Random Thoughts on a passing scene

Thomas Sowell
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Posted: Sep 21, 2001 12:00 AM

WILL even our current catastrophe shock us into drilling our own oil, instead of relying so heavily on the volatile Middle East -- and without wringing our hands over Caribou? Why are Caribou more important than the thousands of other animals that are killed every night on our highways?

  • Those who disdain wealth as a worthy goal for an individual or a society seem not to realize that wealth is the only thing that can prevent poverty.

  • At the recent conference in Durban, South Africa, the president of Nigeria demanded an apology from Western nations for the slavery of centuries past -- even though the continuing slavery of the present in Nigeria was reported in the New York Times of February 2, 1997 -- more than a century after slavery ended in the West.

  • Have you ever known a time when there was so much talk about ethics -- or so little practice of it?

  • The great ideological divide is between those who believe that theories should be adjusted to reality and those who believe that reality must be adjusted to fit their theories. Many of the horrors of the 20th century were created by the latter. And such people are still with us, in many movements.

  • Some people go to desperate lengths to avoid making an estimate. They say that it all depends, that there are many factors, that there are no guarantees, that unforeseen things could happen. Don't we already know all that? Isn't that why we call it an estimate, rather than a guaranteed certainty?

  • Why does everything that the government does become so complicated? Because there are more than 500 members of Congress, each one of them with his or her own pet notions. Many of these notions have to be incorporated into legislation to get a majority in favor of any bill. The result is a complicated monstrosity.

  • Everyone is supposed to be "non-judgmental" these days. But how can it be wrong to judge, when such a statement is itself a judgment?

  • We have all heard about the "mid-life crisis," but did you know that there is now a book out titled "Quarterlife Crisis"? It is about how tough it is to turn 25. Apparently everybody has to whine about something.

  • Any politician who can be elected only by turning Americans against other Americans is too dangerous to be elected.

  • Pete Sampras can still make the great shots he made at his peak. He just messes up ordinary shots more often than he used to.

  • When Congressman Gary Condit is attacked by people who defended Bill Clinton, you have to wonder what the difference is. Apparently the difference is that they needed Clinton politically, while Condit is expendable.

  • Too many people fail to see the fatal difference between having a government create rules that apply to all -- "a government of laws and not of men" -- and having government officials choose the destinies of individuals and groups, whether through affirmative action, "targeted tax cuts," or special subsidies or special taxes for those who happen to be in or out of favor in Washington.

  • No individual and no generation has had enough personal experience to ignore the vast experience of the human race that is called history. Yet most of our schools and colleges today pay little attention to history. And many of our current policies repeat mistakes that were made, time and again, in the past with disastrous results.

  • Some people seem to think that the answer to all of life's imperfections is to create a government agency to correct them. If that is your approach, then go straight to totalitarianism. Do not pass "Go." Do not collect $200.

  • One of the great cant phrases of our time is "troubled youths." Many of these young hoodlums are having the time of their lives making trouble for other people.

  • Anyone looking for a worthy cause to which to contribute money can find one in the Foundation for Families of Late-Talking Children. It is headed by a man who does a lot of work for these children free of charge, Professor Stephen Camarata of Vanderbilt University.

  • Just what part of "Congress shall make no law" don't politicians understand? The First Amendment forbids Congress from passing any law that will even "abridge" the freedom of speech. Yet campaign finance reform laws would flat-out forbid certain speech by certain organizations on the eve of elections.