Thomas Sowell

Some parents who are concerned about their children receiving a steady diet of liberal-left indoctrination in schools and colleges regard the summer vacation as a time to show these young people a different way of looking at things, with readings presenting viewpoints that are unlikely to be heard in classrooms that have become indoctrination centers.

Fortunately, there is a growing body of literature-- both books and articles-- presenting a very different viewpoint in readable language.

The academic year often ends with commencement speakers who have been in government, academia, foundations or various crusading movements, who tell the graduates how much nobler it is to go into such organizations, rather than into business.

Such self-flattering talk is seldom challenged by educators. But an outstanding recent book, "The Best-Laid Plans" by Randal O'Toole, gives a richly documented account of government actions and their consequences, and shows a far from flattering side of politicians, "experts," and environmentalists-- who have ruined cities and suburbs in countries around the world.

Highly praised projects created by leading "experts" have repeatedly led to economic and social disasters, whether in Europe or the United States. The fundamental problem is that people don't want to live the way elites want them to live.

A classic example was the Pruitt-Igoe project in St. Louis, which had an extraordinary vacancy rate of 25 percent, rising eventually to 65 percent, before the whole project was demolished.

But, tragically, the assumptions behind such projects have not been demolished.

One statistic in "The Best-Laid Plans" shoots down one of the biggest lies of the environmentalist movement-- that laws are needed to keep development from paving over the last remnants of open space. That statistic is that all the urban areas in the United States, put together, cover less than 3 percent of the land.

This statistic is all the more remarkable when you realize that O'Toole uses the Census definition of "urban"-- any community with at least 2,500 people. That would include towns and villages, as well as cities.

Another remarkable and eye-opening book is "Liberal Fascism" by Jonah Goldberg. So many liberals use the term "fascism" to condemn conservative ideas that it may come as a revelation to many that the original fascism was in fact a doctrine having far more in common with the left than with conservatism.

While people on the left may deny that today, when fascism first emerged back in the 1920s it was widely recognized as a kindred doctrine by the leftists of that era.

Only after the international aggressions of Mussolini and Hitler during the 1930s made them pariahs did the left start reclassifying fascists as being on the right.

Since this is an election year, there may be more interest than usual in Barack Obama. Best-selling author Shelby Steele's book on Obama, titled "A Bound Man," gives both facts and insights that will take the reader far deeper than most media accounts.

Among my own books, the one that will probably be of the most interest to young people with no knowledge of economics is "Basic Economics." Apparently many people find it easier to understand than most economics books, since it has been translated into six other languages overseas.

My latest book on economics, however, is the recently published "Economic Facts and Fallacies." It looks in-depth at fallacies about such things as housing, income, race, sex discrimination, the economics of academia and the Third World.

Fallacies are not just crazy ideas. Usually they are notions that sound very plausible, which is what enables them to be used by politicians, intellectuals, the media, and all sorts of crusading movements, to advance their causes or their careers.

It is precisely because most of the popular fallacies of our time, which are always especially popular during election years, sound so plausible that we need to stop, before we get swept along by rhetoric, and scrutinize the underlying flaws that turn brilliant-sounding "solutions" into recipes for disaster.


Thomas Sowell

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

Creators Syndicate