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150 Thomas Sowell Quotes Politics, the Intellect, and More

3. “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.”

4. “People who pride themselves on their complexity and deride others for being simplistic should realize that the truth is often not very complicated.”

5. “The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.”

6. “I have never understood why it is to want to keep the money you have earned, but not greed to want to take somebody else’s money.”

7. “Intellect is not wisdom.”

8. “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.”

9. “What gets complex is evading the truth.”

10. “Despite a voluminous and often fervent literature on income distribution, the cold fact is that most income is not distributed. It is earned.”

11. “Nevertheless, for many of those who deal primarily in ideas, socialism remains an attractive idea—in fact, seductive. Its every failure is explained away as due to the inadequacies of particular leaders.”

12. “Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.”

13. “Socialism is a wonderful idea. It is only as a reality that it has been disastrous.”

14. “It’s amazing how much panic one honest man can spread among a multitude of hypocrites.”

15. “Racism does not have a good track record. It’s been tried out for a long time and you’d think by now we’d want to put an end to it instead of putting it under new management.”

16. “The fact that the market is not doing what we wish it would do is no reason to automatically assume that the government would do better.”

17. “The first lesson of economics is scarcity—there is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”

18. “Among people of every race, color, and creed, all around the world, socialism has led to hunger in countries that used to have surplus food to export.”

19. “Socialism, in general, has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”

20. “Since this is an era when many people are concerned about fairness and social justice, what is your fair share of what someone else has worked for?”

21. “When people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment seems like discrimination.”

22. “Can you cite one speck of hard evidence of the benefits of diversity that we have heard gushed about for years? Evidence of its harm can be seen—written in blood—from Iraq to India, from Serbia to Sudan, from Fiji to the Philippines.”

23. “One of the consequences of such notions as entitlements is that people who have contributed nothing to society feel that society owes them something, apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence.”

24. “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.”

25. “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 again in a month, and competing in track meets before the year is out?”

26. “Americans are generally given class labels on the basis of their transient location in the income stream.”

27. “Whenever someone refers to me as someone ‘who happens to be black,’ I wonder if they realize that both my parents are black. If I had turned out to be Scandinavian or Chinese, people would have wondered what was going on.”

28. “The concept of microaggression is just one of many tactics used to stifle differences of opinion by declaring some opinions to be ‘hate speech,’ instead of debating those differences in a marketplace of ideas.”

29. “To accuse people of aggression for not marching in lockstep with political correctness is to set the stage for justifying real aggression against them.”

30. “To believe in personal responsibility would be to destroy the whole special role of the anointed, whose vision casts them in the role of rescuers of people treated unfairly by society.”

31. “If facts, logic, and scientific procedures are all just arbitrarily socially constructed notions, then all that is left is consensus—more specifically, peer consensus—the kind of consensus that matters to adolescents or to many among the intelligentsia.”

32. “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 reelected. That is not social justice or any other kind of justice.”

33. “A society that puts equality—in the sense of equality of outcome—ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom.”

34. “The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.”

35. “If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.”

36. “You cannot take any people, of any color, and exempt them from the requirements of civilization—including work, behavioral standards, personal responsibility, and all the other basic things that the clever intelligentsia disdain—without ruinous consequences to them and to society at large.”

37. “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.”

38. “Those who suffered in centuries past are as much beyond our help as those who sinned are beyond our retribution.”

39. “Slippery use of the word privilege is part of a vogue of calling achievements privileges—a vogue which extends far beyond educational issues, spreading a toxic confusion in many other aspects of life.”

40. “What all these lofty and vague phrases boil down to is that the court can impose things that the voters don’t want and the Constitution does not require, but which are in vogue in circles to which the court responds.”

41. “Despite whatever the left may say, or even believe about their concern for the poor, their actual behavior shows their interest in the poor to be greatest when the poor can be used as a focus of the left’s denunciations of society.”

42. “The history of which peoples, nations, or civilizations have conquered or enslaved which other peoples, nations, or civilizations has been largely a history of who has been in a position to do so.”

43. “No one chooses which culture to be born into or can be blamed for how that culture evolved in past centuries.”

44. “Reality does not go away when it is ignored.”

45. “When people are presented with the alternatives of hating themselves for their failure or hating others for their success, they seldom choose to hate themselves.”

46. “What is called an educated person is often someone who has had a dangerously superficial exposure to a wide spectrum of subjects.”

47. “The very commonness of common sense makes it unlikely to have any appeal to the anointed. How can they be wiser and nobler than everyone else while agreeing with everyone else?”

48. “As history has also shown, especially in the twentieth century, one of the first things an ideologue will do after achieving absolute power is kill.”

49. “Many on the political left are so entranced by the beauty of their vision that they cannot see the ugly reality they are creating in the real world.”

50. “There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.”

51. “Bailing out people who made ill-advised mortgages makes no more sense that bailing out people who lost their life savings in Las Vegas casinos.”

52. “Unfortunately, the real minimum wage is always zero, regardless of the laws, and that is the wage that many workers receive in the wake of the creation or escalation of a government-mandated minimum wage, because they lose their jobs or fail to find jobs when they enter the labor force.”

53. “One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain.”

54. “Even when it comes to the redistribution of income, the left talks the talk, but the free market walks the walk.”

55. “What do the poor most need? They need to stop being poor.”

56. “As far as they are concerned, wealth exists somehow and the only interesting question is how to redistribute it.”

57. “Economics is a study of cause-and-effect relationships in an economy. Its purpose is to discern the consequences of various ways of allocating resources which have alternative uses. It has nothing to say about philosophy or values, anymore than it has to say about music or literature.”

58. “Most officially poor Americans today have things that middle-class Americans of an earlier time could only dream about—including color TV, videocassette recorders, microwave ovens, and their own cars.”

59. “Rich people can see the political handwriting on the wall, and can often take their money and leave the country, long before a government program can get started to confiscate it.”

60. “One of the first things taught in introductory statistics textbooks is that correlation is not causation. It is also one of the first things forgotten.”

61. “Weighing benefits against costs is the way most people make decisions—and the way most businesses make decisions, if they want to stay in business.”

62. “Some things are believed because they are demonstrably true, but many other things are believed simply because they have been asserted repeatedly and repetition has been accepted as a substitute for evidence.”

63. “The New York Times’ long-standing motto, ‘All the News That’s Fit to Print’ should be changed to reflect today’s reality, ‘Manufacturing News to Fit an Ideology.’”

64. “Economics is more than just a way to see patterns or to unravel puzzling anomalies. Its fundamental concern is with the material standard of living of society as a whole and how that is affected by particular decisions made by individuals and institutions.”

65. “One of the ways of doing this is to look at economic policies and economic systems in terms of the incentives they create, rather than simply the goals they pursue.”

66. “Seldom do people think things through foolishly. More often, they do not bother to think things through at all, so that even brainy individuals can reach untenable conclusions because their brain power means little if it is not deployed and applied.”

67. “The media are less a window on reality, than a stage on which officials and journalists perform self-scripted, self-serving fictions.”

68. “Misconceptions of business are almost inevitable in a society where most people have neither studied nor run businesses.”

69. “In a society where most people are employees and consumers, it is easy to think of businesses as ‘them’—as impersonal organizations, whose internal operations are largely unknown and whose sums of money may sometimes be so huge as to be unfathomable.”

70. “Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric.”

71. “Making it illegal to pay less than a given amount does not make a worker’s productivity worth that amount, and if it is not, that worker is unlikely to be employed.”

72. “Competition does a much more effective job than the government at protecting consumers.”

73. “If politicians stopped meddling with things they don’t understand, there would be a more drastic reduction in the size of government than anyone in either party advocates.”

74. “The fact that so many successful politicians are such shameless liars is not only a reflection on them, it is also a reflection on us.”

75. “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.”

76. “What is history but the story of how politicians have squandered the blood and treasure of the human race?”

77. “No government of the left has done as much for the poor as capitalism has.”

78. “Liberals seem to assume that, if you don’t believe in their particular political solutions, then you don’t really care about the people that they claim to want to help.”

79. “The welfare state is the oldest con game in the world. First, you take people’s money away quietly and then you give some of it back to them flamboyantly.”

80. “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.”

81. “No amount of taxation is ever described as greed on the part of the government or the clientele of the government.”

82. “No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems—of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind.”

83. “Only in government is any benefit, however small, considered to be worth any cost, however large.”

84. “A mere enumeration of government activity is evidence—often the sole evidence offered —of inadequate non government institutions, whose inability to cope with problems obviously required state intervention.”

85. “Government is depicted as acting, not in response to its own political incentives and constraints, but because it is compelled to do so by concern for the public interest: it cannot keep its hands off when so much is at stake, when emergency compels it to supersede other decision making processes.”

86. “The government is indeed an institution, but the market is nothing more than an option for each individual to choose among numerous existing institutions, or to fashion new arrangements suited to his own situation and taste.”

87. “The fatal attraction of the government is that it allows busybodies to impose decisions on others without paying any price themselves. That enables them to act as if there were no price, even when there are ruinous prices paid by others.”

88. “Where the quest for injustice is overriding, among the things it overrides are logic and evidence.”

89. “The only way anyone can have a right to something that has to be produced is to force someone else to produce it for him. The more things are provided as rights, the less the recipients have to work and the more others have to carry their load.”

90. “It is scary how easily so many people can be brainwashed by sheer repetition of a word.”

91. “The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best.”

92. “Virtually no idea is too ridiculous to be accepted, even by very intelligent and highly educated people, if it provides a way for them to feel special and important. Some confuse that feeling with idealism.”

93. “When the people want the impossible, only can satisfy.”

94. “Rhetoric is no substitute for reality.”

95. “It doesn’t matter how smart you are unless you stop and think.”

96. “Life does not ask what we want. It presents us with options.”

97. “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.”

98. “If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism.”

99. “Don’t you get tired of seeing so many non-conformists with the same non-conformist look?”

100. “It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.”

101. “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”

102. “It’s important to hear the opposite viewpoint, and more important to learn how to distinguish why viewpoint A and viewpoint B are different, and which one has the most evidence or logic behind it.”

103. “Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.”

104. “Everyone may be called a comrade, but some comrades have the power of life and death over other comrades.”

105. “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.”

106. “It is usually futile to try to talk facts and analysis to people who are enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their ignorance.”

107. “Extrapolations are the last refuge of a groundless argument.”

108. “People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.”

109. “No matter how much people on the left talk about compassion, they have no compassion for the taxpayers.”

110. “For the anointed, traditions are likely to be seen as the dead hand of the past, relics of a less enlightened age, and not as the distilled experience of millions who faced similar human vicissitudes before.”

111. “People are all born ignorant, but they are not born stupid.”

112. “Much of the stupidity we see today is induced by our educational system—from the elementary schools to the universities.”

113. “Whatever we wish to achieve in the future, it must begin by knowing where we are in the present—not where we wish we were, or where we wish others to think we are, but where we are in fact.”

114. “No policy can apply to history, but can only apply to the present or the future.”

115. “The past may be many things, but it is clearly irrevocable.”

116. “I am so old that I can remember when other people’s achievements were considered to be an inspiration rather than a grievance.”

117. “What then is the intellectual advantage of civilization over primitive savagery? It is not necessarily that each civilized man has more knowledge but that he requires far less.”

118. “The only people I truly envy are those who can play a musical instrument and those who can eat anything they want without gaining weight.”

119. “Age gives you an excuse for not being very good at things that you were not very good at when you were young.”

120. “One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to them.”

121. “They want villains to hate and heroes to cheer, and they don’t want explanations that fail to give them that.”

122. “The tests are not unfair. Life is unfair and the tests measure the results.”

123. “The reason so many people misunderstand so many issues is not that these issues are so complex, but that people do not want a factual or analytical explanation that leaves them emotionally unsatisfied.”

124. “Luck certainly plays a very large role in all our lives, but we need to be very clear about what that role is.”

125. “Who can better decide the value of the goods and services that someone has produced than the people who actually use those goods and services, and pay for them with their own hard-earned money?”

126. “Nothing could be more jolting and discordant with the vision of today’s intellectuals than the fact that it was businessmen, devout religious leaders, and Western imperialists who together destroyed slavery around the world. And if it doesn’t fit their vision, it is the same to them as if it never happened.”

127. “While greed is one of the most popular—and most fallacious—explanations of the very high salaries of corporate executives, when your salary depends on what other people are willing to pay you, you can be the greediest person on earth and that will not raise your pay in the slightest.”

128. “Government planning is not an alternative to chaos. It is a pre-emption of other people’s plans.”

129. “Justice at all costs is not justice.”

130. “Perhaps the most important thing about risk is its inescapability.”

131. “Particular individuals, groups, or institutions may be sheltered from risk, but only at the cost of having someone else bear that risk.”

132. “For a society as a whole, there is no someone else.”

133. “Systemic processes tend to reward people for making decisions that turn out to be right—creating great resentment among the anointed, who feel themselves entitled to rewards for being articulate, politically active, and morally fervent.”

134. “No one is equal to anything. Even the same man is not equal to himself on different days.”

135. “The essence of bigotry is denying others the same rights you claim for yourself. Green bigots are a classic example.”

136. “There have always been ignorant people, but they haven’t always had college degrees to make them unaware of their ignorance.”

137. “Some people imagine that they are well-informed because they have memorized a whole galaxy of trendy dogmas and fashionable attitudes.”

138. “External explanations of black-white differences — discrimination or poverty, for example—seem to many to be more amenable to public policy than internal explanations such as culture.”

139. “Price controls almost invariably produce black markets, where prices are not only higher than the legally permitted prices, but also higher than they would be in a free market, since the legal risks must also be compensated.”

140. “Where beliefs are not checked against facts, but instead facts must meet the test of consonance with the prevailing vision, we are in the process of sealing ourselves off from feedback from reality.”

141. “Heedless of the past, we are flying blind into the future.”

142. “Failure is part of the natural cycle of business. Companies are born, companies die, capitalism moves forward.”

143. “Prices are not costs. Prices are what pay for costs.”

144. “Suppose you are wrong? How would you know? How would you test for that possibility?”

145. “The crucial question is not whether evils exist, but whether the evils of the past or present are automatically the cause of major economic, educational, and other social disparities today.”

146. “Nowhere in the world do you find this evenness that people use as a norm.”

147. “The really painful surprise is that so many people based their hopes on his words, rather than on the record of his deeds.”

148. “The purpose of education is to give the student the intellectual tools to analyze—whether verbally or numerically—and to reach conclusions based on logic and evidence.”



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