Conservative Book Club
“Transcending partisanship through a careful examination of data, Wealth, Poverty, and Politics reveals the truth about the most explosive political issue of our time.”
“A calmly phrased but damning indictment of perhaps the world's most rhetorical blunt political instrument: class hatred.”
“A true gem in terms of exposing the demagoguery and sheer ignorance of politicians and intellectuals in their claims about wealth and poverty.... Dr. Sowell's new book tosses a monkey wrench into most of the things said about income by politicians, intellectuals and assorted hustlers, plus it's a fun read.”
Wall Street Journal
“In his latest tome, [Sowell] draws from this well of research to do what he has done so well for so long: question basic assumptions behind public policy and follow the facts where they lead him.”
“It's a scandal that economist Thomas Sowell has not been awarded the Nobel Prize. No one alive has turned out so many insightful, richly researched books. His latest is another triumph of crackling observations that underscore the ignorance of our economists and policymakers. His take on how culture, geography, politics and social factors affect how societies progress—or don't—will rile those addicted to political correctness but leave everyone else wiser.”
“Sowell has done us a great service by placing our current controversies in international context.”
“Sowell's latest book, latest of 52 by my count, contains the kind of acute analysis and fearless commentary his readers have relied on since 1971's Economics: Analysis and Issues... his writing is crystal-clear, free of academic jargon and the kind of specialist clutter that often disfigures the writing of academics.... Most of his books remain in print and repay the time of thoughtful readers, as does Wealth, Poverty, and Politics. Santa should be aware of this.”
“[Wealth, Poverty and Politics should be one of the most influential works of the 2016 election season. This isn't just a work of characteristic brilliance from Sowell—it's a laser-guided intellectual weapon aimed at the foundations of liberal envy politics.... Dr. Sowell's book is a masterful fusion of science and common sense on the subject of why some groups are impoverished, and what society can do to lift them out of poverty.... Every presidential candidate should read this book immediately, and require all campaign surrogates to digest it as well.... Wealth, Poverty, and Politics provides the sharp intellectual weapons necessary to cut through that argument, and its wisdom can help conservatives design policies that might actually make a difference.”
“This...book will enhance and promote ongoing and important debates and discussions.”
“A provocative analysis of the universal causes of economic success and failure.... While Sowell offers no pat solutions, his implied argument that cultural considerations must inform any serious attempt at improving the economic prospects of an underperforming nation or group merits serious consideration."
Hoover Institution economist Sowell (Intellectuals and Race) minces no words in his hard-hitting survey of global wealth and poverty. He first considers the effects of geography on economic history before moving on to culture, comparing trust, human capital, and attitudes toward education and work in different societies. Dwelling on race, a familiar Sowell theme, he looks skeptically at liberal explanations for lingering black poverty, which he attributes to fatherless families and welfare. The latter, in Sowell’s view, creates dependent populations managed by self-interested bureaucrats. A prominent figure among African-American conservatives, he criticizes black community leaders for fomenting hostility toward other racial groups, and multiculturalism for enshrining “ghetto culture.” To what extent are “external barriers” significant, he asks, when questions about “internal deficiencies in knowledge, discipline, values” are “kept off the agenda?” For cures, Sowell disputes the rich-getting-richer, redistributionist themes pitched by Thomas Picketty, Paul Krugman, and others, noting fluxes in incomes and turnover of wealth over time. His compelling survey of what generates success and failure worldwide will challenge committed progressives. Sowell concludes, “If there is any common thread in these varying outcomes, it seems to be human capital.” Open-minded readers will find Sowell’s directness, honesty, and common sense refreshing and often wise. (Sept.)
In an Aristotelian schema, substance and accidents are a prime consideration. In Sowell's (Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy, Hoover Institution, Stanford Univ.; Intellectuals and Race; Economic Facts and Fallacies) book, the accidents frame the structure for a global perspective on world cultures. Why do some people and places advance more than others? While luck and good fortune may play some role, Sowell posits that fundamental characteristics such as geography, climate, and intelligence are the real determinants. Sowell's investigation is, in many ways, a microcosm of the television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. Scholars in the fields of geography, demographics, anthropology, and economics will find points here upon which to quibble. Much as Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve and Thomas L. Friedman's The Lexus and the Olive Tree raised controversy, at the same they also raised consciousness. VERDICT A worthwhile read. Had such an approach been available in this reviewer's student days, his understanding of the world would be that much better.—Steven Silkunas, Fernandina Beach, FL
A provocative analysis of the universal causes of economic success and failure. Rather than stating a thesis at the outset, Hoover Institution senior fellow Sowell (Intellectuals and Race, 2013, etc.) starts by describing disparities in the prosperity of societies around the world throughout history. In plain language tailored for general readers, he traces these differences to variations in geography, culture, society, and politics, each of which he cogently describes and analyzes in some detail, concluding that it is senseless "to reasonably expect equal economic outcomes...when the things that go into creating those outcomes vary so greatly." If any factor is markedly determinative of economic progress, it is the accumulation of "human capital," including education, job skills, intact families, honesty, and a strong work ethic. Never one to be cowed by political correctness, the author bluntly maintains that some cultures have values like these, which are conducive to the creation of wealth over generations, and some do not. It gradually becomes clear that Sowell is mounting an assault on the redistributionist approach to alleviating poverty, both domestically and internationally. Indeed, he blames the burgeoning welfare state in the United States and Britain for regressions in education and economic standing among blacks and working-class whites over the past 50 years. The author raises many inconvenient facts that should trouble advocates of diversity and cultural relativism, and he effectively refutes progressives' excuses for why their approaches to eliminating poverty have too often produced government dependence and social breakdown. Ironically, given his argument from complexity, his conclusions too often suffer from an oversimplification of causes, failing to take sufficient account of factors that do not contribute to his occasionally tendentious politically conservative argument. While Sowell offers no pat solutions, his implied argument that cultural considerations must inform any serious attempt at improving the economic prospects of an underperforming nation or group merits serious consideration.