Tag Archives: Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Retires

Thomas Sowell Retires: My Farewell Column

Dr. Sowell was right about the inferiority of communism and the superiority capitalism (you didn’t have to be a genius to see either, as if mass starvation under communist regimes wasn’t evidence enough it was a bad ideology). But he is almost literally (given his age) a relic of the 60-90′s era Republican party, given his outdated and hawkish views on Russia, his denial of HBD regarding Black vs. White achivement, his support of Cruz during the 2016 election, his idealization of democracy and the democratic process, and his failure to understand the alt-right and European/White identity. Although Dr. Sowell was skeptical of exporting democracy to the Middle East, he never renounced the institution of democracy, instead stressing the importance of informed and literate voters. The GOP won the economic war but lost the cultural one; for the left, it was the opposite. The cynic says that is by design, with both sides agreeing to give up some ground to get half of what they want. Democracy means settling for less. Throughout his long career, he also didn’t have many original thoughts on economics, being mostly an ‘explainer’, not a ‘theorizer’. He is right about minimum wages, but many others also came to the same realization.

Related:

Why Thomas Sowell Never Got a Nobel Prize

Thomas Sowell Ignores Biology

Thomas Sowell on The Bell Curve

Why Thomas Sowell Never Got a Nobel Prize

From Wikipedia: ‘On the right and in conservative and libertarian quarters, Sowell is lauded as a “giant”,[40] brilliant,[41] one of the most original[42] and prolific intellects of our time,[43] “a national treasure.”[44] and someone to whom a Nobel Prize should have been awarded long ago.’

So why, in spite of his prolific output spanning six decades, including thirty books and thousands of articles and other commentary, has the greatest prize of all, the Nobel Prize, still eluded him? Is he being snubbed due to prejudice? He’s world-renowned, his articles syndicated on major sites such as Town Hall and National Review, read by millions, and even many on the ‘left’ can find common ground in Sowell’s support of legalization of drugs or his ‘theory’ on how late-talking children are really smart.

So why no Nobel?

There’s a common misunderstanding about how Noble Prize is awarded, specifically the criteria that must be met. Although the recipient must be alive, most importantly, the Nobel Prize is not a lifetime achievement award – rather, Obama’s farcical Nobel notwithstanding, it’s for a specific discovery or finding that has a major, rippling impact on its respective field. This means it has to be a very specific and original, published in a peer-reviewed journal, and that either answers a very important question, challenges a pre-existing theory, and or opens up a new field of research.

Some notable examples in the field of economics, in which whose originators were awarded the Nobel Prize, include:

The Market for Lemons

“The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism” is a 1970 paper by the economist George Akerlof which examines how the quality of goods traded in a market can degrade in the presence of information asymmetry between buyers and sellers, leaving only “lemons” behind. A lemon is an American slang term for a car that is found to be defective only after it has been bought.

George Akerlof was awarded The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 2001 for his paper because ‘information asymmetry’ challenges the neoclassical model that assumes ‘perfect information’ (all parties have the same information).

“The Pricing of Options and Corporate Liabilities”

Merton and Scholes received the 1997 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for their work on option pricing, specifically, in 1973, for finding a way (the Black–Scholes formula) to price options in lieu of a ‘drift’ parameter, or in more technical terms, ‘risk-neutral pricing’. The original Black–Scholes formula spawned a considerable amount of follow-up research, in addition to being used to price options on the CME and CBOT, and giving birth to the field of quantitative finance.

“Equilibrium Points in n-Person Games, by John F. Nash”

The eponymous ‘Nash Equilibrium’, in which for certain scenarios the best outcome (an equilibrium point) is achieved through cooperation instead of competition, challenged the assumptions of Adam Smith that competition leads to the best outcome:

Adam Smith claimed that if each person in society worked to optimize his welfare the whole society would have the optimal welfare, but on the other hand, John Nash proved by his work on Game theory that in certain cases optimal solution for the individuals could lead to the sub optimal solution for the.entire society.

In 1994, Nash received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (along with John Harsanyi and Reinhard Selten) for his paper, which he wrote in his mid-20′s in 1952 having only taken a few economics courses at the time. Pretty impressive.

“Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk (1979)”

In 2002, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for developing prospect theory, which launched the field of behavior economics. The theory, roughly, states people have an asymmetrically large aversion to losses than desire for gains, whereas conventional theory assumes there is no asymmetry.

“Do stock prices move too much to be justified by subsequent changes in dividends?”

In 1981 Robert Shiller published an article in The American Economic Review titled “Do stock prices move too much to be justified by subsequent changes in dividends?” in which he challenged the efficient-market hypothesis, which was the dominant view in the economics profession at the time. In 2013, Eugene Fama, Lars Peter Hansen and Shiller jointly received the 2013 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences their work on asset pricing.

That’s enough examples. To my surprise, Nash, who died in 2015, only published a single math book in his lifetime – a small compilation of game theory essays – but he also published some books on Christianity. Merton, Black and Scholes, developers of the Black–Scholes formula, wrote no books. A Google search shows three books for Daniel Kahneman, including his 2011 best-seller Thinking, Fast and Slow. George Akerlof published five books. Combined, that’s still far fewer than Sowell’s thirty. Although books are much longer than papers and therefore seem more substantive, somewhat counterintuitively they have less clout in academia than papers. This is because books are not subject to same high peer review standards as papers, and also because books tend to rehash a lot of information. Thus, the Nobel committee tends to overlook books, in favor of peer reviewed papers with a lot of citations.

Going over Sowell’s biography on Wikipedia, although there are a lot of books, there are no papers aside from his PHD thesis.

Sowell has also written a trilogy of books on ideologies and political positions, including A Conflict of Visions, where he speaks about the origins of political strife; The Vision of the Anointed, where he compares the conservative/libertarian and liberal/progressive worldviews; and The Quest for Cosmic Justice, where, like in many of his other writings, he outlines his thesis of the need for intellectuals, politicians and leaders to fix and perfect the world in utopian, and ultimately he posits, disastrous fashions. Separate from the trilogy, but also in discussion of the subject, he wrote Intellectuals and Society, where he discusses what he argues to be the blind hubris and follies of intellectuals in a variety of areas, building on his earlier work.

Sowell challenges the notion that black progress is due to progressive government programs or policies, in The Economics and Politics of Race, (1983), Ethnic America (1981), Affirmative Action Around the World (2004), and other books. He claims that many problems identified with blacks in modern society are not unique, neither in terms of American ethnic groups, nor in terms of a rural proletariat struggling with disruption as it became urbanized, as discussed in his book Black Rednecks and White Liberals.

It would seem like Sowell is more of an ‘economic historian’ and ‘explainer’ than someone who theorizes or has many original ideas, and that’s why the Nobel has still eluded him. His obserserations are trenchant, but that’s not enough. The main problem is the dearth of peer reviewed papers.

Interestingly, Sowell has received considerable attention for something unrelated to economics – his so-called ‘Einstein Syndrome’ theory:

Sowell wrote The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late, a follow-up to his Late-Talking Children, discussing a condition he termed Einstein syndrome. This book investigates the phenomenon of late-talking children, frequently misdiagnosed with autism or pervasive developmental disorder. He includes the research of—among others—Professor Stephen Camarata, Ph.D., of Vanderbilt University and Professor Steven Pinker, Ph.D., of Harvard University in this overview of a poorly understood developmental trait. It is a trait which he says affected many historical figures. He discusses late-talkers who developed prominent careers, such as physicists Albert Einstein, Edward Teller and Richard Feynman; mathematician Julia Robinson; and musicians Arthur Rubenstein and Clara Schumann. He makes the case for the theory that some children develop unevenly (asynchronous development) for a period in childhood due to rapid and extraordinary development in the analytical functions of the brain. This may temporarily “rob resources” from neighboring functions such as language development. Sowell disagrees with Simon Baron-Cohen’s speculation that Einstein may have had Asperger syndrome (see also people speculated to have been autistic).[27]

The success of this theory probably has more to do with an appealing narrative, than any scientific rigor. The reality, which is that delayed-talking is almost always associated with generalized mental delay, is not what people, especially parents, want to hear, instead taking solace in the delusion that their kid may be the ‘next Einstein’. But for every kid who has delayed speech and is brilliant and gets a lot of media coverage (an example being the physics and math prodigy Jacob Barnett, who didn’t speak until he was four but mastered calculus at age 11), the majority of late-takers are simply slow and there is no media coverage. Nowadays, late-talking and other signs of mental impairment are labeled as ‘autism’ (which could explain the surge in autism diagnosis in recent years) instead of ‘retardation’ or ‘borderline-retardation’, as an example of how America’s increasingly politically correct society is more worried about not ‘offending people’ than acknowledging reality:

Euphemism treadmill in action

Although many book and articles have been written about the subject, not surprisingly, Sowell’s ‘Einstein syndrome’ has not passed peer review.

Thomas Sowell Ignores Biology

Thomas Sowell’s latest article The Dumbest Idea is going viral, about how it’s wrong-headed of politicians to expect equal socioeconomic outcomes, when humans are diverse.

Sowell’s argument is environment-based, for example, that women earn less because they choose professions that don’t pay as well, not because biology is any way involved.

But by ignoring biology, Sowell’s thesis has glaring holes:

If every 20-year-old Puerto Rican in the United States had an income identical with the income of every 20-year-old Japanese American — and identical incomes at every other age — Japanese Americans as a group would still have a higher average income than Puerto Ricans in the United States. That is because the median age of Japanese Americans is more than 20 years older.

People with 20 years more work experience usually make higher incomes. And age difference is just one of many differences between groups

Sowell is ignoring the elephant in the room here – IQ. When matched by age, Puerto Ricans still earn less than Asians and whites. Also, the data shows that when matched by age, single blacks still have a higher rate of poverty than single Asians and whites, which holds across three different age groups:

As for women being underrepresented in the sciences, biology is yet again to blame: although men and women have roughly equal IQs, men have more variance, meaning more genius scores, which is necessary to succeed at STEM.

Sowell in 2003 gave a critical review of The Bell Curve. I deconstruct his review here.

Sowell writes:

“phenomenon seems peculiarly concentrated in comparisons of ethnic groups” is simply wrong. When European immigrant groups in the United States scored below the national average on mental tests, they scored lowest on the abstract parts of those tests. So did white mountaineer children in the United States tested back in the early 1930s. So did canal boat children in Britain, and so did rural British children compared to their urban counterparts, at a time before Britain had any significant non-white population. So did Gaelic-speaking children as compared to English-speaking children in the Hebrides Islands. This is neither a racial nor an ethnic peculiarity. It is a characteristic found among low-scoring groups of European as well as African ancestry.

But Blacks have had decades to catch up, and despite desegregation and billions of dollars in entitlement spending, have failed to so.

And the kicker, from Towards a Theory of Everyone: Chanda Chisala Rebuttal on the Nature of the Black-White IQ Gap:

That would suggest that the response on the parts of blacks and whites is due to some non-environment factors, a genetic factor, which is making the difference in IQ remain constant as the Flynn Effect goes into effect.

What makes it even more unlikely, in the last 60 years, their environments have become very similar since segregation. These differences don’t exist now, they go to the same schools by court order, same TV shows, same movies, basically same environment for both, and yet, that increasing similarity in the environment, the Flynn Effect, the IQ gap has remained intact. Which means whatever counts for the gap is genetic and not environmental. The more and more similar the environment, the less and less of the difference can be due to the environment and the more and more it must be due to genes. So this 15 point gap surviving these changes in the environment, seems more and more likely to be genetic in origin.

Sowell’s thesis that the bad behavior of whites (rednecks) is responsible for the dysfunction of blacks, is also easy to debunk:

In this paper by Steven Ruggles, he says that analysis confirms that the high incidence of black Americans of single parenthood and children residing without their parents is not a recent phenomenon. Data shows that from 1880 through 1960, black children were two to three times more likely to reside without one or both children than white parents. This directly goes in the face of what liberals say is the cause of the demise of the black family structure. Ever since blacks have been free from slavery has this begun to happen.

Sowell seems to be letting personal racial biases (ethnic genetic interests, assuming it exists) get in the way of objective scholarly research. Granted, if you’re an African American and you read a book or a study that shows how blacks consistently score low on IQ tests and are thus possibly less intelligent, all else being equal, you may be more inclined to resist these findings than if you’re, say, Jewish.

Thomas Sowell on The Bell Curve

In his book Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Sowell blames ‘redneck’ culture for black dysfunction, arguing that white culture made blacks dysfunctional:

What the [white] rednecks or crackers brought with them across the ocean was a whole constellation of attitudes, values, and behavior patterns that might have made sense in the world in which they had lived for centuries, but which would prove to be counterproductive in the world to which they were going — and counterproductive to the blacks who would live in their midst for centuries before emerging into freedom and migrating to the great urban centers of the United States, taking with them similar values.

The cultural values and social patterns prevalent among Southern whites included an aversion to work, proneness to violence, neglect of education, sexual promiscuity, improvidence, drunkenness, lack of entrepreneurship, reckless searches for excitement, a lively music and dance, and a style of religious oratory marked by strident rhetoric, unbridled emotions, and flamboyant imagery. This oratorical style carried over into the political oratory of the region in both the Jim Crow era and the civil rights era, and has continued on into our own times among black politicians, preachers, and activists. Touchy pride, vanity, and boastful self-dramatization were also part of this redneck culture among people from regions of Britain where the civilization was the least developed.[25]

Yeah, redneck inventions like Rap Music keeping blacks down lol. It’s just laughable.

Sowell has voiced criticism of the The Bell Curve, writing:

[Herrnstein and Murray] seem to conclude… that… biological inheritance of IQ… among members of the general society may also explain IQ differences between different racial and ethnic groups…. Such a conclusion goes… much beyond what the facts will support….continued

There are some flaws in his analysis:

1. Little is known about these WW1 military competency tests, and we can’t assume as Sowell does that it’s equivalent to modern IQ tests.

2. According to a multitude of studies, the black-white IQ gap is persistent, even to this day.

3. Studies have also shown IQ tests are not culturally biased.

4. Sowell moves the goalposts, deflecting attention away from blacks and onto Jews, arguing that if Jews saw an IQ rise, then so must blacks and therefore the book is invalid.

Perhaps the most dramatic changes were those in the mental test performances of Jews in the United States. The results of World War I mental tests conducted among American soldiers born in Russia–the great majority of whom were Jews–showed such low scores as to cause Carl Brigham, creator of the Scholastic Aptitude Test, to declare that these results “disprove the popular belief that the Jew is highly intelligent.” Within a decade, however, Jews in the United States were scoring above the national average on mental tests, and the data in The Bell Curve indicate that they are now far above the national average in IQ.

5. The above is an example of the fallacy of composition – that Russian Jews who served in WW1 are the same as all Jews. There could be a selection bias here in that Jews who were less intelligent fought in the war, whereas more intelligent Jews went school or business and would not be included in the WW1 testing sample. Jews ‘in the united states’ may not be the same as those Russian Jews in WW1, yet Sowell lumps them together. There is no distinction between Ashkenazi Jews, who are smarter, versus Sephardi. Hitler supposedly banned IQ tests, presumably because Jews scored too high?

No-one as yet however has found any documentation of a formal ban by the Nazis. It seems that the tests were frowned on by the Nazis rather than banned outright—which is also broadly true of today’s Left of course. And there was certainly some acceptance of the greater intelligence of Jews in prewar Germany.

This was in the late 30′s, just two decades after WW1, so in accordance with Sowell’s thesis those Jews sure got smart fast. Same for the Manhattan Project, in the early 40′s, predominately involved Jewish scientists.

Sowell seems to be subscribing to the ‘magic dirt‘ thesis that Jews suddenly wised up upon stepping foot on America’s ‘magic dirt’.

Even if Jews saw gains in IQ, that doesn’t change the fact that blacks still lag, even after many decades despite billions spent on education and other programs.

Sowell is using Asians and Jews as pawns to advance his leftist views. Had the book not mentioned blacks, he would not have have taken issue with it.

6. Upper-income black children score as poorly on the SAT (a good proxy for IQ) as poor whites, which deals a blow to the left’s thesis that poverty is the cause of black underachievement: