Thomas Sowell

There can be grave practical consequences of a dogmatic insistence on external explanations that allow individuals to escape personal responsibility. Americans can end up ruining the best medical care in the world in the vain hope that a government takeover will give us better health.

Economic issues are approached in the same way. People with low incomes are seen as a problem for other people to solve. Studies which follow the same individuals over time show that the vast majority of working people who are in the bottom 20 percent of income earners at a given time end up rising out of that bracket.

Many are simply beginners who get beginners' wages but whose pay rises as they acquire more skills and experience. Yet there is a small minority of workers who do not rise and a large number of people who seldom work and who-- surprise!-- have low incomes as a result.

Seldom is there any thought that people who choose to waste years of their own time (and the taxpayers' money) in school need to change their own behavior-- or to visibly suffer the consequences, so that their fate can be a warning to others coming after them, not to make that same mistake.

It is not just the "non-judgmental" ideology of the intelligentsia but also the self-interest of politicians that leads to so much downplaying of personal responsibility in favor of external explanations and external programs to "solve" the "problem."

On these and other issues, government programs are far less likely to solve the country's problems than to solve the politicians' problem of getting the votes of those whose think the answer to every problem is for the government to "do something."


Thomas Sowell

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

Creators Syndicate