Long Live Thomas Sowell – Review of Social Justice Fallacies

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2024/01/19/long-live-thomas-sowell-review-of-social-justice-fallacies/

Social Justice Fallacies
by Thomas Lowell
Basic Books
September 2023

 

Thomas Sowell is one of America’s national treasures.  Author of more than 40 books, he recently published Social Justice Fallacies at the age of 93. Why is he so little known by the country’s public policy intellectual elites?

Is it because he is a conservative African-American, who has been affiliated with the Hoover Institution since 1980? Has he been relegated to the cultural margins like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, because he does not prostrate himself before the progressive elites?

Or perhaps his lack of acclaim is because he has written dismissively of affirmative action and believes that it has done more harm than good to blacks.  Add to that, he upsets progressive and liberal forces by his thoughtful and thorough criticism of the doctrine of “disparate impact.”

Disparate impact is the supposed need for proportional representation by race and ethnicity in most organizations and cultural entities. Sowell has repeatedly demonstrated how wrong-headed it is, and — even more important — how harmful to society it is.

It is tragic that Sowell has been “cancelled” and that race-baiters like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Ibram X. Kendi are far better known than he is.  But anyone who has read Thomas Sowell should realize that his policies and prescriptions are the ones that will rescue America from its infatuation with “social justice.”

Sowell was born in 1930 in the small, segregated North Carolina town of Gastonia. Orphaned as a small child, he was raised in Harlem from age 9. He never finished high school. Instead, he joined the U.S. Marines, and like so many young people of all races (like J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy and now a U.S. senator from Ohio), the military gave him his start in life.

Sowell earned his general equivalency degree in the Marines, and then went to historically black Howard University in Washington D.C. on the G.I. Bill before transferring to Harvard, where he graduated magna cum laude. He earned a master’s degree in economics from Columbia University and a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago. In his 20s Sowell was a Marxist, but he soon repudiated Marxism and became a leading proponent of the Chicago School of economics. He left the Democratic Party in 1972 and is an independent. He describes himself as a libertarian.

Social Justice Fallacies shreds the fashionable theories of white supremacy, and “systemic racism” which allegedly bedevil the United States.  Sowell writes that “at the heart of the social justice vision is the assumption that, because economic and other disparities among human beings greatly exceed any differences in their innate capacities, these disparities are evidence or proof of the effects of human vices as exploitation or discrimination.”  Thus, for example, social justice theorists maintain that, if African-Americans have, on average, less household income than whites, this is prima facie evidence of racism. But Sowell destroys this theory with pages and pages of statistics countering this propaganda.

For example, Sowell states that the 2020 census showed that more than 9 million black Americans had higher incomesthan the median incomes of white Americans.  He also shows the vital importance of two-parent families. He writes that “white, female-headed, single parent families have had a poverty rate more than double the poverty rate of black married couple families in every year from 1994 to 2020, the latest year for which data is available.”  If white supremacy is so powerful, how could this be the result?

Even more enlightening is the data in the 2020 census that showed that Asians of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Korean ancestry had higher incomes than whites. Moreover, these groups had median per capita income more than twice as high as the median per capita income of Mexican-Americans?  Is racism at work here, too?

In the early pages of the book, Sowell has some fun, showing how ridiculous the mandate of “disparate impact” is by looking at statistics in various sports. He writes that blacks are way overrepresented in professional basketball (and in the National Football League), whites are overrepresented in tennis, and Hispanics are overrepresented in Major League Baseball. In professional ice hockey, where there are far more teams in America than in Canada, there are more Canadian players than American players – even though the population of the United States is more than eight times the population of Canada.

Another social justice canard endlessly repeated without any empirical data to back it up is that women are statistically underrepresented in Silicon Valley. Well, Sowell destroys this contention by showing that work in Silicon Valley is based on the application of engineering skills, including software engineering, and American women received less than 30 percent of the degrees in engineering, whether at the college level or the postgraduate level. Naturally there are more men working in Silicon Valley, as there are twice as many men in the talent pool.

Sowell also skewers those in the political, educational, and media industries who constantly talk about the widening gap of rich and poor in America with the old lie “the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer.” He quotes a University of Michigan study that found that 95 percent of people initially in the lowest quintile of income rose out of that quintile during the years covered, leaving just 5 percetnt of the people still left in the bottom quintile. He also shows that most of the supposedly “charmed circle of the 1 percent” income earners in 1996, as progressive Professor Paul Krugman called them, were not there in 2005, In other words, there is still a lot of income mobility in the United States.

Social Justice Fallacies is a short book — only 130 pages, with almost 70 pages of endnotes. But in those 70 pages are reams of statistics that can be used with great power and lucidity to win diversity-equity-inclusion or critical-race-theory arguments in the Academy or other progressive institutions.

Once again Sowell has written a book that not only tells the truth but helps Americans sift fact from fiction while navigating the divisions in our society on race and fake social justice.

 

Robert H. Bradley is Chairman of Bradley, Foster & Sargent Inc., a $6.7 billion wealth management firm that has offices in Hartford, Connecticut and Wellesley, Massachusetts.  Read other articles by him here.

 

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