I started reading his columns in the early '90s, probably about the time that he started writing them. Every time I'd see his byline I'd stop what I was doing and read the column. It wasn't until several years later that I learned he was an economist, and a year or so after that I learned he is a black man. Not that it mattered. Like most of the country, I had moved past the idea that race mattered.
When I was in college, back in the '70s, and in graduate school in the '80s, I studied economics as part of my curriculum. A professor once told me that if I wanted to understand the human condition, to study economics. It's a hard science (with lots of math) that tries to explain why people act the way that we do. That's good advice, and Dr. Sowell's columns try to explain the human condition.
Here's a small sampling of his better quotes.
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, as it turns out, Dr. Sowell also has had his fill of meetings. "People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything."
Thank you, Dr. Sowell. I hope that you enjoy your retirement. You have touched far more people than you will ever know.