Thomas Sowell

Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy
Awards and Honors:
American Philosophical Society
National Academy of Education
Biography: 

Thomas Sowell is the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution.

He writes on economics, history, social policy, ethnicity, and the history of ideas. His most recent book, Discrimination and Disparities (2018), gathers a wide array of empirical evidence to challenge the idea that different economic outcomes can be explained by any one factor, be it discrimination, exploitation or genetics. His books on economics include Housing Boom and Bust (2009), Intellectuals and Society (2009), Applied Economics (2009), Economic Facts and Fallacies (2008), Basic Economics (2007), and Affirmative Action Around the World (2004). Other books on economics he has written include Classical Economics Reconsidered (1974), Say’s Law (1972), and Economics: Analysis and Issues (1971). On social policy, he has written Knowledge and Decisions (1980), Preferential Policies (1989), Inside American Education (1993), The Vision of the Anointed (1995), Barbarians Inside the Gates (1999), and The Quest for Cosmic Justice (1999). On the history of ideas he has written Marxism (1985) and Conflict of Vision (1987). Sowell also wrote Late-Talking Children (1997). He has also written a monograph on law titled Judicial Activism Reconsidered, published by the Hoover Institution Press in 1989. His writings have also appeared in scholarly journals in economics, law, and other fields.

Sowell’s current research focuses on cultural history in a world perspective, a subject on which he began to write a trilogy in 1982. The trilogy includes Race and Culture (1994), Migrations and Cultures (1996), and Conquests and Cultures (1998).

Sowell's journalistic writings include a nationally syndicated column that appears in more than 150 newspapers from Boston to Honolulu. Some of these essays have been collected in book form, most recently in Ever Wonder Why? and Other Controversial Essays published by the Hoover Institution Press in 2006.

Over the past three decades, Sowell has taught economics at various colleges and universities, including Cornell, Amherst, and the University of California at Los Angeles, as well as the history of ideas at Brandeis University. He has also been associated with three other research centers, in addition to the Hoover Institution. He was project director at the Urban Institute, 1972-1974, a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, 1976–77, and was an adjunct scholar of the American Enterprise Institute, 1975-76.

Sowell was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2002. In 2003, Sowell received the Bradley Prize for intellectual achievement. Sowell received his bachelor’s degree in economics (magna cum laude) from Harvard in 1958, his master’s degree in economics from Columbia University in 1959, and his PhD in economics from the University of Chicago in 1968.

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Recent Commentary

In the News

Werlin: Role Of Prices In A Modern Economy

quoting Thomas Sowellvia Herald Tribune
Tuesday, October 1, 2019

In anticipation of the 2020 elections, candidates have made campaign promises to make our country better. The high costs of a college education, medical treatment, improving our environment, housing, etc. are just some of our current problems. President Trump puts a heavy emphasis on the marketplace to provide needed products and services. By contrast, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders embrace more government intervention.

In the News

Slavery's Legacy

featuring Thomas Sowellvia The Washington Examiner
Thursday, September 19, 2019
There’s a problem with the idea that the legacy of slavery in America is the major deterrent today to social and economic progress by black Americans. And it’s being ignored as the New York Times and others seek to redefine America’s history as having been shaped more by slavery than any other factor.
In the News

Green Tyranny And The Tragedy Of The Eco-Commons

quoting Thomas Sowellvia American Thinker
Wednesday, September 4, 2019

"The tragedy of the commons" is a phrase that describes the societal loss of resources through individual selfishness.  In agrarian cultures, sheep, cows or other animals were often maintained in a "commons" where individual farm families would use large shared areas to pasture animals collectively.  This worked well, unless an individual farmer exceeded the carrying capacity of the common to increase his personal wealth -- and if all the farmers did that, the common would be destroyed.

In the News

More Information Essential To Evaluate The Renewable Energy Idea

quoting Thomas Sowellvia Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Tuesday, September 3, 2019

What we hear about almost ceaselessly is the impending environmental catastrophe facing the world. Despite the tremendous progress the U.S. has made in reducing its carbon emissions, which we are told is what is causing, or hastening, the crisis, more must be done.

In the News

Let’s Ask Spartacus About That Water

quoting Thomas Sowellvia Canton Daily Ledger
Friday, August 23, 2019

This, from economist and writer Thomas Sowell: “Immigration laws are the only laws that are discussed in terms of how to help people who break them.”

Thomas Sowell in front of a black background with an Uncommon Knowledge mug
In the News

Quote Of The Day, August 23, 2019

quoting Thomas Sowellvia The Hayride
Friday, August 23, 2019

“More whites were brought as slaves to North Africa than blacks brought as slaves to the United States or to the 13 colonies from which it was formed. White slaves were still being bought and sold in the Ottoman Empire, decades after blacks were freed in the United States.”

In the News

GIESBRECHT: Reconsider Gladue Sentencing

quoting Thomas Sowellvia Winnipeg Sun
Friday, August 16, 2019

A recent Ontario court decision struck down the mandatory conviction for impaired driving of a woman because she is Indigenous. This highlights the urgent need to re-examine the wrong-headed light sentencing principles (Gladue) that now apply exclusively to Indigenous offenders.

In the News

A Tale Of Two Statues (The Struggle For Liberty In The Long Term)

quoting Thomas Sowellvia Ricochet
Thursday, August 15, 2019

Thomas Sowell has often stated that it would be nicer and easier if the left-wing/unconstrained vision of the world were true. Social welfare programs could make poor people not poor, peace would be easy to make through treaties and government wouldn’t be corrupt if only the right people ran it. Overall, I think that’s true. I’d like it if mankind were less corrupt and more competent, which is the basis of the unconstrained vision.

In the News

'Free Everything' And Thomas Sowell's First Law Of Politics

quoting Thomas Sowellvia Real Clear Markets
Monday, August 5, 2019

The other night, a politician criticized Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for offering voters “free everything and impossible promises.” Remarkably, the critique came, not from a Republican fiscal conservative, but from a fellow Democrat during a primary debate. John Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland, said such policies were based on “fairy-tale economics.”

Hoover senior fellow Thomas Sowell
In the News

Thomas Sowell: A Birthday Appreciation

featuring Thomas Sowellvia Forbes
Sunday, June 30, 2019

As I mentioned last month in an homage to one of his regular features, my intellectual hero is Thomas Sowell. Today is Dr. Sowell's 89th birthday. Since turning 80, he has published Intellectuals and Race, Wealth, Poverty, and Politics (with a second revised edition coming a year later), a couple of new editions of his Basic Economics, and Discrimination and Disparities. I read Sowell's memoir, A Personal Odyssey, in one sitting when it came out, and I've never read a Sowell book and thought it a poor use of my time.

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