July 12, 2015

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Mark Perry celebrates Thomas Sowell’s 85th birthday.

Steve Hayward pointed out recently that economist Thomas Sowell shares the same birthday as Frederic Bastiat – they were both born on June 30. To recognize Bastiat’s birthday I shared some of his quotes on CD earlier this week, and I’ll now do the same today for Thomas Sowell, who turned  85 yesterday. Here is Thomas Sowell’s webpage and here is his Wikipedia entry. Milton Friedman once said, “The word ‘genius’ is thrown around so much that it’s becoming meaningless, but nevertheless I think Tom Sowell is close to being one.” And because Thomas Sowell is such a prolific writer and covers so many economic topics, I’ll focus here on ten of my favorite Sowell quotes (and a video) on the topic of Obamacare:

1. From a 2013 Thomas Sowell’s column “An Old ‘New’ Program“:

Like so many things that seem new, ObamaCare is in many ways old wine in new bottles. What is older than the idea that some exalted elite know what is good for us better than we know ourselves? Obama uses the rhetoric of going “forward,” but he is in fact going backward to an age when despots told everybody what they had better do and better not do.

Yet another way in which ObamaCare is an old political story is that it began as supposedly a way to deal with the problem of a segment of the population — those without health insurance. But, instead of directly helping those particular people to get insurance, the “solution” was to expand the government’s power over everybody, including people who already had health insurance that they wanted to keep.

Since there has never been a society of human beings without at least some segment with some problem, this is a formula for a never-ending expansion of government power. …



Perry referred to his post on Bastiat so we include that here too. Pickerhead was fifteen when first discovering The Law by Bastiat. Growing up in the Northeast, and regularly reading the NY Times and the Saturday Review Of Literature, your host was well on his way to becoming an obnoxious liberal. But The Law’s argument about the nature of legalized plunder was, thankfully, too persuasive; “But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.” Here’s Perry introducing Frederic Bastiat; 

Tomorrow, June 30, marks the 214th anniversary of the birth of the great French economist Frédéric Bastiat (born June 30, 1801) whom economist Joseph Schumpeter called the “most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived.” Celebrating Bastiat’s birthday has become an annual tradition at CD, and below I present some of my favorite quotes from the great liberty-loving, influential French economist:

1. One of Bastiat’s most famous and important writings was “The Petition of the French Candlemakers,” which is such a clear and convincing satirical attack on trade protectionism that it often appears in textbooks on economics and international trade. Here’s an excerpt from that famous 1845 essay:

“We [French candlemakers] are suffering from the ruinous competition of a foreign rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him, and a branch of French industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation. This rival is none other than the sun.

We ask you to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull’s-eyes, deadlights, and blinds—in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of the fair industries with which, we are proud to say, we have endowed the country, a country that cannot, without betraying ingratitude, abandon us today to so unequal a combat.” …

… Bastiat was truly an economic giant and deserves credit for his many significant and important intellectual contributions to economic thinking that are as relevant today as they were in France in the mid-1800s when Bastiat was writing, including: a) Bastiat was one of the first economists to warn us of the dangers of legal plunder, crony capitalism and trade protectionism, b) he helped us understand the importance of looking at both the unseen and delayed effects of legislation and regulation in addition to the immediate and visible effects, c) he was one of the most eloquent and articulate defenders of individual freedom and liberty who ever lived, and d) he was probably the strongest advocate for the consumer in human history. …




Walter Russell Mead with an essay on the BlackChurch’s contributions to our nation.

… But beyond all the yapping and the buzzing about gun control, the Confederate flag, and whether Dylann Roof was a terrorist or not, a very powerful truth emerged from the horror in Charleston: that the African-American church remains one of America’s great national blessings. Yet again the African American church in the United States bore steadfast witness to the boundless, the infinite, the compassionate love of God. When the families of the murdered, martyred saints told Dylann Roof that they forgave him, when they prayed that he in his darkness might somehow find the light and the love of God, they reminded us what heroism truly is, and they showed us all what it means to follow Jesus Christ.

Too often the worst people in the religious world dominate the headlines: hucksters and hustlers, money grubbing televangelists, preacher-politicians, judgmental hypocrites, and sanctimonious snake oil peddlers. But every now and then something happens to show us what Christianity really is, and when it does the world stops in awe. President Obama was right to make grace the focus of his riveting eulogy; grace is always amazing, and without it no person, no family, and no nation can stand.

Watching the news from Berlin, I was reminded yet again that if the United States can be said to be an exceptional nation, it is the black church that has helped to make us one. Beginning in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, blacks (often after suffering rejection by white churches) organized their own congregations and denominations. Black churches were the first serious social institutions that African Americans were free to shape and control in their own way, and the spiritual and cultural blessings that have come to Americans of all races and indeed to the whole world from the witness and work of the black church are greater than most of us have ever understood.

I could see a little bit of this in my hotel in the former East Berlin last month. Martin Luther King’s life and career made it that much harder for the East German police state to drive Christianity from the public square, and helped keep this center of Christian witness open. The tradition of non-violent protest that he did so much to shape would be crucial as Communism fell; not only in Germany but across central and eastern Europe, non-violent, peaceful protest played the key role in the democratic transitions that have brought freedom, prosperity, and peace to so many people in our time.

But it is America, more than any other country, that has been blessed by the African American church and the vibrant faith at its core. The black church gave generations of enslaved people spiritual comfort and a sense of self worth, comforting the afflicted and affirming the dignity of those the world held in contempt. Slavery was brutal and dehumanizing; the black church was a healing and civilizing presence. It was in the black church that African Americans developed political organizations, traditions of self government, experience managing their own affairs, and a sense of group solidarity and strength that helped these Americans rise and grow despite all the forces that sought to hold them down. …