According to Jason L. Riley, Thomas Sowell, who is retiring his syndicated column, once described Milton Friedman as “one of the very few intellectuals with both genius and common sense… ” He (Friedman) “could express himself at the highest analytical levels to his fellow economists in academic publications and still write popular books . . . that could be understood by people who knew nothing about economics.”
The description is an apt one for Mr. Sowell, as well, notes Mr. Riley in the WSJ. While an undergrad student in the early 1990s, Jason Riley discovered Mr. Sowell during a discussion on racial preferences. Sowell’s Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality was recommended to Mr. Riley, who writes, “I retrieved it from the school library that afternoon and read it that same evening. I returned to the library the following day, checked out the remainder of its Sowell collection, and spent the next couple of weeks immersed in his writings.”
Mr. Sowell writes in “plain English,” as he likes to put it, which in and of itself distinguishes him from most intellectuals, who seem allergic to accessible prose. He wants you to understand what he’s saying, not to be impressed with his vocabulary. He trained in economics at the University of Chicago, where professors stressed empiricism and measurement through statistics, so data carry weight with him. The numbers don’t lie, and Mr. Sowell is a numbers guy. He goes where the data lead him, and he accepts the findings, however discomfiting or politically incorrect. His readers appreciate the intellectual honesty and integrity. If you don’t have the data to back up what you’re saying, or if you’re trying to massage the evidence to get a result you prefer, better to avoid arguing with Mr. Sowell.
At 86, Thomas Sowell would like to spend “less time following politics and more time” on his hobbies. “But what it means in practice,” continues Mr. Riley, “is that many readers are losing perhaps the best professor they’ve ever had, even if they never went to college.”
Read more here.
Find Sowell’s latest book, Wealth Poverty and Politics here.