Thomas Sowell

While nations differ, particular kinds of behavior produce particular kinds of results in country after country. Moreover, American society in recent years has been imitating behavior patterns that have produced negative-- and sometimes catastrophic-- consequences in many other countries around the world.

Among these patterns have been a concentration of decision-making power in government officials, an undermining of the role of the family, a "non-judgmental" attitude toward behavior and a dissolution of the common bonds that hold a society together, leading to atomistic self-indulgences and group-identity politics that increasingly pits different segments of society against each other.

Those among the intelligentsia who say that we should "learn from other countries" almost invariably mean that we should imitate what other countries have done. Angelo Codevilla argues that we should learn from other countries' mistakes, especially when those same mistakes have repeatedly produced bad results in many countries and among many very different peoples, living under very different political systems.

Putting ever more economic decisions in the hands of those with political power is just one of those mistakes with a track record of painful repercussions in many countries around the world. These repercussions have included not only serious economic losses but, even more important, a loss of personal freedom and self-respect, as ever wider segments of the population become supplicants and sycophants of those with the power to dispense largess or to make one's life miserable with legalistic or bureaucratic harassment.

We in America have taken large steps in that direction in recent years, and are accelerating our moves in that direction this year. Getting some clearer sense of what this risks is just one of many reasons to read "The Character of Nations."


Thomas Sowell

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

Creators Syndicate