Elsewhere (58)
Friday Ephemera



Is it too late for Sowell to run for office?


You could wtach the BBC, continuously, until the world ends, and be sure of never getting anything as good as this. If they actually provided this level of quality of analysis I wouldn't mind it being publicly funded so much.



Well, the BBC is in effect funded by a tax and this antiquated privilege is very much tied in with the Beeb’s statist, left-of-centre leanings. Publicly funded media organisations, even ones as vast as the BBC, will tend to favour the political party that favours more public funding.


Exactly. Their end product is ideas................



I vaguely recall Sowell being interviewed for Radio 4 by Matt Frei. Naturally, the left-leaning Mr Frei made sure we knew that Sowell is a (gasp) conservative and has appeared on (clutches pearls) Fox News. Frei had supposedly read at least some of Sowell’s work yet he didn’t seem to have grasped Sowell’s most basic and carefully worded arguments, airing instead his own cartoonish interpretations. (“So we should only allow dumb people in the White House?” etc.) Frei’s interviews with leftist figures are noticeably more sympathetic and better researched.


Half an hour well spent. Thanks.


Loved this. Can anyone recommend one of his books as a starting point?

Dr Cromarty

You can hear the Matt Frei interview here:

For someone who lives and works in America, he gives the distinct impression that he despises America and more especially, Americans. He gives the game away by wanting Sowell to be delighted by Obama as the first African-American president (isn't he African-Caucasian-Hawaiian?). Sowell is having none of it - policy is more important than the fact that a bruvah is now in the White House.

The bit about The Communist Manifesto is also illuminating. When Sowell can still recite some from memory, Frei laughs like a Jesuit hearing a former pupil still able to remember the Catechism.



Try the Thomas Sowell Reader, Economic Facts and Fallacies or Intellectuals and Society. Or you could spend an afternoon watching these.

Dr Cromarty,

The thing is, Frei has exactly the kind of views that Sowell criticises, which may explain the tone and shoddiness of the interview. Frei believes that “America’s brightest people” should be running things, by which he means Democrats in general and left-leaning intellectuals in particular. Let’s not forget Frei’s enthusiasm for Chinese authoritarianism as a model for “progressives”: “Sometimes you look at countries like China and you think, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to be an autocracy in times like these?’” Then there are his endless assumptions of statist entitlement, the jokes about the “Tea Party Taliban,” and his bizarrely effeminate gushing over Obama and his alleged brilliance. As a yardstick of the BBC’s institutional bias, Frei is as reliable as any.

But hey, it’s the BBC, where you’re more likely to hear half an hour of Laurie Penny than half an hour of Thomas Sowell.


Dr Cromarty,

“He gives the game away by wanting Sowell to be delighted by Obama as the first African-American president…”

Frei’s tone with Sowell (and with non-leftists generally) is often close to incredulity. He often sounds either mocking or quietly exasperated. It’s as if he can’t quite believe that people might have views at odds with his own and have good reasons to do so. For instance, that when voting one might not be willing to put racial tribalism before competence and policy. Or the belief that Obama may not be an entirely benign and centrist figure.

It’s quite funny that the Beeb still attempts to convince us – despite all evidence to the contrary - that it’s a politically impartial broadcaster and therefore deserving of taxpayers’ cash. And yet the Tweets of its staff read like excerpts from the Guardian. Which of course they often are.


And yet the Tweets of its staff read like excerpts from the Guardian.

Would Matt Frei also tweet that Obama appeals to "the angry black man"...?

sackcloth and ashes

Choosing Matt 'Stir' Frei to cover America is like choosing Ian Paisley to be your correspondent from the Vatican.

Mind you, the Beeb did have Justin Webb as their man in Washington DC, and his refusal to pander to established prejudices about the States certainly ruffled some feathers (see, for example, this typically cretinous rant from Mehdi Hasan):



Many thanks.


Love the one word summary of Noam Chomsky's politics.



I’m reading Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society at the moment and thought this brief extract might amuse. It touches on something we’ve talked about here – the asymmetry of leftist and non-leftist worldviews, particularly with regard to display and self-flattery:

If you happen to believe in free markets, judicial restraint, traditional values, [etc.]… then you are just someone who believes in free markets, judicial restraint and traditional values. There is no personal exaltation resulting from those beliefs. But to be for “social justice” and “saving the environment” or to be “anti-war” is more than just a set of beliefs about empirical facts. This vision puts you on a higher moral plane as someone concerned and compassionate, someone who is for peace in the world, a defender of the downtrodden… In short, one vision makes you somebody special and the other vision does not. These visions are not symmetrical.[…] Because the vision of the anointed is a vision of themselves as well as a vision of the world, when they are defending that vision they are not simply defending a set of hypotheses about external events, they are in a sense defending their very souls – and the zeal and even ruthlessness with which they defend their vision are not surprising under these circumstances.

At which point the word “occupy” sprang into my head.


But hey, it’s the BBC, where you’re more likely to hear half an hour of Laurie Penny than half an hour of Thomas Sowell.

Can someone please put the two of them in a room and let the cameras roll...?


Just finished reading one of Theodore Dalrymple's books. Now Sowell is another figure I've learned about from these pages...

He says similar things to George Carlin on Rights: where do people suppose these 'rights' come from?

Though Carlin of course held very different political views (if any). Some of the Occupy mob took one of Carlin's famous anarchic rants against Wall St./Bankers as being a statement of their cause (we're still waiting for a coherent statement from them)

In reality, the unpredictable Carlin might well be heaping ridicule on the occupods if he were still here. The right could do with someone who could articulate things like that (another point Sowell makes in one of the videos)



It’s odd how so much talk about rights has shifted from a notion of individual rights (meant to restrict the power of the state or king) to group rights and entitlements, which give the state greater power over individuals and what they may say, how much they may earn, whose lifestyle they have to subsidise, etc.

David Gillies

"It’s as if he can’t quite believe that people might have views at odds with his own and have good reasons to do so."

Per your last post, as Sowell has said, the preponderance of Leftist ideas in institutions where their unworkability is not a handicap should be unremarkable. As a corollary, given the pervasive bad faith that infests Leftism, we should not be shocked that Leftists find it hard to believe that deviation from the part line can be sincerely motivated. All motives must be ulterior.



“All motives must be ulterior.”

Broadly speaking, leftism does seem to involve a lot of projection. I’ve noticed a tendency to assume that people who aren’t persuaded by leftism must therefore be ideological. As if only some countervailing dogma or ‘false consciousness’ – or sheer stupidity - could explain the left’s failure to seduce everyone. But most of the people I know who might be regarded (by lefties) as “conservative” aren’t very ideological at all. They tend to be pragmatic and aren’t overly excited by grand social plans. They don’t even describe themselves as “conservative” or whatever, unlike lefties, who on the whole seem much more enthused by ideological labels. Especially self-flattering ones, e.g., ‘progressive’.

I suppose it’s part of the left’s self-exalting aspect, as Sowell puts it. There’s an asymmetrical element of cachet, of edginess, of ostentatious virtue. When I was in the sixth form at school a couple of people would bring the Guardian into the common room and carry it around in a particular way or ‘casually’ leave it on display, so that you were never in doubt which paper they were reading. It wasn’t so much a newspaper as a badge.


It wasn’t so much a newspaper as a badge.

Heh. But do you not suppose that some do (or did) the same with, for instance, The Economist at least, before it went in the tank for the dangers of "glbal warming?"



Well, there’s an overlap with more general status-seeking or snobbery, yes. But I think one can buy the Guardian in a particular way – ostentatiously, as it were – as a marker not just of cleverness but of moral and political virtue.


Having looked on the internet for leftist attacks on Sowell, I can't find any. I genuinely wonder if this is because he is (a) so formidable in his arguments that no-one can touch him, or (b) black.



As other black conservatives and classical liberals have been called “Uncle Toms” or “Oreos,” or denounced as either traitorous or insufficiently black, I’d guess it’s because Sowell would be a tough nut to crack. And ignoring arguments is a good way to avoid addressing them.


I've seen one or two of those. "Coconut"......

The psychology of the left absolutely fascinates me. This is going a bit off-topic but why is it, for instance, that so many people seem to want, even need, the world to be on the brink of destruction? I remember for example at the time of Swine Flu, when leftoid pundits such as Ben Goldacre, cheered on by the usual bleating Guardian-reading masses, puffed on about how serious this could all be. If even one commentator suggested the whole thing might be a bit overblown they were met by howls of righteous rage. It was as if the respondants' very ego was being threatened by the mere suggestion that we might possibly not all be about to die horribly; as if the respondants positively needed to be continuously living in a Hollywood disaster movie, and as if the very structure of their self-view depended on it. You can look at some of the messages sent to conservative pundit Michael Fumento on the same subject, plus of course SARS, Bird Flu, nuclear war pre 1990 and of course the obvious one.



“…why is it, for instance, that so many people seem to want, even need, the world to be on the brink of destruction?”

Um, blimey. How about drama? Self-importance? A pretext for control or sadistic urges? I’m guessing, of course.


Second link Guy Dammann: "and there is something magnificent about the thought of an entire species simply switching itself off"

I wonder if we've reached peak-deranged yet? Is it possible there's more?


There’s always more.

Oddly enough - or not oddly at all - Marx was also fond of apocalyptic scenarios. (“I will wander godlike and victorious through the ruins of the world,” etc.)

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