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An Inspiring Nonconformist

We can learn a great deal from the life and work of Thomas Sowell.

Coleman Hughes’ article on the life and work of Thomas Sowell offers inspiring insights to his life, work, and scholarship (“The Nonconformist,” City Journal, Summer 2020).

Sowell is an example of what a person can do who has the vision, drive, and resolve to pursue a dream. Sowell has been primarily an economist, but he has written and spoken on a wide range of other topics related to society and culture as well. Once a Marxist, Sowell has developed into one of the foremost conservative thinkers in America today.

Thomas Sowell was raised in poverty by an aunt, after his parents died when he was young. He has written on the importance of free markets, the futility of government planning, and the competition of visions between those who espouse individual freedom and responsibility and those who want to centralize power and decision-making. His most important book, Knowledge and Decisions, argues that “humans are inherently more flawed than perfectible, more ignorant than knowledgeable, and more prone to selfishness than altruism. Good institutions take the tragic facts of human nature as given and create incentive structures that, without requiring men and women to be saints or geniuses, still lead to socially desirable outcomes. A good example is the price mechanism as described by Hayek. Centralized power is treated with suspicion, as the humans who wield it will be self-interested, or worse. What’s more, in the constrained vision, traditions and social mores are trusted because they represent the accrued wisdom of untold generations.”

I have read Sowell’s Conflict of Visions - a worthwhile read - and this article encourages me to take up Knowledge and Decisions and perhaps other works by Thomas Sowell as well (not available yet on Kindle, alas).

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