By Thomas Sowell
Basic Books, 246 pp, 2004
This book is vintage
Thomas Sowell - clear, concise, logical, informative, and very
Yes, boring. This reads more like a
textbook. Sowell isn't trying to persuade anyone of anything. Education
seems his goal.
I've read Sowell's columns for years in
Chronicle and they're great - witty, persuasive, and at times
even fun. For some reason, that enjoyable style doesn't translate to his
books. I've read a couple of his other books and thought they were
Oh well. The information may be dry but
it is useful.
So what does Sowell consider stage one?
It's accepting a policy or idea at face value and not bothering to
further analyze or think about the issue. If more politicians and
voters moved beyond stage one thinking and fully considered all the
possible ramifications of a proposal, there'd be fewer economic problems
throughout the world.
Sowell uses this idea to examine labor
practices, insurance, discrimination, housing policy, medical care and
worldwide economic development. His basic point: Policies that sound so
good and wonderful (universal insurance, rent control, open land,
affirmative action, and so on) impose invisible costs on people that
make those wonderful ideas harmful, useless, and self-defeating. Cost is
another underlying theme of the book. Cost is an inescapable economic
fact yet politicians routinely ignore it when they impose their programs
on the rest of us.
This book is a challenge to many tenets
of conventional wisdom. That's a good thing. I doubt it will have much
impact, though. Since Sowell is a conservative, his audience will
already agree with much of what he says, and the people who need
to read it the most will avoid it like the plague. It's too bad, because
Sowell takes pains to make the book as non-partisan and non-ideological
as possible. I don't think the words "conservative" and "liberal" appear
So if you're looking for an educational
and informative book on economics and don't mind taking some
to get through it, this is the book for you.