Thomas Sowell is sitting in my chair. He’d driven in to Stanford University from his home 50 miles away, and since he’s 86 years old, the least I could do was to let him choose between the two seats in my office. So he parks behind my desk on the lovely chair that swivels, and I face him, hunched and immobile, on the other side—a fitting way to interview one of America’s great sages.
This feels like the perfect time to ask Mr. Sowell to ruminate on the things that have mattered most to him. He’d announced, at the end of 2016, that he would give up the newspaper column he’d written for Creators Syndicate for more than 25 years, a retirement that suggested the end of an era. Before that Mr. Sowell, an economist and conservative, had written columns for another news service, Scripps-Howard, but had quit after an editor changed a line about carbon monoxide emissions to read as one about “carbon dioxide.” This caused an indignant Mr. Sowell to terminate his contract—perhaps the original source of his fearsome reputation among editors. (When I, as an editor for this page, was handed a Thomas Sowell piece to work on back in 2001, my boss whispered to me: “Careful, it’s Sowell. Don’t change anything.”)
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