In Ethnic America, Prof. Sower (Hoover Institution) cheered the uphill march of ethnic and racial groups in America; in The Economics and Politics of Race, he suggests that the shortest route to the top is through economic rather than political competition. From the world over comes evidence that you can't keep a good culture down. Wherever the Chinese settled in southeast Asia, they brought new economic vitality to tradition-bound societies. "Working harder and saving more than the native peoples, the Chinese created new functions, crops, businesses, and industries . . .Politically, however, they have been targets of abuse, discrimination, and often mob violence and even wholesale massacres." In America, though the Scotch-Irish and the Germans were both predominantly family farmers, and the Scotch-Irish got to the land first, the Germans were more successful. "The differences in their work habits were symbolized by the difference between the log cabin that the Scotch-Irish made. . .because it required little skill or equipment to build--and the huge barns and sturdy houses laboriously constructed by the Germans." Sowell tries to soften the blow ("The point here is not to praise, blame, or rank whole races and cultures. . .")--but the economic message is unmistakable: "One of the most obvious reasons why some groups earn higher incomes than others is often ignored: They work more." The political message is less clear. "The oft-repeated demand for alternative policies will not be met here" says Sowell in conclusion. Still, he considers cultures as possessing human capital, an argument now favored by opponents of affirmative action, and does believe that "the politicization of economic and social life increases the costs of intergroup differences, and tends to heighten mutual hostility." Benign neglect in the ethnic marketplace? Reassurance for fans of laissez-faire, cold comfort for those on unemployment lines.