Thomas Sowell

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

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

The New Welfare Queens

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Are transfers of wealth to Third World governments really an aid to economic development? Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell says no and explains why “foreign aid” is more often foreign hindrance.

W. Glenn Campbell (1924–2001)

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, January 30, 2002

W. Glenn Campbell served as director of the Hoover Institution, a position for which he was selected by President Herbert Hoover himself, from 1960 until his retirement in 1989. During those three decades Campbell transformed the Institution. He expanded its archives, made it a home for dozens of scholars of the first rank, and brought all its resources to bear on the struggle for individual liberty here at home and throughout the world. Campbell, who died of a heart attack on November 24, is survived by his wife of 55 years, Hoover fellow Rita Ricardo-Campbell, by his three daughters, by his four grandchildren—and by the fellows, employees, supporters, and friends of the Hoover Institution itself, who owe him an incalculable debt. Thomas Sowell reflects on the life of a scholar, a fighter, and a patriot.

A Personal Odyssey

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Monday, April 30, 2001

In this excerpt from his new book, Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell reflects on his early years. A memoir by the man the Washington Post recently called "our most valuable public intellectual."

Some Thoughts about Writing

by Thomas Sowellvia Analysis
Friday, April 27, 2001

From time to time, I get a letter from some aspiring young writer, asking about how to write or how to get published. My usual response is that the only way I know to become a good writer is to be a bad writer and keep on improving.

Lessons Unlearned

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Monday, October 30, 2000

Americans may pay lip service to the Constitution, but all too often they’re willing to sidestep the document in order to achieve short-sighted political agendas. Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell explores a dangerous trend.

When Fairness Is Unjust

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Sunday, July 30, 2000

In an attempt to "level the playing field," education bureaucrats are lowering standards for minority students. The result? The bureaucrats are dooming minority students to lives of missed opportunities. By Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell.

The Quest for Cosmic Justice

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Sunday, January 30, 2000

If we could create the universe from scratch, we’d all make sure that no one ever suffered misfortunes or disadvantages. The problem is that we don’t get to create the universe from scratch. Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell argues that the quest for cosmic justice is ultimately at odds with the administration of true justice.

The Day Cornell Died

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Saturday, October 30, 1999

As gun-wielding black students seized control of a campus building in April 1969, Cornell University descended into anarchy. An account thirty years later by Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell, who was teaching at Cornell at the time.

What Trust Fund?

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Saturday, October 30, 1999

Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell exposes the accounting sleight-of-hand known as the Social Security trust fund.

And Now, The Good News

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Friday, July 30, 1999

As the millennium approaches, Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell finds a few reasons for optimism.