From conservative think-tanker Sowell (The Quest for Cosmic Justice, 1999, etc.), ideological balderdash parading as a disinterested introduction to economics.
“Utter ignorance and gross fallacies” dominate the economic knowledge of the man on the street, thunders Sowell, so he is here to right this wrong with a clear-eyed introduction to the dismal science, free of bell curve and bar graph, and most of all with “nothing to say about the validity of social, moral, or political goals such as ‘affordable housing,’ ‘a living wage’ or ‘social justice.’” Readers can almost feel the spray of his invective, but Sowell claims that these elements play no role in economics, which is “the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses.” The free flow of money and goods in a competitive market is Sowell’s Eden. And he trots out one example after another of how fettering the market will bring ill results: how the homeless of New York would have roofs if there had never been rent control, how “distinguishing discrimination from differences in qualifications and performances is not easy in practice, though the distinction is fundamental in principal,” as if racism were no more institutionalized than his market is value-free. “Monopolies are very hard to maintain without laws to protect the monopoly forms from competition,” is typical Sowell, as if, one, monopolies were foundlings in need of protection and, two, they didn’t get that very protection already. When Sowell reduces economics to the twin concepts of scarcity and the intelligent allocation of resources, he really does seem to think his readers are so “ill-informed and misinformed” as to forget that without society there would be no economics, and that society does sometimes think about the social contract, rights, and protection of the weak.
Sowell’s economics in a social vacuum is as meaningful as color in the absence of light.