Birth of Thomas Sowell

June 30, 2018

On 30 June 1930, Thomas Sowell – eminent, African-American free-market economist, social theorist, political philosopher and prolific libertarian-conservative writer – was born in North Carolina, US.  Sowell is a giant intellect of modern times, one of America’s greatest contemporary philosophers and a concise critic of conventional leftist thought.

Sowell has written and commentated incisively since the early 1970s from a classical liberal and libertarian-conservative perspective. In early public life, he was mentored by Nobel Prize-winning, liberty-fighting and free-market economist, Milton Friedman. With this invaluable grounding - along with copious common sense, powers of reason, charm and charisma - Sowell went on to have a similarly prolific career in economics, social policy and commentariat.

Sowell has written over 30 books, on economics, identity politics, race, ethnic groups, education, decision-making, law & order and child development.

The humble octogenarian Sowell remains a syndicated columnist and academic economist, continuing to be a Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Celebrate the birth, life and achievements of the great Thomas Sowell by:


Further details on Thomas Sowell

Sowell’s father died shortly before he was born so he was adopted by his great aunt and her two daughters. At age nine, Sowell and his family moved to Harlem, New York, where he became the first in his family to study beyond the sixth grade.

After leaving school early and a stint in the armed forces (including the US Marines), Sowell attended night classes in his 20s to finish his secondary education. Over the mid and late 1950s, Sowell received Bachelor (Harvard) and Masters (Columbia) degrees in economics whilst initially sympathetic to Marxist thought. But a stint as a thirty year old intern in the US Federal Department of Labour – where he analysed the terrible unemployment effects of mandated minimum wage rises in Puerto Rico – saw him rejecting, forever, Marxian economics in favour of free market economic theory.

Sowell followed (Nobel Prize in economics recipient) George Stigler to the University of Chicago and attained a PhD in economics in 1968. His dissertation was titled “Say's Law and the General Glut Controversy”.

In classical economics, Say’s Law – aka the law of markets and foundation stone of laissez-faire economics – posits that, if left alone, aggregate production / supply creates equivalent aggregate demand and that a capitalist economy will naturally tend toward full employment and prosperity without government intervention. It is essentially the antithesis of Keynesian economics which has causation going the other (wrong) way, justifying intervention on intervention by government and political elites that “know best” how to perceive and close any gaps in the aggregate economy.

In 2005, Sowell authored “Intellectuals and Society” that built on his profound trilogy of books of the preceding two decades on ideologies and political positions. This body of work discussed the origins of political strife, compared the worldviews of libertarian-conservatives and progressive-liberals, and explored why intellectuals, politicians and leaders – replete with their blind hubris and follies – so often feel compelled to fix and perfect the world (into their idea of Utopia) but with disastrous and potentially dystopian consequences.

As a black, social theorist, Sowell has also been a staunch critic of affirmative action, positive discrimination, race-based quotas and the general trend of identity politics. Instead of governments (and their litany of programs) helping or saving minorities, he exposes and points to the historical record that shows quite the opposite.

Sowell has been a prolific writer since the early 1970s, as a classical, supply-side economist, social theorist and philosopher, through books and papers such as:

  • Say's Law: A Historical Analysis (1972)
  • Race and Economics (1975)
  • Knowledge and Decisions (1980)
  • Ethnic America (1981)
  • Markets and Minorities (1981)
  • The Economics and Politics of Race (1983)
  • A Conflict of Visions (1987)
  • The Vision of the Anointed (1995)
  • The Quest for Cosmic Justice (2002)
  • The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late (2002)
  • Affirmative Action Around the World (2004)
  • Black Rednecks and White Liberals (2005)
  • Intellectuals and Society (2010)
  • Dismantling America (2010)
  • Marxism: Philosophy and Economics (2011)
  • Intellectuals and Race (2013)
  • Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy (5th ed., 2014)
  • Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective (2015), and
  • Discrimination and Disparities (2018).

Some of his best quotes, across a range of topics, include:

  • “The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that they do not work. Therefore we should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive.”
  • “Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”
  • “Socialism sounds great. It has always sounded great. And it will probably always continue to sound great. It is only when you go beyond rhetoric, and start looking at hard facts, that socialism turns out to be a big disappointment, if not a disaster.”
  • “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”
  • “Competition does a much more effective job than government at protecting consumers.”
  • “Understanding the limitations of human beings is the beginning of wisdom.”
  • “Too much of what is called 'education' is little more than an expensive isolation from reality.”
  • “Our schools and colleges are turning out people who cannot feel fulfilled unless they are telling other people what to do.”
  • “Envy plus rhetoric equals 'social justice'.”
  • “Racism has never done this country any good, and it needs to be fought against, not put under new management for different groups.”
  • “Some of the people on death row today might not be there if the courts had not been so lenient on them when they were first offenders.”
  • “If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labelled a radical 50 years ago, a liberal 25 years ago and a racist today”, and
  • “'Global warming' is just the latest in a long line of hysterical crusades to which we seem to be increasingly susceptible.”

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