Thomas Sowell

Name some of the things that make us so much better off than Americans of just a couple of generations ago.

One of the most important things are new medicines that not only prolong life but leave us vigorous at ages when old folks used to sit around in rocking chairs. Airplanes have put the whole world within our reach. Computer operating systems have enabled people with no understanding of the science and technology of computers to use them nevertheless to do innumerable things.

You might think that those who created these things would be among our heroes. On the contrary, they are demonized in the media, harassed by the government and sued by lawyers.

Pharmaceutical drug companies are regularly denounced for charging higher prices than politicians want them to charge. How these companies are supposed to recover the hundreds of millions of dollars required to develop just one new medicine is not something that politicians -- or much of the media -- seem at all interested in discussing.

The doctors who save our lives are sued with great regularity by lawyers, often on flimsy grounds that nevertheless result in millions of dollars in damages awarded by juries more responsive to emotional rhetoric than to hard evidence.

Boeing is being sued because its planes's doors did not keep terrorists out of the cockpits on September 11, 2001. Microsoft was sued because so many people bought its operating system that Microsoft was said to "control" too much of its market.

The October 6th issue of BusinessWeek magazine has a feature article on the Wal-Mart chain in which it quotes an estimate by a consulting firm that Wal-Mart saves American consumers $20 billion a year. Yet it also criticized Wal-Mart for not paying its sales clerks enough to support a family of three and complained that the company won't sell music with dirty lyrics or magazines with dirty pictures.

It used to be said that nothing succeeds like success. Today, nothing draws fire like success. Just as editorial office heroes criticize how the police handle dangers that these writers have never faced, so they second-guess how people run businesses that editorial saints have never run.

No small part of California's economic problems come from the fact that left coast politicians like to think up benefits to give to the voting public and blithely put the cost of these benefits on business. That way politicians get to play Santa Claus without having to raise taxes to pay for their generosity with other people's money.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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