News & Politics

14 Amazing Thomas Sowell Quotes in Honor of His Last Column

Economist Thomas Sowell has long been one of the leading lights of the conservative movement in America. His path from high school dropout to renowned professor has inspired thousands and his insights on the history of race relations in America are invaluable.

On Tuesday, Sowell announced his retirement from 25 years of writing political columns. The professor is putting his pen to rest following an “awful” political year. During a stay in Yosemite National Park, he realized that “four consecutive days without seeing a newspaper or a television news program” felt “wonderful.”

After dropping out of high school at age 17, Sowell graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University at age 28, and earned his doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago a decade later. He taught economics at several universities, and has been a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University since 1980.

Over his distinguished career, Sowell has written more than thirty books. Most notable are: Wealth, Poverty, and PoliticsBasic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the EconomyA Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles; and Black Rednecks and White Liberals.

Sowell has never been afraid to pen the most politically incorrect truths, and he has provided a well-informed and nuanced view of race and economics in America in a uniquely compelling voice.

Conservative leaders lamented his retirement from politics, praising the professor’s influence and wisdom.

Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint declared that Sowell’s “brilliance & wit outshone economists half his age—& often, less than half his sense.”

Here is a sampling of that brilliance and wit.

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

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

3. “Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good.”

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

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

6. “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.”

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

8. “Going back a hundred years, when blacks were just one generation out of slavery, we find that the census data of that era showed that a slightly higher percentage of black adults had married than white adults.”

9. “The black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow, but it has disintegrated in the wake of the liberals’ expansion of the welfare state.”

10. “The welfare state is not really about the welfare of the masses. It is about the egos of the elites.”

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

12. “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?”

13. “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.”

14. “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.”

And a bonus: “People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.”

Thomas Sowell, you will be sorely missed.