Thomas Sowell

Creating a difference that would not exist otherwise is discrimination, and something can be done about that. But, in recent times, virtually any disparity in outcomes is almost automatically blamed on discrimination, despite the incredible range of other reasons for disparities between individuals and groups.

Nature's discrimination completely dwarfs man's discrimination. Geography alone makes equal chances virtually impossible. The geographic advantages of Western Europe over Eastern Europe-- in climate and navigable waterways, among other things-- have led to centuries of differences in income levels that were greater than income differences between blacks and whites in America today.

Just the fact that the lay of the land is different in different parts of Europe meant that it was easier for the Roman legions to invade Western Europe. This meant that Western Europeans had the advantages of the most advanced civilization in Europe at that time. Moreover, because Roman letters were used in Western Europe, the languages of that region had written versions centuries before the Slavic languages of Eastern Europe did.

The difference between literacy and illiteracy is a huge difference, and it remained huge for centuries. Was it the Slavs' fault that the Romans did not want to climb over so many mountains to get to them?

To those living in Western Europe in the days of the Roman Empire, the idea of being conquered, and many slaughtered, by the Romans probably had no great appeal. But their descendants would benefit from their bad luck. And that doesn't seem fair either.

Thomas Sowell

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

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