Thomas Sowell

Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy

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

Inequality Does Not Mean Inequity

quoting Thomas Sowellvia The Standard
Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The world is full of inequalities. I dare say I cannot think of a single human endeavor that has ever been equal by any important measurement. Yet, we are told by politicians and school administrators that inequality is bad and something to be fought. But is this really logical? And what kind of equality is important? Before I answer these questions, let me elaborate on what those who strive for equality of outcome want.


Economist Thomas Sowell On The Income Inequality Debate

interview with Thomas Sowellvia Fox Business
Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Thomas Sowell discusses some of the common economic myths and fallacies, as well as the potential long-term economic impact of the rising popularity of socialism.

In the News

Quote Of The Day – The Government’s Role

quoting Thomas Sowellvia Ricochet
Wednesday, February 27, 2019

It is amazing how many people think that the government’s role is to give them what they want by overriding what other people want. – Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell discusses Intellectuals and Society on Uncommon Knowledge.

Thomas Sowell - Lessons From The Past

by Thomas Sowellvia Crescent News
Friday, February 22, 2019

Seventy-one years ago last month — in January 1948 — a black, 17-year-old high school dropout left home. The last grade he had completed was the 9th grade. He had no skills, little experience and not a lot of maturity. Yet he was able to find jobs to support himself, to a far greater extent than someone similar can find jobs today.

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

Thomas Sowell On Ideological Conformity Wrapped In Demographic Diversity

quoting Thomas Sowellvia AEI
Wednesday, February 20, 2019
From Thomas Sowell writing 25 years ago in a March 1994 Forbes article the “Multicultural Charade,” where Sowell argues that much could be gained from an honest study of “multicultural diversity,” instead of the “ideological conformity wrapped in demographic diversity” that we usually get.
In the News

Equality, Inc.

quoting Thomas Sowellvia Townhall
Tuesday, February 19, 2019

LeBron James, worth over $400 million, is now in the “Equality” business. He released his $185 Nike LeBron 16 “Equality Pack” sneakers on MLK Day last month to add to his lucrative collection of sports gear.

In the News

Leftist Tax Schemes Bash The Rich, But Depend On Their Success

quoting Thomas Sowellvia Reason
Friday, February 15, 2019

Nineteenth century historian Thomas Carlyle called economics "the dismal science" because of its predictions about scarcity and poverty. Those are immutable features of all societies, which explains why his snarky term remains widely used. Modern economics writer Thomas Sowell captured the same idea, but expanded upon it. "The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it," he wrote. "The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics."

In the News

Leftist Tax Schemes Bash The Rich, But Depend On Their Success

quoting Thomas Sowellvia The Press-Enterprise
Saturday, February 9, 2019

Nineteenth century historian Thomas Carlyle called economics “the dismal science” because of its predictions about scarcity and poverty. Those are immutable features of all societies, which explains why his snarky term remains widely used.

In the News

Intellectual Corruption Worse Than Political Corruption

quoting Thomas Sowellvia Cape Cod Times
Wednesday, February 6, 2019

We’re apt to think of corruption as businessmen bribing politicians to secure overpriced contracts. A classic scene from the movie “Shawshank Redemption” shows a private contractor fearful that a crooked prison warden will underbid his highway-building proposal by the warden exploiting his prisoners’ labor. To forestall the underbid, the contractor offers the warden a free pie, along with an envelope of $100 bills. The smarmy warden accepts the moneyed pie, and tells the contractor not to worry.

In the News

Economists Say The EFF's Election Manifesto Is Impractical And Populist

quoting Thomas Sowellvia Briefly
Monday, February 4, 2019

Several economists have shared their thoughts on the EFF's election manifesto, with many calling it populist and unrealistic. The manifesto, unveiled this weekend, included major increases in the minimum wages of several professions. Mineworkers, for example, would have a minimum salary of R12 500.