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Sowell presents a devastating critique of the mind-set behind the failed social policies of the past thirty years. Sowell sees what has happened during that time not as a series of isolated mistakes but as a logical consequence of a tainted vision whose defects have led to crises in education, crime, and family dynamics, and to other social pathologies. In this book, he describes how elites--the anointed--have replaced facts and rational thinking with rhetorical assertions, thereby altering the course of our social policy.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780465089956
ISBN-10: 046508995X
Format: Paperback
(203mm x 140mm x 22mm)
Pages: 320
Imprint: Basic Books
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 7-Jun-1996
Country of Publication: United States


US Kirkus Review » Conservative gadfly Sowell doesn't like the vision thing - at least, not as long as the vision is that of his political opponents on the left. Sowell (Race and Culture, 1994, etc.) sardonically refers to his targets here as the "anointed" - a kind of authoritarian liberal cabal whose view predominates in today's world (despite 12 years of Reagan/Bush, despite a Republican-controlled Congress). Exemplars of this mindset, according to Sowell, are David I. Bazelon, chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the 1960s, who argued for rehabilitation of criminals rather than punishment, and New York Times columnist Tom Wicker, who wrote of a "right to income." How do these do-gooders maintain their predominance? With a rhetorical repertoire that includes, for instance, what the author calls "aha!" statistics, numbers that purport to show cause and effect (e.g., low rates of prenatal care among black women and high black infant mortality rates), pointing to neglect by society of various "mascot groups" (blacks, gays, women, etc.). The anointed ignore all evidence that their theories and policies have failed: Since the war on poverty was started, Sowell claims, dependence on government largesse has increased. Similarly, despite the institution of sex education, teenage pregnancy rates have skyrocketed (the quantity and quality of these programs, let alone other factors, don't figure into this discussion). Sowell himself espouses a different vision, one that assumes the tragedy of the human condition. It's a vision of limited possibilities for social change, with no solutions, only trade-offs; no have-nots, only do-nots who deserve no compassion. The anointed are not well-meaning but rather infatuated with their own virtue; not misguided, but a threat to "the social cohesion that makes civilized life possible." Sowell's venomous tone dominates his own, sometimes thin evidence, making this a polarizing screed rather than a rational argument. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell has taught economics at a number of colleges and universities, including Cornell, University of California Los Angeles, and Amherst. He has published both scholarly and popular articles and books on economics, and is currently a scholar in residence at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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