“Ideology is fairy tales for adults.” Thus writes economist and conservative maven Sowell in a best-of volume shot through with…ideology.
Though he resists easy categorization, the author has been associated with hard-libertarian organizations and think tanks such as the Hoover Institution for most of his long working life. Here he picks from his numerous writings, which have the consistency of an ideologue—e.g., affirmative action is bad, period. It’s up to parents, not society or the schools, to be sure that children are educated. Ethnic studies and the “mania for ‘diversity’ ” produce delusions. Colleges teach impressionable Americans to “despise American society.” Minimum-wage laws are a drag on the economy. And so on. Sowell is generally fair-minded, reasonable and logical, but his readers will likely already be converts to his cause, for which reason he does not need to examine all the angles of a problem. (If it is true that most gun violence is committed in households where domestic abuse has taken place, then why not take away the abusers’ guns as part of the legal sentencing?) Often his arguments are very smart, as when he examines the career of Booker T. Washington, who was adept in using white people’s money to advance his causes while harboring no illusions that his benefactors were saints. Sometimes, though, Sowell’s sentiments emerge as pabulum, as when he writes, in would-be apothegms: “Government bailouts are like potato chips: You can’t stop with just one”; “I can understand why some people like to drive slowly. What I cannot understand is why they get in the fast lane to do it.” The answer to the second question, following Sowell, might go thus: because they’re liberals and the state tells them to do it, just to get in the way of hard-working real Americans.
A solid, representative collection by a writer and thinker whom one either agrees with or not—and there’s not much middle ground on which to stand.