Thomas Sowell

The targets have been different in different countries but the basic story has been much the same. Those who cannot compete in the marketplace, despite their degrees, not only resent those who have succeeded where they have failed, but push demands for preferential treatment, in order to negate the "unfair" advantages that others have.

Similar attempts to substitute political favoritism for developing one's own skills and achievements have been common as well in India, Nigeria, Malaysia, Fiji, Sri Lanka and throughout Central Europe and Eastern Europe between the two World Wars.

Such political movements cannot promote their agendas without demonizing others, thereby polarizing whole societies. Time and again, their targets have been those who have the skills and achievements that they lack. When they achieve their ultimate success, forcing such people out of the country, as in Uganda in the 1970s or Zimbabwe more recently, the whole economy can collapse.

Against this international background, the current class warfare rhetoric in American politics and ethnic grievance ideology in our schools and colleges, can be seen as the dangerous things they are. Those who are pushing such things may be seeking nothing more than votes for themselves or some unearned group benefits at other people's expense. But they are playing with dynamite.

The semi-literate sloganizing of our own Occupy Wall Street mobs recalls the distinction that Milton Friedman often made between those who are educated and those who have simply been in schools. Generating more such people, in the name of expanding education, may serve the interests of the Obama administration but hardly the interests of America.

Thomas Sowell

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

Creators Syndicate