Thomas Sowell on the Myths of Economic Inequality
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Thomas Sowell on the Myths of Economic Inequality


– It happens to me all the time and it happened just this week. A young person I’d never
met introduced himself to me and said that when he saw our guest today, on an earlier episode of this program, he felt he was seeing a
man who knew how to think. Dr. Thomas Sowell on
Uncommon Knowledge now. (classical music) Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge. I’m Peter Robinson. Thomas Sowell has studied
and taught economics, intellectual history, and
social policy in institutions that include Cornell,
Brandeis, UCLA, and Amherst. Now a senior fellow at
the Hoover Institution Dr. Sowell has published
more than a dozen books, including the classic
a conflict of visions. Coming soon, a revised edition
of his most recent volume, Discrimination and Disparities. Tom Sowell, welcome. – Thank you. – You grew up in Harlem,
dropped out of high school to join the Marine Corps
during the Korean War, received an undergraduate
degree from Harvard, a masters from Columbia, and your doctorate from
the University of Chicago. All of which pales by
comparison with the fact that you once tried out
for the Brooklyn Dodgers. (laughing) But during this period from Harlem to the University of Chicago, throughout your 20s you’ve said, you spent most of the decade
of your 20s as a Marxist. – Yes. – Why? What was it… what was the attraction? – Well I guess I first was… very puzzled. See there’s one little
correction I would make. At age 16 I was a dropout,
high school dropout, and I went to work full time
as a Western Union messenger. – Delivering telegrams. – Delivering telegrams. – We better say that because
there will be a generation that won’t know what Western
Union was, but go ahead. – Yeah that’s true too. And so I were I worked
in the area of Manhattan called Chelsea district, which is around 23rd Street, ninth Avenue, and at the end of the day I had several ways of getting back home. The easiest and fastest
way was with a subway, which was a nickel in those days. When I was feeling flushed I
might go for a bus for a dime and then when I was
really getting reckless I would take the fifth Avenue bus, which was the elite of
the buses for 15 cents. So I would walk over the fifth avenue, take that bus, and it would take me up through all the glamorous
parts of fifth avenue, past the Empire State Building, past the great stores
and things of that sort. And then on 57th Street it would turn and this is just a the elite part of town. – Sure, right there what park starts. – Yes and then… park starts at 59th. – Oh, sorry. – 57th that would turn over, again, the same kind of
scene, pass Carnegie Hall. Columbus Circle, there was
no Trump Tower at that time, and on up to about 72nd Street and out to Riverside Drive
which is another elite area. So four miles after that
you’d have all these wonderful luxury apartment
buildings and so on. And finally around 129th, 30th street, it would go on a long viaduct and then he would do a right turn back into the occupied area and there you’d see the tenements. And I would wonder why is this? I mean, why this huge disparity? And there was nobody else, there was no other other
explanation around. There was nothing there
other than Marxism. I stumbled across, I had not read Marx, but I bought a secondhand
pair, set of Encyclopedias. Small set for some ridiculously low price and there they met I looked up Karl Marx, I’d heard the name and
the stuff that he said seemed to make sense. And later on I would get
more and more into it. And the argument was that
the rich had gotten rich by taking from the poor. And well that was one explanation,
but what is interesting, there was no other
explanation out there really. And that’s true largely in our
colleges/universities today. – But so by the time you
went to Harvard undergrad, well so wait, you drop
out at the age of 16, and you start reading
Marx in your late teens. – I start reading Marx, yes, at age 19. – Age 19 and then you’re
in the Marine Corps for a couple years, what
was it, two, three years? – Two years. It was actually one year,
11 months, and five days, but who’s counting. (laughing) – So by the time you went to Harvard you had already become
intellectually engaged with Marxism. – Yes. – And remained, and Harvard
didn’t talk you out of it and the study of economics at Harvard didn’t talk you out of it, nor did getting a master’s at Columbia, nor did getting a doctorate at Chicago dissuade you from Marxism. And you studied with Milton
Friedman of all people, how could you have sat in
Milton Friedman’s classroom and remained a Marxist? – Some people are just stubborn. (laughs) But what really changed me was not the University of Chicago, it was my first job working
in a professional capacity for the government. I was a summer intern. – This is after Chicago or? – No, no, while I was
still a graduate student. – Got it. – And so during the summer vacation I worked in the US Department of Labor and I began to realize,
a number of things, that the government is not
simply the personification of the general will
like Rousseau or others. The government is an institution, the government institutions have their own institutional interests. One involved in minimum wage law. I was a big supporter of that, but I also knew that there was
an argument that minimum wage laws simply price low
wage workers out of a job and my first assignment
dealt with minimum wages in Puerto Rico and as I
looked at the numbers, I would see as they would
jack up the minimum wage, number of jobs would go down and so forth, but there were two explanations. One was that of the economists that you priced the people out of a job and the other was that were hurricanes that come through Puerto Rico, you see, during the sugar harvesting and therefore, and I was studying the sugar industry, and therefore it destroyed
a lot of the crop, therefore you wouldn’t
hire as many workers. Now in Chicago I’d been taught that if there are two different theories, there should be some empirical
evidence in principle that could distinguish what
would happen under one theory from what would happen under the other. And so I wrestled with that
for the most of the summer and one morning I came
in and I said, I got it. We need a data on the amount of sugarcane standing in the fields
before the hurricane struck and as I waited for the congratulations I could see stricken looks
around me in the room, like this guy has stumbled on something that will ruin us all. (laughing) And they said well, we
don’t have those data. I said, oh, I’ll bet the
Department of Agriculture has it. He said, well, but that
doesn’t mean we have it. You’d have to have a request
go off the chain of command to the Secretary of Labor. He would then confer it with
the Secretary of Agriculture. It would come down the chain of command and the Department of Agriculture, whoever has those numbers and so on. I said, good, well they say
a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step so I will now submit my request
to the Secretary of Labor, which I did. And I am still patiently
awaiting this reply. (laughs) – And the institutional
fear of the number was what? – Oh, the US Department of Labor administers the minimum wage law and the money and the
careers of perhaps a third or some other significant percentage of the Labor Department’s other sources come from administering
the minimum wage law. One of the real forces of all this is that the law itself,
section 4D I still remember, requires a Labor Department to
study the employment effects of minimum wages and those
studies are absolutely a farce. In fact some years after I left, I did an article saying why
those studies were a farce and when I came back later on to the Labor Department
to do some research, one of the older librarians
who remembered me turn to the younger
librarian and she said, this is the man who wrote that article that has everybody up in arms. (laughs) – So you began to be dissuaded of Marxism. – And of government in general because the government is not out there at the personification
of the national interest. They have their own interests and the Labor Department’s was clearly an interest in keeping the minimum wage, because that’s their jobs
and careers and power. – In your, which brings us if I may, to one of my favorite
books, your 2000 book, this is a beat-up old copy. This book A Conflict of Visions. – Yes. – Which you published in 2007
and you layout, I’m sorry. – 1987. – I beg your pardon, 1987? – Reprinted in 2007. – Well beat up is this book,
it turns out this is a reprint. Sorry, 1987. And you lay out two competing
ways of looking at economics and policy, really two competing
ways of looking at life that go back at least 200 years. The constrained vision and
the unconstrained vision. The constrained vision, I’m quoting from A Conflict of Visions sees the evils of the world
as deriving from the limited and unhappy choices available
given the inherent moral and intellectual
limitations of human beings. Close quote. So the constrained vision
understands itself as constrained by the limitations of reality itself. – Yes. – That’s correct? – Yes. In other words, they cannot
proceed as so many do that good things happen automatically, but bad things are somebody’s fault. – Got it, got it, and
then to continue here, the constrained vision, again quoting from A Conflict Of Visions, for the amelioration improvement
of the human condition, the constrained vision relies on certain social processes
such as moral traditions, the marketplace, or families. Not government. So explain that. Why do we rely on on processes rather than the will of the people instituting changes to improve our condition? – Well it doesn’t ignore government. Even for the market the work
you have to have a government, as Europe discovered when
the Roman Empire collapsed and the economy has collapsed also. But I guess one of the reasons would be with the government you have
surrogate decision makers and they cannot possibly know as much as the individuals
whose personal decisions have been preempted. – I see, I see, all right. Which brings us to the
unconstrained vision. When again, I’m quoting you, when Rousseau said that man is born free but everywhere in chains, he expressed the essence of
the unconstrained vision, in which the fundamental
problem is not nature or man but institutions. Would you explain that one? – Well he has the notion that, again, that good things happen naturally and if they’re bad things it’s because institutions including civilization itself have have made these bad things happen. And I think that that’s
really the implicit assumption behind a lot of things that
are said on the left today. And why in my most recent
book I go to a lot of trouble to show that in nature there is nothing resembling equal opportunity. That wherever you look around the country, around the world, you find people who live up in the mountains
poor and backwards, even in the richest countries. Including the United States. I believe the poorest
country in the United States, county rather, was in
a mountain community, which was almost 100% white. – Somewhere in Appalachia,
West Virginia, Southern Ohio. – Yes and men in that
county had a life expectancy 10 years less than men
in a county in Virginia. – And the unconstrained
vision says let’s fix that. Surely we can pass a law
that would improve that and the constrained vision
says well now wait a moment, if people who live in
isolated pockets in mountains are poor and backwards
all around the world and we see this pattern over
and over and over again, maybe there’s something very
deeply rooted in reality about that that’s hard for us to get at. Correct? – Yes. – All right. So in the book of A Conflict of Visions, you’re very dispassionate
and very analytical and you lay out the unconstrained vision and you lay out the constrained vision and you don’t really come out blazing in favor of one or the other. – That is not a book meant to commit to show one vision is better than the other. It’s there to show you what what they are and what you’re assuming if you
go one direction or another. It’s to encourage people to understand the implicit assumptions behind all this without which you’re just loose ends. – All right. So pondering all this I noticed something, a column that you wrote,
this is a couple years ago, in which you rebutted Nicholas
Kristof of the New York Times and Kristof had ascribed the gaps between African-Americans
and whites in America, gaps in wealth, gaps in
educational achievement, the usual gaps and this is
a quotation from Kristof, to the lingering effects
of slavery, close quote. – Oh yeah. – And here’s Tom Sowell, quote, if we wanted to be serious about evidence, we might compare where
blacks stood a hundred years after the end of slavery
with where they stood after 30 years of the
liberal welfare state. In other words, we could
compare hard evidence on the legacy of slavery
with hard evidence on the legacy of liberals. Close quote. And so there it is, life is hard. You use the word hard,
you use the words serious, you use evidence. Tom Sowell is a man of
the constrained vision through and through and through, correct? – Yes. – No, no… – Yes. Part of a vanishing breed I might add. – So when you were a
Marxist, explain that, because the Marxism… – Well but no, no. – So that’s complicated. – Even when I was a Marxist, I had the same intellectual standards and that’s what eventually
led me away from it. – Oh, I see. – In other words I hadn’t
done all the research, I hadn’t gone around the world– – Looking for evidence. – Yes, yes. – Okay so… – And so socialism is a great idea. That does not mean it’s a great reality. One of the things that disturbs
me tremendously is about this enthusiasm for Bernie
Sanders and socialism at a time when people are
literally starving in Venezuela, an oil-rich country. And you know they’re
breaking into grocery stores to try to get food and they’re fleeing to neighboring countries, most of which are not all
that prosperous themselves, but at least you don’t
starve to death in them. And none of that makes
a bit of difference. I don’t think most of these
people who are out there cheering for Bernie Sanders have given a thought to Venezuela. – To the evidence. – That’s right. – Which brings us to
something that you refer to in a number of columns
as the retrogression. The experience of
African-Americans in this country. Economic progress, I’m quoting you. Despite the grand myth that
black economic progress began or accelerated
with the passage of the Civil Rights laws and the
‘War on Poverty’ programs of the 1960’s, the fact
is that the poverty rate among blacks fell from 87%
in 1940 to 47% in 1960, but over the next 20 years
the poverty rate among blacks fell another 18% points. This was just the continuation
of a previous economic trend, but at a slower rate of progress. It was not some grand deliverance. Close quote. That is so counter to what
we are taught in school, what appears on the editorial
pages of newspapers. (laughs) I feel as though I want to ask you, you really want to stick
with that assertion. – I have more evidence
in my most recent book, Discrimination and Disparities, I point out that this really is a pattern not peculiar to blacks or
even to the United States, but you can see the same thing in England. You can see it in any
number of other countries, that the poor we’re much
worse off economically. Let’s say on the first
day after the 20th century and yet the in terms of their own behavior they were far more decent societies. And afterwards, after this welfare state, they’re supposed to make them better off, and better human beings. That’s when the crime rates skyrocketed on both sides of the Atlantic. The British were famous for being perhaps the most polite,
considerate society in the world prior to that. After that, you get things
like the 2011 riots over there. Went through London Manchester where they anticipated
Ferguson and Baltimore by a few years. And the same things, the
burning down of buildings, the throwing of gasoline bombs at police, the whole schmear and none of those people were descendants of slaves. – So poor people were doing things, the lesson of the 20th
century is something like poor people, including in this
country African-Americans, we’re improving their lot and leading fundamentally decent lives until the government decided to help them? – Yes. – That’s a fair statement. – They’re better off economically because of what’s been given, but of course when you
have the crime rate, I mean I got I got the first
inkling of this some years back when I was a at some school
in Harlem doing some research and I looked out the window
and I mentioned in passing that when I was a little kid I used to walk my dog in that park and looks of horror came
over the students faces. Nobody in his right
mind would have a child going to that park walking a dog or not. The principal was warning these students not to cross this park, which is about a block a half wide. Even in groups of six. And when I tell them about
how in these hot summer nights I would sleep out on the
fire escapes in Harlem, they looked at me like
I was a man from Mars. People were are doing
that all over New York. They were doing it in
Philadelphia, Washington, wherever I’ve known people. That was a common thing. We didn’t have the money
for air conditioning. You slept out and on a fire
escape or in the parks. Where Walter grew up in a– – Walter Williams. – Walter Williams grew
up in a housing project in Philadelphia. He was saying on the hot summer
nights the people would be, in this project we had little balconies, they’d sleep out on the balconies and the ones on the first
floor who didn’t have balconies would sleep out in the yard. And that there were old
men who you could see sit on a hot summer night sitting outdoors into the wee hours playing
cards or checkers or whatever. it was a different world. – It was a safe world. – Infinitely safer. – Now what about family structure? Tom again, I’m quoting you. Most black children were being raised in two-parent families in 1960. 30 years after the liberal welfare state, the great majority of black children were being raised by single parents. What’s the, how does that, by the way we should note
that Patrick Moynihan publishes the Moynihan report in 1965 and he’s alarmed because
the illegitimacy rate among black families is 25% then. Now among whites it’s over a third, Hispanics it’s over half
and among African-Americans it’s over 70%. What’s going on there? – Well this is again, this too, you find the same thing in Britain, you find it in France and Norway, you find it in the Western world. In fact– – Their dissolution of
the family structure. – Oh yeah, there are a
number of Western nations where 40% of the children are
raised with only one parent. At the extremes, I
compared Asian countries. At the extremes Iceland, it’s
two out of three children are born are raised in single-parent home. In South Korea is one out of 66. – Wow. Wow and so that’s the welfare state? – [Tom] Yes. – It is. – You’re creating a situation where the… first of all, well you’re
creating a situation where if the man stays there, the government will not
give the woman welfare and if he leaves he it will. And so they’re paying, when you pay people not to get married, more people don’t get married. – Right, right. Okay so what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson instead
of becoming a liberal had remained a crusty tough
skeptical Texas conservative, which is certainly the
way he started his career. If Lyndon Johnson had embraced
the constrained vision instead of instituting the war on poverty and the Great Society and so forth, what would the country look like today? – A lot better. You would not have the same
rates of crime and so on because you see, you
can’t have a welfare state in a democratic country unless you first have
a welfare state vision and when you buy all the
assumptions of that vision, then you’re buying a lot of trouble. One of the episodes I think epitomized, it was in France in this case, that there were knife
attacks by various people from North Africa against Chinese people in some suburb of Paris. And one of the things
that the attacker said, you know, why are you
attacking the Chinese? And it wasn’t because anything
the Chinese had done to them. He said they have nice
clothes and big cars, that’s not fair. I mean that’s you know, egalitarianism as a
philosophy is one thing but the actual consequences of it mean things like resenting
other people’s good fortune. – All right so one response to the gap, again I return to this gap
between African Americans and other Americans. Affirmative action. Which brings us back to
your alma mater, Harvard. According– – I’ll never live it down. – You’ll never live it down, yes. You once told me that
the principle benefit of a Harvard degree was never again having to be impressed by
anybody who had a Harvard degree. (laughing) – Absolutely. – These are figures that were published in the Harvard Crimson,
the student newspaper. In the Harvard class of 2019, these are the kids will
be graduating next June, the average SAT score for
black students was 2149. By the way these are all good scores, but for black students
2149, white students 2218, Asian students 2300. Well now that must be reasonable because it’s taking place at
Harvard, the seat of reason. – Well that wasn’t
quite how I described it when I was there. – Affirmative action. Is that… we ought not to be doing this? – There are various laws and policies that benefit in one group
at the expense of another ut I think affirmative
action has the distinction of being one that it harms everybody though in different ways. And so there’s a lot of evidence
that there are black kids who have all the qualifications
to be successors in college, who nevertheless are failures because they are systematically
mismatched with institutions whose standards they don’t meet. Even though they may
meet the standards of 80 or 90% of the colleges in America. I remember I was first aware of this when I was teaching at Cornell and I found a half the
black students at Cornell were on some kind of academic probation. And so I went over to the
administration building to look up the SATs of these students. The average black student
at Cornell at that time scored at the 75th percentile. – Which is pretty darn good. – Yes and so that means
that in most colleges in this country they would have no trouble and many of them would
be on the Dean’s List. But at Cornell, the average
a liberal arts student at that time was in the 99th percentile and when you’re teaching
students like that, you teach at a pace that
most people of any race cannot keep up with. It was always complained
that I was assigning all kinds of reading but heck, I’m teaching kids who are in the top 1%, they can keep up with the
reading that I’m assigning. – So Cornell was taking
very talented black kids and spending four years teaching
them to feel inadequate. – Yes and succeeding at that. – A couple quotations. These are both from the
last affirmative action case to reach the Supreme Court, last big affirmative action
case to reach the Supreme Court. 2003 Grutter versus Bollinger. Here’s the majority opinion, which was written by
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, quote: “The court expects
that 25 years from now the use of racial preferences
will no longer be necessary.” This upholding the use of
in a decision, 5-4 decision, upholding the use of racial preferences. Now, that’s quotation one. Here’s quotation two, Justice Thomas. Justice Clarence Thomas in a dissent. Quote: “I believe that blacks can achieve “in every avenue of American life “without the meddling of
university administrators. “The Court holds that
racial discrimination “and admissions should be
given another 25 years. “While I agree that in
25 years these practices “will be illegal, they are illegal now.” (laughing) Close quote. So here’s… what do you do with the argument that Justice O’Connor writing
that majority opinion, there’s something of the
constrained vision there. Look we have these, all
universities across the country are using these racial preferences as the basis of admission. The best we can hope to do is tell them they ought not to be doing it. That they should be
developing other standards and give them a clock. (laughing) Is that a reasonable thing to do? – No, but it’s a universal thing to do. I wrote a book about affirmative action, it was called Affirmative
Action Around The World and I made a couple of international trips at the expensive of Hoover Institution around the world to check
out affirmative action. This is one of the most common arguments. It is absolutely fallacious
time and time again. The argument like so much
in the unconstrained vision, it assumes that we have a
power that we do not have, cannot have, and never have had. In England there was a man named Scarm and it was saying for the
now we must do this in order. And in many countries
these programs was set up with an actual cutoff date, so it was set up in
Malaysia with a cut-off date I think of around 1990 and in Pakistan it was supposed to go for 10 years. None of those cut off
dates has meant a thing. These programs not only
continue, they increase. They spread. So the idea that you
can control the future because of these wonderful sounding words. I can’t think of a country in the world where that’s ever happened. In the case of Pakistan, they did have an actual cutoff date and because people in
the East Pakistan were, for whatever historical reason, way behind the people in West Pakistan, and so there’s these preferences
with East Pakistanis. Now before time for this thing to expire. The East Pakistanis succeed from Pakistan and form of a new nation to Bangladesh. And the preferences continued right on because there were other
groups had been added to it and so once you get the constituency, you can’t say no to them. It is an argument that
has never worked out anywhere that I’ve been able to check. – All right. So Tom Sowell says no
to the welfare state, no to affirmative action. What is to be done? And now you were kind
enough to share with me the galleys of your forthcoming edition of Discrimination and Disparities. Let me give you a few quotations from some of the new chapter in that book. Quote, “The poverty rate
among black married couples “has been less than 10%
every year since 1994. “As far back as 1969, young black males “whose homes included
newspapers, magazines, “and library cards had similar incomes “to those of their white counterparts. “Academic outcomes show
a pattern of disparities “similar to the pattern of disparities “in the amount of time
devoted to school work. “Apparently lifestyle
choices have consequences.” Close quote. So this is the constrained
vision once again. Welfare state that’s government,
we don’t rely on that. Affirmative action, government,
we don’t rely on that. We rely on hard work. We rely on the institution of marriage. That’s correct? – Yes, in other words these things and I don’t think it’s
the marriage as such, the library cards as such. It’s that there are lifestyle
choices that have been made and the comparison I made was between, if you look at the
poverty rate among blacks, it was a 22% and among whites was 11%, but among black married
couples it was 7.5%. So not only do better
than blacks as a whole, they do better than whites as a whole, and so it’s lifestyle choices. Similarly with the
results and some of these more successful charter schools that you have these kids not only meeting but exceeding the national standards in places like Harlem
and in the South Bronx. And these are not kids who
are skimming the cream. They’re kids chosen by lottery. They don’t even test them for ability. They don’t even look at
their academic records. They take it into the schools and they and they have hard work and they make it clear at the outset and they don’t tolerate a
lot of nonsensical behavior and these kids are doing incredibly. – So Tom, here… Again, I think back to the Moynihan, well no I think the
Moynihan report in ’65, and he was very alarmed
by the illegitimacy rate of 25% among African-Americans. By the way in fairness
to the late Moynihan, we should point out, one
reason he was alarmed by this was his own father had
walked out on the family when he was 10 years old. He experienced what it
meant to be two kids to have one parent. Okay and now it’s all
gotten dramatically worse for whites and Hispanics
and blacks, for everybody. And then I think back beyond that to your experience of Harlem. You drop out of high school and do what? Go on welfare? Start cashing, no. You went to work and you
spent some of that money to buy some inexpensive Encyclopedias. And Harlem was so… but I feel this counsel, it’s
almost a counsel of despair in that world just seems
so utterly vanished. – No question. – So your argument is if we can stand up to the welfare state, we can
somehow get back to that world, a family family structure
will reassert itself? – That that’s gonna be
reconquering the same ground, which is very tough to
do but it can be done. I was so lucky at the time I
had no clue about all this. I left home in 1948, many decades later I learned
that the unemployment rate among black teenagers in 1948
16, 17 year olds was 9.4%. Among whites the same age it was 10.2%. So both blacks and white
teenagers had only a fraction of the unemployment that they have today. – You were expected to work, you were expected to be able to get a job. – And more importantly the
jobs were there for you. And this is because of a fluke really. The minimum wage law in the United States, Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was passed with specified rates of pay that you’re supposed to get. Almost immediately inflation
took off during the 1940s, so by 1948 those numbers were
in the law were meaningless. – Oh I see. – In other words when I started out as a Western Union messenger, the minimum wage was 40 cents an hour. I started out at the
bottom at 65 cents an hour. So it was the same as if
there was no minimum wage and this is what happened, you had this, and I was so lucky, I of course, had no clue about any of this. Now a black kid 20 years
later comes in there. People have become compassionate. They’ve raised the minimum wage. So he can’t get a job. And I don’t think it does
any community any good to have a whole lot of teenage males hanging around on the streets
with no job and nothing to do. – Right. Tom so… another thought here. You’re describing a world,
Harlem the urban world, gone. But you made visits when you were young, you knew the south as well, didn’t you? You went back to the
south when you were young from time to time? I said back to the south
because as I recall you were born in the south. – Yeah, I went to New York. Yeah, well I think this was
courtesy of the Marine Corps, which happened to locate the
boot camp in South Carolina and had Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. – So what I’m getting at is
you were of the generation that saw Jim Crow with your own eyes. – Oh, no question, no question. – Okay. So well here’s, let me
read you a quotation. This is from a article
that got a lot of attention in the Atlantic a couple years ago called The Case For Reparations
by Ta-Nahesi Coates. Quote, “White supremacy
is a force so fundamental “to America that it is
difficult to imagine “the country without it. “Reparations is the price we must pay “to see ourselves squarely.” Close quote. And Tom Sowell who actually
saw Jim Crow with his own eyes and experienced it responds how? – It would be nice to know
his evidence of what he said, just to be old-fashioned about it. No, it was a rotten system, but I don’t know how we get
from that to reparations. I mean what we see in the United States in terms of the bad things,
you see all around the world. If you were to give
reparations to everyone whose ancestors had been slaves, I suspect that you would
have to give reparations to more than a half the entire
population of the globe. Slavery was not confined
to one set of races. I suspect that most of the
people who either were slaves or slave owners around the world were neither white nor black. I mean this was this was a universal curse of the human species. – Africa, the Middle East, Asia, slavery took place everywhere. – And continued elsewhere
long after it was abolished in the Western countries. – Let me try is sticking
with Ta-Nahesi Coates. Shelby Steele talks about white guilt. And in Ta-Nahesi Coates you get almost the counterpart of that, a kind of African-American
claim against the white guilt and this seems… beginning with the abolitionist, even beginning before the Civil War, you seem every generation
there’s some expression that racism and slavery
as Shelby calls it, correctly of course, the
sin of slavery is so deeply and it’s something we still live with, how do we expiate it? How do we get past it? Is there something we can do to relieve ourselves of this legacy? – Oh, I’d like you to repeat If you were a slave owner, I don’t see any reason why
you should feel differently. On the other hand, I
can’t get over the idea of A apologizing for what B did. Even when their contemporaries much less when one is dead and the others alive. I mean Scalia I remember
was saying you know, that I owe no man anything because people who look like me did something to people
that look like him. – Okay, so just get past it. Get to work. – Yeah. – All right. Tom Sowell’s view is get an education, stay married, and do your job. Roughly. – Yeah. – All right. – Charles Murray. You used to write a column every so often called Random Thoughts
on the Passing Scene. So I’m giving you little snippets
here of the Passing Scene in our final questions. Charles Murray in his
1984 book Losing Ground, and Charles Murray writes
about discussions and academia and government about the
effort to close the gap again between African-Americans and whites. Quote. 1984, quote, “White’s
had created the problem, “it was up to White’s to fix it, “and there was very little in the dialogue “that treated blacks
as responsible actors.” Close quote. Has that changed? – No, it has not. – All right. On we go. (laughing) Your friend, your longtime
friend Walter Williams, now we come to current politics. “The bottom line is that
president Donald Trump “does not have the personal character “that we would want our
children to imitate, “but save his misguided
international trade policies “has turned out to be a good president.” Tom? – I think his policies have by
and large have been policies that were far better than that of previous Democratic or
Republican administrations. I go by the consequences. – Okay. – I mean he hasn’t produced
the right rhetoric, but the fact is that unemployment
among low-income people, black, Hispanic included, is at a level that is far lower than
it’s been in decades. The economy is booming in a
way that no one had predicted. People like Paul Krugman was
saying that when Trump gets in the economy is gonna tank. No, the economy to hit new highs. But there there are so many people among the intelligentsia especially who are absolutely immune to facts. It’s as if they took their
anti fact shots every year and the facts will just not affect them. – So this brings us back. I can understand, I mean I really can, my understanding is limited which is why I’m going to put this in
the form of a question. I can understand the never Trumpers who don’t bother me with economic boom because this man is on
my television screen every single night and I can’t stand him. I can understand, I can see that impulse. I can understand what they feel. – This second consecutive
president United States that I automatically turn off
when I’m watching television. – All right. Keep the remote right to next you. – Oh yeah. – Okay, who was the first? – Obama. – Got it. You’re totally bipartisan in that regard. – Oh, always. No other way. But the great, the larger point that
you’ve been making here, the Great Society, the war on poverty, this is now six decades of experience and we have, as you have
said, the gap hasn’t closed, we’ve got dissolution
of the family structure, rising crime rates. That I don’t understand. How can it be that the people… now I don’t know how to remain bipartisan, but Democrats, liberals, the progressives, just are not… the evidence is in. This has not worked. Like after more than half a century there’s still a refusal
to look at the evidence. – Yes and has even a tendency
to falsify the evidence. – And how come? – I think people become
attached to a vision and that really walks the way they see… human beings have any enormous
capacity to rationalize. – All right. Again, notes on the Passing Scene. An article from the New York Times just a couple of days ago, quote, now this is the longest quotation, but it’s important to
lay out the facts here. Over the last decade the
charter school movement gained significant foothold in New York, the movement hoped to
set a national example. If charter schools could
make it in a deep blue state like New York that could make it anywhere. Over a 100,000 students in
the city’s charter schools are doing well on state tests and tens of thousands are waiting lists. But the election, the
election of this November, suggested that the golden era
of charter schools is over. The insurgent Democrats, Democrats did well across New York but especially in the state Senate, have repeatedly expressed
hostility to the movement. Close quote. And Thomas Sowell responds
to that set of facts how? – That really is one of the moral outrages that for many kids who were
cut from a very poor background and who parents may not
have had much education, a decent education is the
one thing they have to have to have a better life. And these schools have been
absolutely spectacular. – The charter schools. – The charter schools. The successful ones, now
there are few that weren’t. But for example a few
years ago on a statewide, New York statewide math test, there was an elementary
school grade four I believe in Harlem whose students
passed those tests at a higher rate than
any fourth grade kids anywhere in the state of New York. I mean we’re talking
Scarsdale, Briarcliff, places like that. The Success Academy schools as a whole, their students pass both the math and the English statewide tests at a higher rate than any school system, School District in the
entire state of New York. The vast majority of the kids
in the Success Academy schools are either black or Hispanic. If you look at the five
highest-scoring district, school districts in the state in terms of the percentage of
students who pass the math or the English tests,
their average family income ranges from four times that of the kids in the success Academy Schools to more than nine times the
family income of the kids in the Success Academy schools. And yet the mayor of New
York is doing his darndest to put a stop to the expansion
of schools in general but his special ire is aimed
at the Success Academy schools. And this is happening
all over the country. – Because they make the
teachers unions look bad that run the public schools? What’s the political motivation? Why would Mayor De Blasio have it out for the charter schools
such a Success Academy? – Well the teachers union
are the major reason and we’re talking about
the money they contribute, the number of votes they contribute, and the schools and
what’s happening again, not just in New York but
other parts of the country, including California, is that they have all kind of chicanery to prevent this charter
schools from expanding. That’s why you have tens of
thousands on the waiting list. It’s not that the charter
school is not willing to expand, but every conceivable
obstacle is put in their way because if you let that
go at the natural pace, it would be very hard for the
public schools to compete. And one of the things
they’re doing is imposing the same kinds of restrictions
on the on the charter schools that made this public school so bad. For example of restrictions
on being able to get rid of kids who are running amok in this and ruining the education
of everybody else and the charter schools
don’t tolerate that. The things that are tolerated in the public schools are unbelievable. – So when I asked you a moment ago how do we bring back the
the standards of the Harlem in which you grew up, the answer is that’s a hard thing to do but we do know how to do one thing. We do know how to establish schools where the kids in present-day
Harlem have a shot, have a chance of getting a good education. – Yeah, you don’t have
to bring back the past, even if you could, because
we have it in the present. We have this happening. – And so we know how to do that and the Democratic
establishment in New York wants to shut it down. – Yes. – And the Republican
establishment stands mute. – Stands mute. You know I love talking to you
but I really don’t know why. (laughing) It’s all discouraging. Tom you mentioned a moment
ago the way young Americans flocked to Bernie Sanders,
Gallup poll this summer. The proportion of Americans aged 18 to 29 that holds a favorable
view of capitalism 45%. The proportion that holds a
favorable view of socialism 51%. Now I would like you to
take a look at a brief video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
who at the age of 29, calling herself a Democratic Socialist, has just been elected to
the House of Representatives from New York and although
she’s not seated yet in the new Congress,
she went to Washington and one of her first acts was
to participate in a sit-in in the offices of House
Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi. That is to say the
leader of her own party. So here’s a brief video. – I just want to let you
all know how proud I am of each and every single one of you for putting yourselves and your bodies and everything on the line to make sure that you save our planet, our generation, and our future. It’s so incredibly important. We have to get to 100% renewable energy. There is no other option. – Tom? (laughing) To her supporters, to us
supporters of Bernie Sanders, to young Americans, what would you say? – I would say get some facts first, know what you’re talking about before you start spouting
out this kind of stuff. One of the things I do in a
new new book is I suggest that there’s a certain opinion about
what happened in the 1920s where the taxes were cut, the highest tax rate was
cut down from 73% to 24% and the argument was oh,
this is tax cuts for the rich and I have suggested that students and that the secretary
of the Treasury did this in support of us trickle-down
theory and so forth. And I suggested to the students, would be a wonderful project to go read what the secretary of the
Treasury actually said. – Andrew Mellon in the
1920s about these tax cuts. – And then go on the Internet and get the Internal Revenue official data on who paid how much taxes in the 1920s and it turns out if you
do that you find that Andrew Mellon said the exact opposite of what is attributed to him in textbooks that have been sold
widely for decades on end through successive editions. And what you’ll find is that when the tax rate was a 73%,
the people who are making over a hundred thousand dollars a year, and that’s maybe a couple
of million in today’s money, paid 30% of the taxes and after the so-called
tax cuts for the rich they pay 65% of all the taxes. And the people with incomes under $5,000, which is also was a nice
income in those days, we’re paying 15% when
the tax rate was was cut but before the tax cut
and after it was cut, they paid just under a
quarter of 1% of all the taxes and so there’s all kinds of indignation in these scholarly books, we’re not talking about
just political propaganda. How this is a bonanza
for the rich and so on and people would ordinary income paid practically nothing in
income tax after the tax cuts and the share of millionaires
was I think 4% before that and and it was 19% afterwards. But the facts simply do not matter. They say these words,
they say trickle down, and it’s like saying abracadabra and all the miraculous
things follow from that. – Tom Sowell author of
a forthcoming edition of Discrimination and Disparities. Would you close by
reading a brief quotation from your 1987 book, one of my favorites, A Conflict of Visions. – Logic of course is not
the only test of a theory. Empirical evidence is crucial and yet social visions have
shown a remarkable ability to evade, suppress, or explain
away discordant evidence. Historic invasions of evidence
are a warning, not a model. Dedication to a cause
may legitimately entail sacrifices of personal interests but not sacrifices of mind or conscience. – Dr. Thomas Sowell thank you. – Thank you. – For Uncommon Knowledge
the Hoover Institution and Fox Nation, I’m Peter Robinson. (classic music)