Thomas Sowell Quotes


The most basic question is not what is best but who shall decide what is best.
Much of what sophisticates loftily refer to as the "complexity" of the real world is in fact the inconsistency in their own minds.
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.
The demands of unbounded individualism need to be weighed in the light of inherent social constraints which can only change their form but cannot be eliminated without eliminating civilization.
Morality, like other inputs into the social process, follows the law of diminishing returns- meaning ultimately, negative returns. People can be too moral.
To say that a farm boy knows how to milk a cow is to say that we can send him out to the barn with an empty pail and expect him to return with milk. To say that a criminologist understands crime is not to say that we can send him out with a grant or a law and expect him to return with a lower crime rate. He is more likely to return with a report on why he has not succeeded yet, and including the inevitable need for more money, a larger staff, more sweeping powers, etc.
People who have time on their hands will inevitably waste the time of people who have work to do.
Physicists have determined that even the most solid and heavy mass of matter we see is mostly empty space. But at the submicroscopic level, specks of matter scattered through a vast emptiness have such incredible density and weight, and are linked to one another by such powerful forces, that together they produce all the properties of concrete, cast iron and solid rock. In much the same way, specks of knowledge are scattered through a vast emptiness of ignorance, and everything depends upon how solid the individual specks of knowledge are, and on how powerfully linked and coordinated they are with one another.
Given that some social processes must convey inherent constraints, the choice is among various mixtures of persuasion, force, and cultural inducement. The less of one, the more of the others. The degree of freedom that is possible is therefore tied to the extent to which people respond to persuasion or inducement.
Freedom...refer[s] to a social relationship among people- namely, the absence of force as a prospective instrument of decision making. Freedom is reduced whenever a decision is made under threat of force, whether or not force actually materializes or is evident in retrospect.
What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don't like something to saying that the government should forbid it. When you go down that road, don't expect freedom to survive very long.
"What freedom does a starving man have?" The answer is that starvation is a tragic human condition- perhaps more tragic than loss of freedom. That does not prevent these from being two different things.
Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric.
Both free speech rights and property rights belong legally to individuals, but their real function is social, to benefit vast numbers of people who do not themselves exercise these rights.
...each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.
If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism.
Ideas are everywhere, but knowledge is rare.
One of the most fashionable notions of our times is that social problems like poverty and oppression breed wars. Most wars, however, are started by well-fed people with time on their hands to dream up half-baked ideologies or grandiose ambitions, and to nurse real or imagined grievances.
We should listen first and foremost to our own experience... We should stop looking for saviors... Society has not existed for thousands of years because it had a succession of saviors. It's existed because it has institutions and processes through which people can realize their own goals.
Mystical references to "society" and its programs to "help" may warm the hearts of the gullible but what it really means is putting more power in the hands of bureaucrats.
Facts do not "speak for themselves." They speak for or against competing theories. Facts divorced from theories or visions are mere isolated curiosities.
No matter how disastrously some policy has turned out, anyone who criticizes it can expect to hear: "But what would you replace it with?" When you put out a fire, what do you replace it with?
Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.
Where intellectuals have played a role in history, it has not been so much by whispering words of advice into the ears of political overlords as by contributing to the vast and powerful currents of conceptions and misconceptions that sweep human action along.
It's amazing how much panic one honest man can spread among a multitude of hypocrites.

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