Thomas Sowell

When my research assistant and her husband took my wife and me to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, I was impressed when I heard her for the first time speak Chinese as she ordered food. My assistant was born and raised in China, so I should have been impressed that she spoke English. But I took that for granted because she always spoke English to me.

We all have a tendency to take for granted what we are used to, and to regard it as somehow natural or automatic -- and to be unduly impressed by what is unusual. Too many Americans take the United States for granted and are too easily impressed by what people in other countries say and do.

That is especially true of the intelligentsia, and dangerously true of those Supreme Court justices who cite foreign laws when making decisions about American law.

There is nothing automatic about the way of life achieved in this country. It is very unusual among the nations of the world today and rarer than four-leaf clovers in the long view of history.

It didn't just happen. People made it happen -- and they and those who came after them paid a price in blood and treasure to create and preserve this nation that we now take for granted. More important, this country's survival is not automatic. What we do will determine that. Too many Americans today are not only unconcerned about what it will take to preserve this country but are busy dismantling the things that make it America.

Our national motto, "E Pluribus Unum" -- from many, one -- has been turned upside down as educators, activists and politicians strive to fragment the American population into separate racial, social, linguistic and ideological blocs. Some are gung ho for generic "change" -- without the slightest concern that the change might be for the worse, even in a world where most nations that are different are also worse off. Most are worse economically and many are much worse off in terms of despotism, corruption, and bloodshed.

History is full of nations and even whole civilizations that have fallen from the heights to destitution and disintegration. The Roman Empire is a classic example, but the great ancient Chinese dynasties, the Ottoman Empire and many others have met the same fate. These were not just political "changes." They were historic catastrophes from which whole peoples did not recover for centuries. It has been estimated that it was a thousand years before Europeans again achieved as high a standard of living as they had in Roman times. The Dark Ages were called dark for a reason.

Thomas Sowell

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

Creators Syndicate