Economist Thomas Sowell Destroys Liberal Race Myths

Who else is sick of liberals dominating all of the narratives in this country? They are a loud bunch, and they are just stubborn enough to shout their way past logic and common sense. It’s beyond frustrating.

Thankfully, there are occasional instances of educated people cutting through the narrative and dropping truth on our society. One person who has regularly created those instances throughout his career is Thomas Sowell.

If you aren’t familiar with his work, he’s one of the leading economists of the last 50 years. He just wrote a new book, and in it, he completely destroyed many common liberal race myths.

Race and Money

There are two race myths centered around the average economic success of ethnic minorities in the United States. The first is that people of certain races are inherently less able to succeed. These come in the form of IQ myths and other generalized statements that some races are just better than others.

While we typically dismiss these ideas as being racist, there is some irony in all of it. The longstanding leftist position is that minorities cannot succeed without societal and governmental intervention. Many people on the left are ‘accidentally’ racist when they push these ideas.

The more prominent notion today is that certain races struggle in the U.S. because of longstanding, systemic racism. We have to redistribute wealth in order to compensate for how black people suffered under slavery and Jim Crow. Intuitively, this seems to make sense, but when you look a little deeper, it falls apart too.

In his book, Sowell completely dismantles this myth in two ways. First, he points out how racial minorities have fared in other societies. One example looks at people of Chinese descent throughout southeast Asia.

On average, Chinese people in these other countries do extremely well economically, and a lot of that success comes from dominating retail. This is despite institutionalized racism against the Chinese in these other countries.

He makes a similar point by looking at people of Jewish descent throughout Europe. The point is that there are countless examples of minority groups thriving right in the face of racism.

The logical explanation is pretty simple. Minority groups tend to form subcultures within a nation. When people of that subculture find success somewhere, they teach what they know, and it proliferates through the culture. It’s why so many Jewish Americans work in the same industries. It’s why Chinatown in different cities looks so familiar. Mostly, it shows culture, not race, dominates this trend.

The second way he destroys the myth is by looking at black Americans in a historical context. From the end of slavery until the 1940s, blacks consistently did better in this country. The poverty rate was essentially cut in half over that period.

That success accelerated through the 40s and 50s, but by the end of the 60s, it had ground to a halt. In fact, economic success of black Americans reversed in the 70s and 80s. Sowell points out that this perfectly coincides with the development of the welfare state. It reversed progress.

There’s another huge myth among social justice warriors. They suggest that the family unit isn’t important. Racism, not absent fathers, is responsible for the struggle of black Americans. Again, Sowell has strong answers for this.

For one thing, he shows that even within the same family, there are factors that strongly outweigh any systemic racism in America. Simply being the first-born child correlates with a much higher rate of economic and social success.

This isn’t biological, by the way. Parenting shifts as parents have more kids, and those natural shifts bear different impacts on how well children do in society. More importantly, birth order is a much stronger indicator of success than race in modern America.

If we look back at the change in black America from the 50s to the 80s, we find that the decline in black success rates doesn’t just coincide with the founding of the welfare state. It also trends with a rapid decline in family cohesiveness. In the 50s, two-thirds of black children were being raised by both parents. By the end of the 80s, more than 80 percent of children did not know their father.

The numbers don’t lie. Family matters much more than any lingering American racism.

Social Justice Hurts

The final great myth surrounding racism in America is that empathy and compassion are the key to overcoming poverty. Sowell used clear historical examples to destroy this notion as well. He showed that social justice promotes acceptance and tolerance, and those very notions are at the heart of the problem for struggling black Americans.

It goes like this. When society is judgmental and harsh, people are ashamed of making decisions that make them unsuccessful in that society. That judgmental society pushes them to make better decisions, and it’s better for the people under that pressure.

Again, Sowell uses a number of historical examples to show how these shifts have hurt black America. Back when black kids had fathers, it was socially unacceptable to leave a woman to raise a family by herself. The welfare state changed the finances, but it was the ‘tolerance’ of social justice that normalized absentee fathers, and the results are clear to see.

These are only three of many important points in Sowell’s latest book. Overall, he takes the liberal narratives head-on, and in every case, he systematically disproves the notions. He uses solid evidence and unshakable logic at every turn. It’s a great read, and easy to recommend for anyone.

If you don’t fancy books written by economists (they can be even drier than what you just read), check out some of his interviews. They are always enlightening, and they firmly prove what we’ve known all along.

The key to success in this world is to work hard and do what is right. Trying to forcefully take success from people and redistribute it will never work, and the harm always outweighs the good.


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