I Still Think Thomas Sowell is a Hack
Thomas Sowell recently announced his retirement.
Ten years ago, I explained why I believe him to be a hack. Examples are provided, but refreshments are on you. Read it and reach your own conclusions.
Thomas Sowell recently announced his retirement.
Ten years ago, I explained why I believe him to be a hack. Examples are provided, but refreshments are on you. Read it and reach your own conclusions.
Agreed I had a conversation with him one time. He proved out the way I thought he would be.
I have never read him, but the people I have read quoting him as support for their positions are not great people.
I liked you a lot more when you were calling BS BS
Sowell is the most, well, eminent of a troika of Black intellectuals with economic-y background. (The other two are Shelby Steele and Walter Williams.) Being Black conservatives gives them a certain cachet among conservatives, who can point to these three as evidence that the tent is broader than you might otherwise think. All three suffer from the Clarence Thomas problem – if you grant the premise that the school of thought to which they belong has a coherent world view, it is, nevertheless, obvious that none of the three are are among the better proponents of that world view.
Of course, the right is not alone at falling victim to what GW called the soft bigotry of low expectations, though I am sure Beverly can explain how Sonia Sotomayor is one of the pre-eminent legal minds of our era.
I still am calling BS BS. I have merely started becoming concerned about more than taxation and high level spending.
Wow, Mike, you’re right about something! I can indeed explain how Sonia Sotomayor is one of the pre-eminent legal minds of our era—most certainly in comparison to, oh, say, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy, and, frankly, also in comparison to Elena Kagan, and in comparison to the runner-up for that seat, Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Wood, who spent most of her now-21-year tenure on that court campaigning for elevation to the Supreme one, i.e., (very) carefully ensuring that she checked all the women’s-issues boxes and a coupe (by only a couple) of other identity-politics boxes and otherwise shouting that she was A MODERATE.
I have no idea what makes you think that most Supreme Court justices were nominated for their pre-eminent legal minds—or that they have one—but your sorely misinformed on that.
As for Sotomayor, she indeed was nominated because of her “demographic”. And at the time, there were some concerns about her from liberals (I, among them) that as a Second Circuit Court of Appeals judge, and as a former prosecutor, with no experience as a criminal-defense attorney, she would be a source of ongoing frustration for us. Instead, she’s been far-and-away the most passionate and aggressive and articulate (actually, the only passionate and aggressive and articulate) voice on the Court, not only in her majority opinions, concurring opinions, and her votes to join others’ majority opinions or dissents, but very notably—and Court watchers certainly HAVE noted—in WRITING DISSENTS, a largely lost art among Dem-appointed justices—since John Paul Stevens’ retirement.
Notably, she seems to have awakened Ruth Bader Ginsburg from her decades-long sleepwalk on all but a few narrow (i.e., “women’s”) issues. Ginsburg suddenly is writing dissents, too!
As for Alito, I don’t know of anyone—literally, ANYONE—who considers him anything but a pre-programmed-ideologue lightweight. He is, though, a non-Hispanic white (and male, to boot!)—so the hard bigotry of presumed high expectations, what is known in law as an irrebuttable presumption, controls for someone of your ilk.
Of all the breathtakingly racist statements you’ve made in your posts and comments in their Comments threads, this ranks among the most jaw-droppingly offensive, because you’ve surely never read any majority, concurring or dissenting opinion of Sotomayors’ nor any news article summarizing one, yet simply pronounce her mediocre—yet presume that the white Supreme Court nominees, Democratic and Republican, are pre-eminent legal minds.
You’re sick, Mike. And Dan Crawford as your enabler here should, but does not, understand that you’re not voicing facts or actual analysis but instead overt white supremacy.
I do concur.
For many reasons, but the main one is that if you try to somehow link his thoughts together over the entirety of his posts, they fall apart without the racism.
Good grace, yes, EMichael. Thanks. I can’t believe this guy is trying to sell his nonsense as statistical analysis. He couldn’t analyze his way out of paper bag.
Should say: “… out of a paper bag.” Or a dirty-laundry bag. It should say that, too.
Also, in the second-last paragraph of my first comment, it should say: “… or dissenting opinion of Sotomayor’s ….”
While I’m on the subject of typos in my comments here, the one-sentence second paragraph of my first comment should read: “I have no idea what makes you think that most Supreme Court justices were nominated for their pre-eminent legal minds—or that they have one—but you’re sorely misinformed on that.”
I read Jared Diamonds book “Guns, Germs and Steel” when it came out. I then went on to read several other books on the same subject since I like to surround a topic by reading multiple points of view. I picked up a book by Sowell called “Conquests and Cultures”. I did not know who he was so I read it with an open mind. About half-way through it, I realized I was reading a book by a Western Civilization apologist and put the book down. The contrast between Sowell and Diamond was striking. One set out to look for reasons to justify Western Civilizations dominance, the other looked towards understanding the underlying factors that shaped our global human community over thousands of years. Sowell is a right wing ideologue, that is all one has to say about him.
Just want to point out that while Kimel’s post on Sowell from a decade ago was unrelated to Sowell’s race and didn’t mention it, he verifies in his comment directed to me that his purpose in posting this post isn’t to highlight rightwing hackery but instead to suggest that Sowell’s career success was due to de facto affirmative action. Only African Americans with successful careers as winger hacks are winger hacks, see. The rest of huge winger-hack crowd are deserving of their success.
Apparently, a decade ago Kimel and his wife had not yet started their real estate business buying and renovating and then renting homes in northeastern Ohio. So that earlier post was pre-racist/xenophobe-obsession Kimel.
But this is a decade later, he and his wife now have a successful real estate business buying and renovating and then renting homes in northeastern Ohio and perhaps in LA as well, and he now spends an awful lot of time writing bizarre blog posts whose purpose is to use the euphemism “culture” to assure readers that STATISTICS—DATA!—prove the legitimacy of categorical racism as a matter of economics.
How likely is it that were there an announcement of the retirement of some big-name winger hack who is white and whom Kimel called a hack back in the day would write a blog post about his earlier post? My guess: roughly zero.
I am pointing out an issue with the right wing school of thought. The right wing bench is weak, but it isn’t so weak that Sowell should be held in particular high esteem. So what is causing that elevation?
As to the Court, Clarence Thomas was defended on the right to get him a spot on the Supreme Court, but very few on the right talk about him as being a towering figure. They reserved that role for Scalia. And you may have noticed, I wrote posts about Scalia excoriating him. If you think it is because he was secretly Black or Hispanic or something, rest assured, I have no such information. But here’s the thing. With Scalia, at least the one thing you can say is that among his peers (i.e., other right leaning justices on the Supreme Court in the last decade or two), it is at least arguable that Scalia was indeed the best thinker among them.
On the other hand, it isn’t difficult to name writers at the National Review who are far superior to Thomas Sowell in their thinking. (This is not high praise, mind you. I’ve excoriated that outfit plenty.) And a guy like Shelby Steele should be a complete unknown.
And yes, the same thing is done on left. And you know what, it isn’t good for anyone. I used to think GW only got one thing right in his presidency – the No Call Registry. I now believe his comment about the soft bigotry of low expectations is right on the money too. I have a feeling that the soft bigotry of low expectations allows a lot of people who could otherwise do a good job to coast by. When we praise mediocre work from a person who could do as well as everyone else but isn’t, we are perpetuating mediocrity instead of uplifting everyone.
As to my being a landlord, I can only tell you this: our tenant demographics very closely mirror those of the community where our properties are located (Akron and Cuyahoga Falls). Also, we do pretty well (double digit annual returns every year since we started) because we have figured out the secret of being a landlord is to avoid vacancies. The secret to avoiding vacancies, on the other hand, is to ensure that our tenants are happy enough that they never move out unless they die or move out of town. And doing that is actually pretty easy.
And so we, like you, should presume that Sotomayor is coasting on low expectations of her, right, Mike? Unlike most of the white justices over the last two-plus centuries, including those currently on the Court—pre-eminent legal minds of their era, all, of course.
Actually, Sotomayor was a fairly well regarded Second Circuit Court of Appeals judge, and expectations of her weren’t low, except by people like you. The concerns mainly were from the left, that she wasn’t liberal enough.
And as for Alito, there were mediocre intellectual expectations of him that have at best proved out. Suffice it to say that he hasn’t surpassed those expectations. Ditto for Thomas, who was the only available black extreme winger on a federal court of appeals, and the open seat had been Thurgood Marshall’s. Thomas put on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals precisely to qualify him to replace Marshall, should Marshall’s seat become vacant during a Republican administration. Everyone knew why these two people were appointed to the Supreme Court, and what to expect.
As for Sowell, it’s hardly a mystery why he was hired by the National Review: He was the only winger black economist of his generation. He did his job exactly as he and so many white pundits and winger think tank hires are paid to do: produce propaganda, albeit in his case his very identity serves as propaganda as long as he, like the white participants in this game, mouth the propaganda. Why you think this has anything to do with low, high, or middle-level expectations, I wouldn’t know.
But that’s what’s at the heart of your entire series of posts, Mike. It’s this incessant use of some statistic or fact to prove something that it doesn’t prove and, usually, as here, that is just a non sequitur.
I am probably the only Jew at the 50+ person location where I work. But I’m not The Jewish guy. I’m the pricing and analytics guy. Period. I don’t seek out the role as the Jew and nobody has slotted me in the role of the Jew. I’d be horrified and embarassed if people thought, “There goes Mike, the Jewish numbers guy. My goal is the best damn person at my job, not the best person of X ancestry at my role. My ancestry is irrelevant. I am not the only Hispanic person so there is little danger of my being the Hispanic guy. I’m also not the only White guy, and not even the only White Hispanic. In South America, there were many times I was the only American. But I sure as hell didn’t want to be “the American” when it came to how well did whatever task. Sure, nobody ever forgot I was an American, but that was only incidental to whatever role I was playing at the time. Sort of like the fact that I am short, athletic, suffer from male pattern hairloss, and am incredibly adorable. Those are traits I have, but they are incidental to my doing whatever job I am doing. They sure as hell don’t define me.
About eighteen years ago I hired a guy who had been a refugee from Sierra Leone some years earlier and had been in the US for a few years. He may have been the only Black guy in a heavy analytics role in the entire Fortune 300 company where we worked. But he wasn’t The Black Guy in the analytics department. He wasn’t playing that role. He was one of the numbers guys, and he did his best to be the best damn numbers guy in the company. Not the best numbers guy of X ancestry. Years later, when he left the company and I had to give him a recommendation, I told the people who would later hire him that that I thought he was probably the best statistician in the state. There was no qualifier to that description. None.
And the reason I told them I thought he was probably the best statistician in the state is that I thought he was probably the best statistician in the state. He could have been green or purple or a woman or transgendered or blind or diabetic or whatever for all I care, but if he did the same job to the same level, I would have said the same thing. (Last year I was best man at his wedding, but that is neither here nor there.)
On the other hand, there are people who play the role of X guy. You state about Sowell: “[H]e was the only winger black economist of his generation.” Your words. You aren’t entirely correct – he was merely the least bad of a crummy group, but close enough for your point to hold. You feel he didn’t make it on the winger economist description. Your statement implies he needed an additional qualifier, and that additional qualifier implies “not as good at being a winger economist as other folks seeking to be a winger economist.”
Scalia was a corrupt winger oaf, but he was the best of the corrupt winger oafs. There was no qualifier. As you note, Thomas got his role with a qualifier attached. Sotomayor added the qualifier to herself . Once she decided that being a Latina woman was a qualification for the role, then it becomes fair to to note that she is making it with the help of that additional qualifier. If you believe that there aren’t women who happen to be Latina and who don’t need that qualifier to their job description, then you think less of Latina women. Personally, I think if you look hard enough you can find first rate people of of all sorts of descriptions who don’t require that extra descriptor.
As a follow-up…. not everyone is the best at everything. I have never given a recommendation like “a very good white statistician” or “a very good black statistician” or “a very good Asian statistician” or the “a very good Arab statistician. But I have called a number of people of different backgrounds “a very good statistician.” In every case, it was for one reason: the person in question was a very good statistician.
Wow, Mike. I don’t think I know of anyone who so habitually conflates such an array of things that are so obviously distinct from one another and irrelevant to one another.
This time around, you’re claiming, ever so casually, that the nature of the job of statistician is, for purposes of affirmative action, the same as the nature of the job of political pundit and the nature of the job of judge or Supreme Court justice.
That’s just bizarre. Statistics is a precise, measurable science, and statisticians are hired to discern and analyze statistics with a measurable degree of accuracy. A statistician’s race or ethnicity or gender or other identity is irrelevant, because the only thing that is relevant to the job is the accuracy of the statistics and the interpretation and analysis of them. If there’s some equivalent in the nature of political punditry, please apprise me of it.
Then again, you also conflate the hiring of an economist to serve as an ideological pundit in a political journal, and the hiring of an economist to work as a straightforward economist by an employer that needs actual economic expertise.
Sowell does not work as an economist at the National Review. He’s paid, very well, undoubtedly, as a standard-issue ideological propogandist, whose race combined with his academic credentials as an economist is a part of the propaganda effort. I have no idea why you don’t know this, and instead insist he’s working as a straightforward economist, like for an investment bank or hedge fund or something. That’s just weird.
As for Sotomayor, you’re either unaware of what her “wise Latina woman” actually was about—it was NOT about affirmative action; she began using it in speeches when she was nominated by Clinton to a seat on the 11th Cir., and it actually addresses the nature of the job of judge—or don’t recognize the obvious distinction between the two. So maybe read this background on that line of hers:
At bottom, you see, or pretend to see, no relevant difference between the nature of a job of a statistician or economist—fields that require accuracy that can be measured and proved—and political punditry and the job of a judge or Supreme Court justice. And it’s been clear from the outset in this this thread that you haven’t noticed, or pretend not to, that selection of pundits and appointments of judges and justices routinely involve factors other than some objective measure of precision.
Again, that’s just weird. You’re certainly right that not everyone is the best at everything.
If you get my drift.
“That’s just bizarre. Statistics is a precise, measurable science, and statisticians are hired to discern and analyze statistics with a measurable degree of accuracy.” That part is true; however, if you are claiming you could draw a conclusion from the stats; it may not be true as they point a direction in which to look further.
Got it. You say that Sowell isn’t qualified. (I note – his working wasn’t appearing regularly at National Review. I compared them to him as a comment about his relative merit, not as an implication that he worked for them.)
You don’t think much of Scalia or Thomas (neither do I) but you find Sotomayor to be discerning in her choice of descriptions because being a wise Latina woman is a qualification for the job. Does being a wise male philatelist also help qualify or not? If not, why? Is it just number of people represented by that descriptor?
Sowell isn’t qualified for what, Mike? I have no idea whether he’s a competent economist. If he is, then he’s prostituting himself by writing what he writes in the National Review and wherever.
What I said is that he’s PERFECTLY qualified to serve as rightwing-economics pundit. Which is what the National Review has paid him to do.
And I said nothing at all about whether I find Sotomayor to be discerning in her choice of descriptions. I mentioned what she actually had said, and that it was not what you thought she had said. And what she said also was not what you now say she said: that being a wise Latina woman is a qualification for the job. She said that she thought and hoped that her experiences as a Latina would be an asset in her job as a judge because she old bring a useful perspective of another culture to her work. She did not say it was a qualification for the job.
I get it that you don’t think race, ethnicity, gender are relevant to the job of judge, any more than they are to the job of statistician. I myself aren’t terribly fond of identity considerations as a high priority in selection of judges, but I also think you’re an idiot for claiming that personal experiences and background and ideology are no more relevant to what judges do than to what statisticians, scientists, mathematicians, accountants, medical doctors, nurses, and many other occupations do. It’s not relevant to the occupation of judge cuz it’s not relevant to most other occupations is just simpleminded.
It really dismays me that you apparently simply don’t recognize even really, really obvious distinctions. And that you don’t seem to understand straightforward statements, by me or others here.
Yes. I’ve written about how the legal profession is special before. Perhaps I need to update those posts. It seems it has gotten even more special.
I want to qualify my statement that race and personal background are irrelevant to competence as a medical doctor. Certainly, having the knowledge to recognize a medical problem, diagnose it, know of the possible treatments, and consider the one most likely to work, or having the skill to perform delicate surgery or set a broken bone, and knowing of potential drug interactions—knowing the objective necessities and having the objective skill (competence) to perform the type of medicine the doctor practices—is critical to the job.
But race and personal background can play an important role, too, in asking all the right questions of the patient, communicating important things, and empathy—all of which play a role in certain types of medical practices. Pathology and radiology, no. But most other types of practice, even including anesthesiology, it does.
But at least in medicine, there are objective measurements of competence. In being a judge, there are, too, but beyond certain basics, there is hardly broad agreement on what type of knowledge, and what considerations, determine which judges are good ones and which are not. Same for police work, social work, and other occupations that entail imprecision.
It’s clear, Mike, that you don’t recognize this, that you hold a one-size-fits-all-professions-and-occupations belief that is at odds with clear reality—actual objective reality—and of which you cannot be disabused. No point in discussing it further.