Thomas Sowell Quotations

Thomas Sowell

A citizen who cannot be bothered to find out the facts about the issues, not just media spin or party propaganda, is doing a disservice to this country by voting -- especially when electing leaders making life-and-death decisions whose consequences will affect this generation and generations to come.

Any politician who starts shouting election-year demagoguery about the rich and the poor should be asked, "What about the other 90 percent of the people?"

Anything that might conceivably be of some benefit to someone, sometime, is worth doing, if someone else is paying. In our own lives, we pass up all sorts of benefits when we decide that they are just not worth their cost...Life is full of trade-offs when it is your own money. Not so when it is the taxpayers' money or -- better yet -- money that business is forced to spend, which does not even show up on the government's budget.

Compassion is the use of public funds to buy votes.

Despite the rhetoric of the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' that is so dear to the heart of the political left, a more accurate description of most Americans today would be the 'have-lots' and the 'have-lots-more'.

Envy used to be just a human failing, but today it is a major industry. Politicians, journalists and academics are all part of that industry, which some call 'social justice'.

[E]qual respect is an internally contradictory evasion. If everything is respected equally, then the term respect has lost its meaning.

For centuries, rights were exemptions from government power, as in the Bill of Rights. Now the left has redefined rights as things that can be demanded from the taxpayers, or from private employers or others, on behalf of people who accept no mutual obligations, even for common decency.

Honesty does not require posturing. In fact, the two things are incompatible. Nor does objectivity require neutrality... Objectivity refers to an honest seeking of the truth, whatever that truth may turn out to be and regardless of what its implications might be. Neutrality refers to a preconceived 'balance,' which subordinates the truth to this preconception... The truth is where you find it -- and you don't find it with a preconceived 'balance' expressed in mealy mouth words.

I am so old that I can remember when we called illegal aliens illegal aliens, when people paid their own medical bills, and when New Yorker cartoons were funny.

If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 50 years ago, a liberal 25 years ago, and a racist today.

If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else's expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves.

If you have ever seen a four-year-old trying to lord it over a two-year-old, then you know what the basic problem of human nature is -- and why government keeps growing larger and ever more intrusive.

In the long run, the greatest weapon of mass destruction is stupidity...Weapons of mass destruction in the hands of an avowed enemy can destroy many Americans, but they cannot destroy America, because we are too strong and too capable of counterattack. Only Americans can destroy America.

Life involves weighing alternative risks, whether in football, pharmaceutical drugs, or a thousand other things. Politically, it is always easy to be on the side of the angels with ringing pronouncements about making sure our medicines are safe. Ideologues are in their glory denouncing 'corporate greed' among drug companies. But ideology never cured any disease. Neither do lawsuits.

Lunches don't get free just because you don't see the prices on the menu. And economists don't get popular by reminding people of that.

Many of those in the media, and among the intelligentsia in general, see themselves as citizens of the world, and they see the United States as just the country that happens to be lucky enough to be graced by their presence.

[N]ever assume that political phrases actually mean what they say or imply. Rent control does not control rents, gun control does not control guns, and the Indian Child Welfare Act disregards the welfare of Indian children with unbelievable callousness.

Once judges start disregarding the written law in favor of their own notions, ordinary citizens have no way of knowing in advance what decisions to expect from a given situation. We can read the written law but we cannot read judges' minds. ... The law as written may draw a sharp line between what is legal and what is illegal, but when that law is 'interpreted' by judicial activists, all kinds of new notions may be added. Certain things may be legal but only if they do not create an 'undue burden' or if they meet 'evolving standards.'

One of the reasons for conspiracy theories is an assumption that people in high places always know what they are doing. When they do something that makes no sense, devious reasons are imagined by conspiracy theorists, when in fact it may be due to plain old ignorance and incompetence.

Politicians are seldom willing to solve any problem by simply stopping what they have been doing to create the problem. Instead, they come up with new programs that ignore the real cause.

Somebody always gets hurt in an economy that is growing. You can't keep on doing things the same old way and still get the benefits of the new way.

The dominant orthodoxy in development economics was that Third World countries were trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty that could be broken only by massive foreign aid from the more prosperous industrial nations of the world. This was in keeping with a more general vision on the Left that people were essentially divided into three categories -- the heartless, the helpless, and wonderful people like themselves, who would rescue the helpless by playing Lady Bountiful with the taxpayers' money.

The fact that you are just dying to believe something is not hard evidence -- except perhaps about your state of mind.

The fashionable idiocy that haters must have justifications is one of those ideas that George Orwell said only an intellectual could believe -- because no one else could be such a fool.

The media often mention 'ultra-conservatives' but never 'ultra-liberals.' Have ultra-liberals become extinct, gotten lost, or met with foul play? We cannot ignore the fate of fellow human beings, even if we differ with them politically. At the very least, we can report them as missing persons.

The patriotism we celebrate on the Fourth of July is more than an expression of love for our country and pride in its achievements. An appreciation of the origins of the blessings we enjoy is essential for preserving those blessings for ourselves and our children and grandchildren. ...Patriotism is more than a sentiment. It is a necessity.

The question is not what anybody deserves. The question is who is to take on the God-like role of deciding what everybody else deserves. You can talk about 'social justice' all you want. But what death taxes boil down to is letting politicians take money from widows and orphans to pay for goodies that they will hand out to others, in order to buy votes to get re-elected. That is not social justice or any other kind of justice.

There is no amount of money Congress cannot outspend.

There is no greater indictment of judges than the fact that honest men are afraid to go into court, while criminals swagger out its revolving doors.

The thesis of both media liberals and political liberals is that there are vast millions of people who work hard all their lives and still remain poor. The next chorus of this song is that only the government can save the day for such people. The grand finale is that politicians need to take more money out of your paycheck to buy the votes of those to whom they give it. They don't express it like that, of course, but that is what it amounts to.

Those who are preoccupied with 'making a statement' usually don't have any statements worth making.

Those who pose as the biggest champions of the poor are almost invariably the biggest opponents of means tests...Whether the issue is housing, medical care or innumerable other things, the argument will be made that the poor are unable to get some benefit that the government ought to provide for them. But the minute you accept that, the switch takes place and suddenly we are no longer talking about some benefit confined to the poor but about 'universal health care' or 'affordable housing' as a 'right' for everyone.

Those who want to take our money and gain power over us have discovered the magic formula: Get us envious or angry at others and we will surrender, in installments, not only our money but our freedom. The most successful dictators of the 20th century -- Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao -- all used this formula and now class warfare politicians here are doing the same.

Virtually everything that the government does costs more than when the same thing is done in private industry -- whether it is building housing, running prisons, collecting garbage, or innumerable other things. Why in the world would we imagine that health care would be the exception?

We seem to be getting closer and closer to a situation where nobody is responsible for what they did but we are all responsible for what somebody else did.

"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.

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 we are seeing in the media today is a degeneracy that is by no means confined to the media, and is indeed actively promoted in many of our schools that are busy breaking down moral standards instead of educating children. Along with this degeneracy has come a tragic irresponsibility by people who simply refuse to realize that we are currently engaged in World War III -- and were for years, before we were finally forced to realize it by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

When politicians promise to give you something, just remember that the only money they have is what they take from the people. If you want someone to pick your pockets and then give you a handout, there are plenty of politicians around who will do that for you. In fact, a lot of politicians have been around a long time just by using such tactics.

Whether with individuals or with groups, respect is something earned, not a door prize handed out to all.

You cannot say that what 'consenting adults' do in private is nobody else's business and then turn around and say that others are bound to put their seal of approval on it.