Thomas Sowell is one of a handful of people whose prose I genuinely envy.
He's also brilliant, of course.
Milton Friedman, whom I disagree with on some things, was known for being an effective debater, but I think Sowell has even him beat: anti-capitalist platitudes don't stand a chance against the Sowell meat grinder.
And now, just today -- at age 87! -- Sowell has released a brand new book: Discrimination and Disparities.
I haven't read it yet, but I will.
From what I've seen of it, the new book reminds me of Sowell's criminally neglected work Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality?, which I've been recommending for as long as I can remember (my Amazon review from 2001 is still up).
One by one, the standard platitudes about discrimination and poverty fall before Sowell's relentless statistical assault. Discrimination causes poverty? How about the Chinese minority in Southeast Asia? Discrimination against the Chinese minority is actually written into the Malaysian constitution. And yet the Chinese minority still dominate the economy.
Likewise, Japanese-Americans were discriminated against so badly that 120,000 of them were forcibly relocated during World War II. Yet by 1959 they had equaled whites in income, and by 1969 were earning one-third more.
Politics is the only way for a minority group to advance? To the contrary: the general pattern in the United States has been for a group to become wealthy first and only then to enter politics (if at all). The Irish, on the other hand, who placed such emphasis on political action, lagged behind other ethnic groups.
The book is filled with information like this. Page by relentless page, Sowell relentlessly undermines the idea that outcome differences must be of sinister origin.
If Polish-Americans are 25 years older, on average, than Puerto Ricans, is that not going to be reflected in greater work experience, higher net worth, etc.? Yet nobody even bothers to consider age differences.
If half of Mexican-American women are married by age 18, but only 10 percent of Japanese-American women are, won't their life trajectories be radically different -- even if they were identical in all other traits?
By the end of Sowell's book, any reasonable person has to understand how cartoonish and silly it is to expect identical outcomes from different groups across a wide range of human experiences.
Of course, today the very existence of an intergroup disparity is made the subject of hysterical denunciations by campus demonstrators who aren't exactly known for appreciating subtlety.
All the more reason to cheer the truly great Thomas Sowell, and the unexpected gift of his new book.
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