This is a book about intellectuals written for the lay person. Its purpose is to unravel the world of intellectuals in order to understand an important social phenomenon how the thinkers of our society mold that society, leaving an impact on people in every walk of life, even if they are basically unknown to the world at large. It is a portion of the population whose activities can have, and have had, momentous implications for nations and civilizations.
Binding MP3 CD
Release Date Jan 1, 2010
Publisher Blackstone Audio, Inc.
ISBN 1441715665 EAN 9781441715661
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More About Thomas Sowell Tom Weiner
Thomas Sowell was born in North Carolina and grew up in Harlem. As with many others in his neighborhood, Thomas Sowell left home early and did not finish high school. The next few years were difficult ones, but eventually he joined the Marine Corps and became a photographer in the Korean War. After leaving the service, Thomas Sowell entered Harvard University, worked a part-time job as a photographer and studied the science that would become his passion and profession: economics.
Thomas Sowell graduated from Harvard University, received his Master's in Economics from Columbia University and his Doctorate in Economics from the University of Chicago.
In the early '60s, Sowell held jobs as an economist with the Department of Labor and AT&T. But his real interest was in teaching. Sowell began the first of many professorships at Cornell University, and his other teaching assignments include Rutgers University, Amherst College, Brandeis University and the UCLA, where he taught in the early '70s and '80s.
Thomas Sowell has a large volume of writing including a dozen books, and numerous articles and essays; covering a wide range of topics, from classic economic theory to civil rights and judicial activism, even choosing the right college. Much of his ground-breaking writing will outlive the great majority of scholarship done today!
Though Thomas Sowell had been a regular contributor to newspapers in the late '70s and early '80s, he did not begin his career as a newspaper columnist until 1984. In 1990, he won the prestigious Francis Boyer Award, presented by The American Enterprise Institute.
"George F. Will's writing," says Sowell, "...proved to him that someone could say something of substance in so short a space (750 words). And besides, writing for the general public enables him to address the heart of issues without the smoke and mirrors that so often accompany academic writing."
Sowell's very timely book,The Housing Boom and Bust: Revised Edition attempts to determine whether what is being done to deal with America's 2009-2010 housing boom and bust problem is more likely to make things better or worse. His examination of racism and Liberalism in Black Rednecks and White Liberals is a classic from a daring perspective rarely heard in the Black Community. Nowhere else will you read about the co-dependent relationship between "..black rednecks.. and white liberals.."
Currently Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute in Stanford, Calif.
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A book with the title Intellectuals and Society can be expected to range widely, and Thomas Sowell's latest does not disappoint, covering ground from economics to criminology and foreign policy.
In each area, Mr. Sowell's complaint is that intellectuals -- "people whose occupations deal primarily with ideas - writers, academics, and the like" - are having negative effects. And, maddeningly, these intellectuals are "unaccountable to the external world," immune from sanction, insulated even from the loss of reputation that those in other fields suffer after having been proven wrong.
The reputation of certain intellectuals may not be quite so immune after Mr. Sowell has finished with them, because he is withering in assessing and recording their failures.
The newspapers take it particularly hard from Mr. Sowell, and not just the American ones. There was the Daily Telegraph's prediction that Hitler would be gone before the end of 1932, and the Times of London's description of the Nazi dictator as a "moderate." Add to this a New York Times column issued by Tom Wicker on the collapse of the Communist bloc, cautioning, "that Communism has failed does not make the Western alternative perfect, or even satisfying for millions of those who live under it."
This book does a wonderful job at marshalling facts to puncture commonly held notions of intellectuals and others who tend to be political liberals. It'd be hard to think the same way about income inequality ever again after reading Mr. Sowell's tremendously clear explanation of confusion between income and wealth and "confusion between statistical categories and flesh-and-blood human beings." By the time Mr. Sowell is done, the confusion is gone.
He does the same job on gun control, on the supposed epidemic of arson fires at black churches in 1996, and on various topics related to crime and punishment. Mr. Sowell can turn phrases back around at left-wing intellectuals like boomerangs. "What is called 'planning' is the forcible suppression of millions of people's plans by a government-imposed plan," he writes. "Many of what are called social problems are differences between the theories of intellectuals and the realities of the world - differences which many intellectuals interpret to mean that it is the real world that is wrong and needs changing."
Even those already steeped in free-market economic thinking will find new facts and perspectives here. Who knew, for example, that restrictions on land use have so artificially inflated housing prices in San Francisco that "the black population has been cut in half since 1970"?
"The power of arbitrary regulation is the power to extort," Mr. Sowell writes, giving as an example a San Mateo, Calif., housing development whose approval was contingent on the builders turning over to local authorities 12 acres for a park, contributing $350,000 for public art, and selling about 15% of the homes below their market value.
Some of these historical facts may be relevant to our own times, such as Mr. Sowell's observation that, "As President, Hoover responded to a growing federal deficit during the depression by proposing, and later signing into law, a large increase in tax rates - from the existing rate of between 20 and 30 percent for people in the top income brackets to new rates of more than 60 percent in those brackets."
Mr. Sowell does sometime tilts his facts to favor his thesis. For example, there's a whole scathing section about intellectuals who opposed President Bush's "surge" in Iraq, but there's no mention of the fact that the idea for the surge came from a right-of-center policy intellectual, Frederick Kagan. While Mr. Sowell faults "intellectuals" for all kinds of bad thinking, in so doing he relies on and cites approvingly a string of other intellectuals -- Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Eric Hoffer, Paul Johnson, Robert Bartley, James Q. Wilson, Victor Davis Hanson. Mr. Sowell himself, by his own definition, qualifies as an intellectual.
If Mr. Sowell is angry at intellectuals, one reason is for covering up the progress and prosperity of his own country and the open-mindedness of its people. "Data showing the poverty rate among black married couples in America to have been in single digits for every year since 1994 are unlikely to get much, if any, attention in most of the media. Still less is it likely to lead to any consideration of the implications of such data for the view that the high poverty rate among blacks reflects the larger society's racism, even though married blacks are of the same race as unmarried mothers living in the ghetto on welfare, and would therefore be just as subject to racism, if that was the main reason for poverty," he writes.
Intellectuals and Society seems to have been written by Mr. Sowell out of a belief, or a hope, that the society will ultimately outsmart the intellectuals. Armed with Mr. Sowell's book, readers will be in a better position to help do that.
Sins of Omission Jan 2, 2010
As a policy I do not usually post reviews of books that I have not yet read cover to cover (I've read only the first 6 pages that I can view in the preview view of this site, which is enough to see that he is simply repackaging content from his earlier compilations "Is Reality Optional?", "Barbarians Inside the Gate" and "Controversial Essays"). However, this review is more a review of the author's collected works than it is of this particular book, which looks like another rehash of ideas he's already covered in his earlier essays. With that disclosure made, on to the actual review:
I like Sowell, I really do. I've been reading his books for the past 10 years and I've always enjoyed his ability to break down an arugment into "what works vs. what doesn't" instead of the usual political game of "us vs. them". What Sowell writes is always factual and accurate, unfortunately, he omits far too many relevant facts that don't fit his narrative. These sins of omission make me question Sowell's commitment to academic integrity. I'm not interested in comparing who is worse, left or right, but when an author completely ignores the failings of half the political spectrum while obsessing about the smallest flaws of the other side he exposes himself as nothing more than just another pundit looking to manipulate his audience's emotions rather than an honest academic commited to the truth.
As I said, I like Sowell, I really do. His training as an economist and his talents as a writer equip him to be a true academic force, which is why it's so disappointing to see him reduced to peddling opinions like the vulgar media personalities that he rails against so vehemently. Some of the other reviewers ask the question "why aren't intellectuals on the right [like Sowell] influencing the media like those on the left do?". Well, the answer to that question is that the right-leaning intellectuals like Sowell would rather preach to the choir than go head-to-head with the intellectuals on the left. There is no money to be made in debating the opposition, the money is made selling books to people who already agree with you, whose opinions you can validate and reinforce.
A good book for many people in the world! Jan 1, 2010
This book points out the concepts and ideas of unwise intellectuals could lead to mistaken conclusions and unwise actions. The ideas of intellectuals could also be foolish.
Intellectuals as a class affect modern societies greatly in many countries, because most people may easily believe what intellectuals say. Some rulers may even use intellectuals as the tools to influence other people's opinions on certain subjects.
This is certainly a good book for many people in many countries.
Sam Author, Two Tigers
One Intellectual Discredits Others Dec 31, 2009
Intellectuals and Society is the latest in a series of books on Western `intellectuals', by Thomas Sowell. Intellectuals deal with ideas, but may not do so intelligently. Sowell is mainly concerned with the verifiability of ideas. The social visions of intellectuals like Rousseau, Marx and Engels, Galbraith, and Keynes have had dire consequences.
This book contains a plethora of examples of how many high profile intellectuals in the media and academia have been proven wrong- but without losing credibility among their peers or target audience. This is a serious problem because intellectuals affect public opinion, and with it public policy. Intellectuals of the past successfully agitated for defective policies: for so-called protectionism, living wages, and social justice has hindered economic progress. The naïve attitude that some intellectuals have had towards totalitarian movements proved disastrous. Yet many of the same defective arguments from earlier periods are still in use by today's intellectuals.
Sowell does a good job of illustrating the pernicious influence of leftist intellectuals. What is less clear is why opposing intellectuals, like Sowell himself, have not been more successful. Is there a simple lack of data among certain people? Does ideology cause a lack of cognitive dissonance? Are there self-serving reasons for spreading faulty theories, visions, or data? These are an important question, the answers to which will tell us if we need better education or a better vision (or maybe both). The fact of the matter is that this book does help to discredit certain intellectuals, and this is an important next step. Unfortunately, it will be read least by those who need to most urgently: those who are routinely swayed by defective ideas need to read this book, but how many of them will?