High Risk, Low Yield

by Thomas Sowell on Tuesday, September 24, 2013

This has been the worst time, politically, for President Barack Obama since he took office. Recent polls reveal that public confidence in both his domestic and foreign policies has been falling, amid revelations about their defects and dangers. Even people who once supported and defended him have now turned against him.

There have even been rumblings against Barack Obama in the Congressional Black Caucus and among labor unions that were a major factor in helping him get elected and re-elected.

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Minimum Wage Madness

by Thomas Sowell on Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Political crusades for raising the minimum wage are back again. Advocates of minimum wage laws often give themselves credit for being more “compassionate” towards “the poor.” But they seldom bother to check what are the actual consequences of such laws.

One of the simplest and most fundamental economic principles is that people tend to buy more when the price is lower and less when the price is higher. Yet advocates of minimum wage laws seem to think that the government can raise the price of labor without reducing the amount of labor that will be hired.

When you turn from economic principles to hard facts, the case against minimum wage laws is even stronger. Countries with minimum wage laws almost invariably have higher rates of unemployment than countries without minimum wage laws. Read Full Article

Syria and Obama: Part II

by Thomas Sowell on Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chickens are coming home to roost for Barack Obama, both at home and overseas. When he first entered the White house, to worldwide acclaim, and backed by huge majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, he could do whatever he wanted — and could do no wrong, in the eyes of the mainstream media.

People believed whatever he said, whether about how he would cut the federal deficit in half during his first term or how people could keep their current insurance and their current doctor under ObamaCare, which would also insure millions more people and yet somehow lower the costs at the same time.

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Syria and Obama

by Thomas Sowell on Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I cannot see why even a single American, a single Israeli or a single Syrian civilian should be killed as a result of a token U.S. military action, undertaken simply to spare Barack Obama the embarrassment of doing nothing, after his ill-advised public ultimatum to the Syrian government to not use chemical weapons was ignored.

Some people say that some military response is necessary, not to spare Obama a personal humiliation, but to spare the American presidency from losing all credibility — and therefore losing the ability to deter future threats to the United States without bloodshed.

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Serious About Syria?

by Thomas Sowell on Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why are we even talking about taking military action in Syria? What is that military action supposed to accomplish? And what is the probability that it will in fact accomplish whatever that unknown goal might be?

What is painfully clear from President Obama’s actions, inactions and delays is that he is more or less playing it by ear, as to what specifically he is going to do, and when. He is telling us more about what he is not going to do — that he will not put “boots on the ground,” for example — than about what he will do.

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Unintended Consequences

by Thomas Sowell on Tuesday, September 3, 2013

One of the many unintended consequences of the political crusade for increased homeownership among minorities, and low-income people in general, has been a housing boom and bust that left many foreclosed homes that had to be rented, because there were no longer enough qualified buyers.

The repercussions did not stop there. Many homeowners have discovered that when renters replace homeowners as their neighbors, the neighborhood as a whole can suffer. Read Full Article

A Truly Great Phony

by Thomas Sowell on Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Many years ago, I was a member of a committee that was recommending to whom grant money should be awarded. Since I knew one of the applicants, I asked if this meant that I should recuse myself from voting on his application.

“No,” the chairman said. “I know him too — and he is one of the truly great phonies of our time.”

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A Poignant Anniversary

by Thomas Sowell on Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and of the Reverend Martin Luther King’s memorable “I have a dream” speech, is a time for reflections — some inspiring, and some painful and ominous.

At the core of Dr. King’s speech was his dream of a world in which people would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by “the content of their character.”

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Reality Versus Mirages in Egypt

by Thomas Sowell on Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nothing symbolizes the Utopianism of our times like both liberals and some conservatives calling for us to cut off aid to the Egyptian military, because of the widespread killings in what is becoming a civil war in Egypt. Such utter lack of realism from the left is not new, but hearing some conservatives saying the same things takes some getting used to.

President Obama’s call for the Egyptians to end the violence and form an “inclusive” government, with all factions represented, may sound good to many Americans. But there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that it will happen.

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Are We Serious About Education?

by Thomas Sowell on Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Two recent events — one on the east coast and one on the west coast — raise painful questions about whether we are really serious when we say that we want better education for minority children.

One of these events was an announcement by Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., that it plans on August 19th to begin “an entire week of activities to celebrate the grand opening of our new $160 million state-of-the-art school building.”

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Busybody Politics

by Thomas Sowell on Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It is hard to read a newspaper, or watch a television newscast, without encountering someone who has come up with a new “solution” to society’s “problems.” Sometimes it seems as if there are more solutions than there are problems. On closer scrutiny, it turns out that many of today’s problems are a result of yesterday’s solutions.

San Francisco and New York are both plagued with large “homeless” populations today, largely as a result of previous housing “reforms” that made housing more expensive, and severely limited how much housing, and of what kind, could be built.

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The Tragedy of Isolation

by Thomas Sowell on Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In the 20th century, Western intellectuals’ two most dominant explanations of disparities in economic, educational and other achievements were innate racial differences in ability (in the early decades) and racial discrimination (in the later decades).

In neither era were the intelligentsia receptive to other explanations. In each era, they were convinced that they had the answer — and dismissed and disparaged those who offered other answers.

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Random Thoughts

by Thomas Sowell on Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Random thoughts from wise thinkers:

“We shall not grow wiser before we learn that much that we have done was very foolish.” (F.A. Hayek)

“Many respectable writers agree that if a man reasonably believes that he is in immediate danger of death or grievous bodily harm from his assailant he may stand his ground and that if he kills him he has not exceeded the bounds of lawful self-defense. That has been the decision of this court.” (Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Brown v. United States, 1921)

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Is This Still America?

by Thomas Sowell on Tuesday, July 16, 2013

There are no winners in the trial of George Zimmerman. The only question is whether the damage that has been done has been transient or irreparable.

Legally speaking, Zimmerman has won his freedom. But he can still be sued in a civil case, and he will probably never be safe to live his life in peace, as he could have before this case made him the focus of national attention and orchestrated hate.

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Who Is Racist?

by Thomas Sowell on Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I am so old that I can remember when most of the people promoting race hate were white.

Apparently other Americans also recognize that the sources of racism are different today from what they were in the past. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 31 percent of blacks think that most blacks are racists, while 24 percent of blacks think that most whites are racist.

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The Mindset of the Left: Part IV

by Thomas Sowell on Friday, July 5, 2013

At the heart of the left’s vision of the world is the implicit assumption that high-minded third parties like themselves can make better decisions for other people than those people can make for themselves.

That arbitrary and unsubstantiated assumption underlies a wide spectrum of laws and policies over the years, ranging from urban renewal to ObamaCare.

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