Thomas Sowell: Have We Learned Anything?

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The conservative sage on the decline of intellectual debate, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and what the welfare state has done to black America.

Kyle Peterson interviews Thomas Sowell:

…Why do we never seem to learn these economic lessons? “I think there’s a market for foolish things,” Mr. Sowell says—and vested interests, too. Once an organization such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is created to find discrimination, no one should be startled when it finds discrimination. “There’s never going to be a time when the EEOC will file a report saying, ‘All right folks, there’s really not enough discrimination around to be spending all this money,’ ” he says. “You’re going to have ever-more-elaborate definitions of discrimination. So now, if you don’t want to hire an ax murderer who has somehow gotten paroled, then that’s discrimination.”

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 “One of the things I try to do in the book is to distinguish between what might be the legacy of slavery, and what’s the legacy of the welfare state. If you look at the first 100 years after slavery, black communities were a lot safer. People were a lot more decent. But then you look 30 years after the 1960s revolution, and you see this palpable retrogression—of which I think the key one is the growth of the single-parent family.”

It’s a funny line—and an instance of what sets Mr. Sowell apart: candor and independence of mind. No one can suggest that he doesn’t say what he thinks. In 1987, while testifying in favor of Judge Robert Bork’s ill-fated nomination to the Supreme Court, he told Joe Biden, a senator at the time, that he wouldn’t have a problem with literacy tests for voting or with $1.50 poll taxes, so long as they were evenly and fairly applied. When I ask whether he remembers this exchange, Mr. Sowell quips, “No, Joe Biden is forgettable.”

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 “If you say that Lester Maddox has to serve his chicken to blacks, you’re saying that the Boy Scouts have to have gay scout masters. You’re saying—ultimately—that the Catholic Church has to perform same-sex marriages.”

In our interview he maintains that the 1964 Civil Rights Act should have stuck to desegregating buses and government services, and let market forces take care of integrating lunch counters. Mr. Sowell says that the precedent set by imposing integration on people like Lester Maddox, a segregationist governor of Georgia who also owned a chicken restaurant, has opened a Pandora’s box.

“People want to believe what they want to believe, and the facts are not going to stop them’,  he says, adding that black leaders—from President Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder down to Al Sharpton—’do all they can to feed that sense of grievance, victimhood and resentment, because that’s where the votes are.’”

“If you say that Lester Maddox has to serve his chicken to blacks, you’re saying that the Boy Scouts have to have gay scout masters. You’re saying—ultimately—that the Catholic Church has to perform same-sex marriages.”

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“It’s not a question of the disproportion between blacks and whites, or Asians, but the disproportion between blacks of today and blacks of the previous generation. And that’s what’s scary.”

Mr. Sowell is unsparing toward those who purport to speak for American blacks. I ask him about the unrest in Ferguson, Mo. “People want to believe what they want to believe, and the facts are not going to stop them,” he says, adding that black leaders—from President Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder down to Al Sharpton—“do all they can to feed that sense of grievance, victimhood and resentment, because that’s where the votes are.”

“There’s never going to be a time when the EEOC will file a report saying, ‘All right folks, there’s really not enough discrimination around to be spending all this money.’”

What about Ta-Nehisi Coates, the black writer whose new book, a raw letter to his son about race relations in the U.S., is stirring public intellectuals? I read Mr. Sowell a line from Mr. Coates’s 15,000-word cover story for the Atlantic calling for reparations for slavery: “In America there is a strange and powerful belief that if you stab a black person 10 times, the bleeding stops and the healing begins the moment the assailant drops the knife.”

“Ah . . . yes,” Mr. Sowell sighs, as if recognizing a familiar tune. Read the rest of this entry »


Parents Dedicate New College Safe Space In Honor Of Daughter Who Felt Weird In Class Once

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Alexis Stigmore had to endure 40 harrowing minutes of class in a distressed state, forced to look at the world through the eyes of a set of people she disagreed with. Now there is a safe space dedicated in her honor. 

LYNNFIELD, MA—In an effort to provide sanctuary for Lynnfield College students exposed to perspectives different from their own, a new campus safe space was dedicated Wednesday in honor of Alexis Stigmore, a 2009 graduate who felt kind of weird in class one time.

“When our Alexis felt weird after hearing someone discuss an idea that did not conform to her personally held beliefs, she had no place to turn.”

Addressing students at the dedication ceremony, parents Arnold and Cassie Stigmore noted that while the college had adequate facilities to assist victims of discrimination, abuse, and post-traumatic stress, it had until now offered no comparable safe space for students, like their beloved daughter, who encounter an academic viewpoint that gives them an uncomfortable feeling.

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 “If unfamiliar thoughts are ever provoked in your mind, or in the mind of someone you know, you can come to this place and feel safe again.”

“When our Alexis felt weird after hearing someone discuss an idea that did not conform to her personally held beliefs, she had no place to turn,” said Arnold Stigmore, standing outside the $2 million space that reportedly features soothing music, neutral-colored walls, oversized floor cushions, fun board games, and a variety of snacks. “God forbid any of you, in your years at this institution, are ever confronted with an opinion you do not share. But if you are, you will have a refuge on this campus.”

 “As a parent, I’ll always wish I could have been there for her in that lecture hall, protecting her from those unwelcome concepts.”

“If unfamiliar thoughts are ever provoked in your mind, or in the mind of someone you know, you can come to this place and feel safe again,” he added. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Russian Plane Freezes to the Ground, Desperate Passengers Get Out and Push


Kentucky Bill Would Let Service Monkeys Assist Paralyzed People

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky legislators may soon debate whether to allow service monkeys to assist paralyzed adults with simple household tasks.

A northern Kentucky lawmaker has introduced the bill at the request of a family that looked into bringing in a service monkey to assist their daughter, who was paralyzed in an automobile accident. The family found out Kentucky prohibits the use of service monkeys.

“Like all families do, they were searching for ways to help,” Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, said in a recent interview.

Read the rest of this entry »