Random thoughts

Thomas Sowell

1/14/2004 12:00:00 AM - Thomas Sowell

Random thoughts on the passing scene:

Some people's jobs will allow them to be important only by being a pain.

Politics is the art of making your selfish desires seem like the national interest.

One of the people I am glad I trusted is someone who got angry and told me off. The people to beware of are those who hide behind a smile and wait for a chance to put a knife in your back. If you surround yourself with yes-men, you are asking for it.

The distinguished British magazine The Economist calls San Francisco: "A place in America where the only challenge to the left is from further left."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office saying, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." The economic history of the 1930s shows that we had nothing to fear but FDR himself. (Those who doubt this should read "FDR's Folly" by Jim Powell).

If navel-gazing, hand-wringing or self-dramatization helped with racial issues, we would have achieved Utopia long ago.

In the midst of California's big budget deficit crisis comes a local announcement of various government goodies for an upscale community where the average home price is more than half a million dollars. It offers various subsidized programs for everything from tennis to ice skating and an adult softball league.

As a black man, I am offended when white people take the likes of Al Sharpton seriously -- or pretend to.

Just as any village idiot can destroy a priceless Ming vase, so the shallow and fad-ridden people in our public schools can undermine and ultimately destroy a civilization that took centuries of effort and sacrifice to create and maintain.

Those who want to take our money and gain power over us have discovered the magic formula: Get us envious or angry at others and we will surrender, in installments, not only our money but our freedom. The most successful dictators of the 20th century -- Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao -- all used this formula and now class warfare politicians here are doing the same.

If the battle for civilization comes down to the wimps versus the barbarians, the barbarians are going to win.

Let's face it. Most of us are not very original. Virtually every stupid idea in vogue today was thought of by somebody in the past -- and has led to disaster, again and again. That is why it is dangerous to neglect the study of history, so that we have to keep on learning what is wrong with clever ideas the hard way.

People sometimes ask me what is my best book. Intellectually, either "Say's Law" or "A Conflict of Visions." But, as something useful to other people, "Late-Talking Children" or "Basic Economics."

It may be expecting too much to expect most intellectuals to have common sense, when their whole life is based on their being uncommon -- that is, saying things that are different from what everyone else is saying. There is only so much genuine originality in anyone. After that, being uncommon means indulging in pointless eccentricities or clever attempts to mock or shock.

Can't liberals afford arches? All sorts of people are referred to as arch-conservatives but almost never do you hear anyone referred to as an arch-liberal.

At one time, I could tear a Washington phone book in half. Not only was I a lot younger, the Washington phone book was a lot smaller.

This is an age when people who are contributing nothing to society gain fame and fortune by denouncing those who are contributing something, because those who are contributing something are not doing so the way idle on-lookers would wish, or in a way that those ignorant of the process would consider right.

What is called an educated person is often someone who has had a dangerously superficial exposure to a wide spectrum of subjects.

One of the strongest arguments for the death penalty is that it means what it says -- unlike "life" sentences that can mean that the criminal will be back on the streets after a few years behind bars. Even "life without the possibility of parole" does not mean life without the possibility of escaping or without the possibility of electing a liberal governor who will set murderers free.