Friday, June 02, 2006

Professor Sowell Conducts Leftist-Recovery Seminar

Public intellectual and contrarian curmudgeon Thomas Sowell has posted four consecutive columns entitled, "Preserving the Liberal Vision." For those who think that "liberal" (allowing, creating and preserving freedom for all people) equals "leftist" or "socialist," Sowell provides the antidote.

We won't presume to summarize or excerpt these masterful essays by a master essayist. We will simply link them for our gentle readers' edification:

Here is part one.

And part two.

And part three.

And part four.


JB in CA said...

Since we're talking about Thomas Sowell, I would also recommend his article entitled "The Senate's 'Tough' Immigration Bill." It can be found at the same site SWNID has linked.

JB in CA said...

By the way, Sowell makes an extremely important point (if true) about those in poverty in "Preserving the Liberal Vision: Part II" (the second link provided by SWNID). He claims that "the poor" is not "some permanent group of people," but rather "transients in low income brackets who will be in higher income brackets in a few more years." If so, we should be congratulating ourselves for bringing about nothing short of a revolution in the war on poverty. Unfortunately, Sowell doesn't back up his claim with anything like evidence. He simply states it as a fact. Now, of course, it may well be a fact, but I have to say I'm a bit suspicious. For I have seen evidence (from multiple sources) contradicting one of his other (unsubstantiated) claims in this same essay: that "Americans in the bottom 20 percent in income have higher real incomes than in the past." The statistics I've seen have the bottom twenty percent of wage earners losing seventeen percent in real income since the early 1970s. It would be nice if we could get the facts straight before engaging in debate over policy issues.

Raymond said...

Facts...we don't need no stinking facts.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

JB, I wondered if you'd notice that, as it has been a point of dialogue for us.

Sowell has the disadvantage of being a PhD economist writing in journalistic style and against the grain of most who write in journalistic style. So in keeping with the prescribed style, he can't cite all his sources, even when he takes an unconventional line.

On the upward mobility of the "poor," I am confident that he refers here to longitudinal studies of people in the bottom economic bracket. These find that a significant number of people do "pass through" that bracket. Some started poor and are on their way up, but most are people who started off less than poor and ended up there temporarily. Newly single mothers constitute a lot of those, I believe.

One way that such statistics are use/abused has to do with health insurance. Commonly when we're told that "X number of people have no health insurance in the United States," the number consists of all those who didn't have insurance at any time during the year. Such numbers obscure the reality of mobility.

There remains, however, a persistent underclass. That's bad, and it needs to be addressed, but not all the "poor" belong to that blighted demographic.

As to declining wages for the bottom 20%, as I've said before, I believe that it's all in the measurement. Using various measures of inflation and wage growth, you can make the case for declining wages. Using statistical data on such concrete matters as how many households own cars, phones, TVs, computers, etc., not to mention how many households receive public assistance, the notion of falling wages is belied.