Thomas Sowell

It was like no other labor economics course I knew about or had heard about -- and there was a reason. He was introducing his own analytical framework that was destined to change the way many issues would be seen by the economics profession in the years ahead.

The unfamiliarity of what he was saying made me skeptical. So I went to the department chairman to get permission to drop the second semester of this year-long course.

He asked my reason and, never known for diplomatic skills, I said, "I am not learning anything." That was true in itself but for reasons the opposite of what I thought at the time. Becker was teaching, and teaching something important, but I just wasn't on the same wavelength.

That became a continuing source of embarrassment to me over the years, after I belatedly grasped what he was trying to get across. This has been filed with a considerable list of decisions I later regretted in the course of a long life.

The next time I encountered Gary Becker was a decade later, during the defense of my doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago. He was not on the dissertation committee, but sat in on the discussion and could not have been more gracious.

Later Becker became a part-time Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, where I was also a Senior Fellow. I could never find the right time or the right way to apologize for my youthful mistake. Now that opportunity is gone. If you owe someone an apology, it is better to do it sooner rather than later.


Thomas Sowell

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

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