A Pagan's Blog

A Pagan's Blog

Hitler, Obama, and Thomas Sowell’s Intellectual Collapse

Economist Thomas Sowell received a lot of attention for a
piece he just wrote comparing Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler.  As Sowell explained, “To find anything comparable
to crowds’ euphoric reactions to Obama, you would have to go back to old
newsreels of German crowds in the 1930s, with their adulation of their fuehrer,
Adolf Hitler.” Elsewhere 
Sowell also argues  that
Obama’s getting new voters to the polls and his requiring BP to post $20
billion in escrow are additional steps along Hitler’s path to power


I found some newsreel
examples of Hitler and crowds. 
Sure looks like Democrats to me. 
 (For the benefit of my most conservative readers – this is sarcasm.

Sowell comes across in conservative minds as a real defender of American democracy, as Sarah Palin, for one, gushes. This is a sad commentary on both Sowell and the American ‘conservative’ mind.


Long ago, Thomas Sowell wrote a very fine book, Ethnic America.  I learned a lot from it, like the important and fascinating insight that Black Americans fall into three large cultural groups: those whose ancestors were slaves in the north, and were freed long before the Civil War, the majority of Black Americans who descended from Southern slaves, and a third group who emigrated from the West Indies.  Those descended from immigrants are as educated and prosperous as white Americans, and include people such as Harry Belafonte and Colin Powell.  Sowell uses their example to argue cultural traits matter more than racism or its lack in attaining economic success.  It’s a fascinating read.


Somewhat later Sowell wrote and OK book, Knowledge and Decisions on F. A. Hayek’s ideas and similar insights from other economists.   I’m not sure I learned anything new, but it was certainly easier to follow than Hayek’s own rather Germanic work and likely introduced many people to his ideas, albeit with a more right-ward slant than I think was justified. 


But by then Sowell had fallen in with right wing think tanks, and intellectually it seems to me his scholarly insight tended to be downhill from there.

In his newspaper column Sowell later repeated the false right (and left) wing canard that our founders disliked “democracy,” and preferred “republics,” quoting James Madison’s statement to that effect in The Federalist number 10. That Sowell was abandoning scholarship for hackdom had become clear, for Madison defined a republic as a system of government where the people elected representatives.  Today we call Madison’s “republic” ‘representative democracy’ – a term that did not then exist. (I can no longer find the column – Sowell wrote it before the net amounted to much of anything.)


But there was worse to come.  For example, Sowell, not Obama, has endorsed military coups to repudiate the voters when he disagrees with their choice: 


When I see the worsening
degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our
intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only
thing that can save this country is a military coup.

It is more than a little ironic (and given the American right’s love of violent rhetoric, also worrisome) that  Hitler’s first attempt to take power was an attempted coup in Bavaria, the “Beer Hall Putsch” taken for what he and his supporters argued were deeply patriotic reasons against the liberal Weimar Republic. Hitler seems in better keeping with Sowell’s recent line of argument than Barack Obama.


Thomas Sowell is a sad example of the collapse of conservative scholarship and moral and  intellectual integrity.

Comments read comments(44)
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posted June 25, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Didn’t Julien Benda discuss this process in The Treason of the Intellectuals?
In an odd way, it reminds me of the question of teaching Craft for money. Or for other reasons with different rewards.
World views do change. Sometimes they get more expansive and inclusive. Sometimes they get more constricted and exclusionary.

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Baruch Dreamstalker

posted June 25, 2010 at 1:54 pm

If you want a good riled-up-crowd scene check out the 1964 Republican convention.

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posted June 25, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Strawman arguments, pretzel logic, circular reasoning, and fictitious “facts” all sirred together to create a high school level opinion piece. If you think Congress generally and obama specifically are carrying out the will of the people at this point, then you are in the distinct minority and seriously deluded. I am very impressed; now that IS sarcasm, as opposed to your feeble attempt to ridicule a comparison between Germans of 70 years ago and obama drones today.

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Cheryl Hill

posted June 25, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Gus, *I* am very impressed that you can read that Right-wing rag long enough to get through the article.
I tried, but couldn’t hold my nose and not breathe for that long.

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Marion Delgado

posted June 25, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Gus should thank rob for the object lesson in what he’s writing about.

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Reston Rhodes

posted June 25, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Gov. Sarah Palin is a reflective & deliberate thinker. If she believes Mr. Sowell’s article has merit, then it must be worth a read.

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posted June 25, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Gus, All,
I did read the first 2 links, and listened to what Adolf Hitler said (my German is rusty and primitive), from what I understood of his speaches, they were very creepy (it takes alot to creep me out), but this definately fell into the category of creeping me out. The thing that was most creepy was the fact that the German people fell for what their Furher (government) was telling them just like we do. I am not 100% sure it’s Obama, but our government is showing some very interresting similarities to what I saw in that video. Please, because my German is both rusty and primitive, correct me if I misinterpreted it. Thank You.
Blessings to All of you.

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A Reader

posted June 25, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Sometimes I ask myself why I read this blog. Outside of the occasional well explained political piece and the odd tidbit about this hodgepodge religion the blog represents, I’d have to say it’s mostly for the laughs. Mr. Sowell’s article was interesting, but Gus’ rant really didn’t have anything solid against him or the piece- just the usual slew of opinions emotional arguments (which are hard to argue, because they make one frustrated without offering any solid logic to fight against). Par for the course I suppose.
Obama the president is nowhere near Hitler the dictator. Their messages are not the same (though they are both socialists), and I’m fairly certain Obama doesn’t plan to murder Jews. The only real reason for the comparison would be to note their effect on the people.
I can only remember back to first Clinton election, but I can wager a guess that no president within the past century has had crowds of people weeping, chanting, crying, and screaming his name whenever he gave a campaign speech. Google the ‘I Pledge’ video with Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, and a dozen or so other influential celebrities. If someone openly swearing to be a servant of Barack Obama doesn’t ring wrong with you, then maybe it isn’t Thomas who has gone astray.
Voter mobilization through cult of personality is something Obama did masterfully in the ’08 elections, and mobilization of national fervor through cult of personality is something Hitler did masterfully in the 30’s. If not for the overwhelming power of hollow eloquence and magnetic personality, how could a half-term senator with zero executive, military, or business experience be elected president? Reagan was well loved, but no one cried into an NBC camera that his election means no more paying for gas or mortgages. Eisenhower was popular, but not like this. Did Clinton evoke the euphoric, emotional orgy that Obama could during campaign speeches? Not even close.
Mr. Sowell’s comment about the military coup is (I hope) for the most part tongue in cheek, albeit a sad tongue in a somber cheek. I took that blurb as Mr. Sowell’s trust in the military’s ability to keep the US safe. Should our nation sink so low that the only people left who have any semblance of order and rationality are in uniform, I suppose I too would hope they step in an help. It still baffles me how they maintain their professionalism and effectiveness as a whole when the people who lead them (ie Clinton and Obama) have never even bothered to see what it’s like to serve the country they lead. Bush might have done jack squat, but he at least wore the uniform.
Speaking of Bush, where was YOUR indignation when people were comparing HIM to Der Furher?

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Gus diZerega

posted June 25, 2010 at 8:49 pm

‘A Reader”
If you have read this blog as much as you imply you have you’d know it is not ‘Obamabot’ by any stretch of the imagination. Its difference from Sowell is that I make intelligent and non-hypocritical criticisms.
If you knew a damn thing about American history you’d know that the Twentieth Century, especially from FDR on, has seen a worrisome shift to many people treating the President as some kind of elective king. JFK and ESPECIALLY Ronald Reagan had this kind of adulation. Reaganites wanted to name all sorts of things after him even while he was still alive. George Washington would have wanted to throw up.
If you knew anything about what you are writing about, you would know that in a video contest open to anyone when someone submitted a guest video comparing Bush to Hitler while he was President, the collective Right Wing had a hissy fit over the pure unadulterated nastiness of Bush’s critics, and especially Daily Kos s (I think it was Kos who had the contest) . Even though Kos had no control over submissions.
In other words, taken as a whole and with very rare exceptions the right wing is as dishonest and hypocritical as any political force I have ever come across in my life. Maybe the old American Communist Party could compete in dishonesty and hypocrisy. That’s all I can think of as a serious competitor at the moment.
When you begin making an honest or at least a polite argument, I’ll treat you with the respect your posts will finally deserve.
And no, I never compared Bush to Hitler. He was hideous in his own way.

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A Reader

posted June 25, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Quite the emotional response. Bravo.

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Gus diZerega

posted June 25, 2010 at 9:03 pm

There are some pretty off the wall Obamabots. There are such people with almost every president, especially since FDR when the presidency has come to symbolize so much for the country. Some people need kings and Dear Leaders. When Clinton got a blow job ‘cpnservatives’ whined in many cases about what a bad example that set for raising our children. Apparently they modeled their child rearing on using the President as a role model.
It’s a worrisome trend that George Bush did much to encourage. Remember what happened to the Dixie Chicks when Natalie Maines said she was “ashamed” Bush was from Texas? Their recordings were burned and a lot of so-called “patriotic Americans” called for their heads. Conservatives taken as a group are far and away the biggest practitioners of the view that when he is on their side the president can do no wrong, and when he is of the other party he can do no right.
Nothing remotely like that has happened under Obama. Many liberal bloggers and writers have been very critical – I have been extremely critical epecially in civil liberties issues and Afghanistan, and have posted a number of the best of them, especially Glenn Greenwald, and they remain popular with most liberal readers, even ones who like Obama more than they do. To my knowledge none have lost their jobs. None. There has been nothing like the Thought Control we saw on the Right under Bush’s presidency, where conservatives who were critical lost their positions at so-called “think tanks” which in most cases rapidly became full time employers for hacks. It is why ‘conservatism’ has suffered an intellectual collapse such that Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh write the books they read (or at least buy).
In addition – and my German is rusty as well- so far as I can tell from this one the content of Hitler’s speech is more paranoid patriotic than anything Obama ever said.

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posted June 26, 2010 at 2:35 am

Well you just spelled it out pretty Clearly. Sowell wants a military coup. Its pretty disgusting when people try to justify military coups while calling our democratically elected president Hitler. This man has never heard a moderate voice in his life. But in any case I believe Hitler was motivated by the same racism and “traditional” religious leanings that many of our country’s conservatives are currently infatuated with.

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posted June 26, 2010 at 5:53 am

Sowell is a loon. his relationship to reality is tenuous at best. My favorite type of comment is when people such as Sowell compare Obama to both a fascist AND a communist in the same breath. makes me smile every time. But then the full impact of their ignorance hits me and I get sad…
My local paper is the Union Leader. They carry Sowell regularly. It’s about as right wing as you can get. It’s depressing really. It presents the view that only Real Americans count. ‘Real Americans’ being defined as white, male, Christian and politically conservative. No others need apply.

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The L

posted June 26, 2010 at 8:24 am

Ah, Fox News. When the truth doesn’t make the Dems look bad enough, there are always lies. How my family thinks they’re even remotely balanced or in touch with reality at this point is beyond me.

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posted June 27, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Yea, as long as Dr. Sowell agreed with your thinking he was okay, but the minute he disagrees …. He somehow went all crazy….”I don’t buy your thinking sir…..go spread your “propaganda” some where that people with believe it………….

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posted June 27, 2010 at 9:42 pm

You guys need to read your HISTORY and may be you would not be so quick to call Dr. Sowell names …… please do … would take longer than a quick post on this blog….but our schools in America are not teaching American HISTORY…… really need to know it.

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Gus diZerega

posted June 27, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Celia- I guess you have no problem with advocating coups or arguing Obama is like Hitler. Those were facts from Thomas Sowell’s writings that I referred to. Apparently I am to be criticized because I disagree with him on these matters? Please give me your case for a military coup against an elected American government or for Obama being like Hitler.
More to the point, our discussions have generally given REASONS for our views, reasons you fail entirely to address. Discussions advance when people give reasons and evidence for their positions. Then other people can evaluate them for what they are worth. This used to be a skill possessed across the political spectrum, but apparently no longer.
Since so far you have given no reasons or evidence at all, but just called us names, it’s hard to judge whether your views are worth much. I am pretty well versed in American history and so are other readers here. Judging from his democracy/republic column I am better versed that Thomas Sowell on the thinking of our founders. And I know my German history pretty well. I await any evidence you have that contradicts what I’ve posted.
Addendum- Here is a quick and not deep discussion of Sowell’s argument about Obama and Hitler – quick as it is it shows he did not know what he was talking abut.

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Eye Opener

posted July 9, 2010 at 4:38 pm

i just wish more people would call out the ‘right’ for what they really are: a bunch of hypocritical racists who depend on government handouts and tax cuts off the backs of others in order to survive. If you had all ‘right’ states separate and form their own union, they’d implode because they’d have no one else to prey on. Who would provide the tax cuts? Who would provide the pork belly programs for their businessmen? Who would provide the funding for their expensive military?
For too damn long, other groups have been providing the ‘rightist’ with their air supply. If they were all lumped together in their own territory, all hell would break out amongst them.

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posted July 9, 2010 at 5:26 pm

What does this have to do with paganism? Did I stumble onto a political site? There’s no difference between your posts and the conservative christians on here. What a joke this site is.

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Not really...

posted October 28, 2010 at 5:42 pm

The statement that you quoted from Dr. Sowell’s column in no way shows that he “has endorsed military coups to repudiate the voters when he disagrees with their choice”… I think that you are adding your own meaning to the statement. Funny you didn’t mention “Basic Economics” or “A Conflict of Visions”. I literally can’t see how someone, after reading these books, could reamin a liberal. History has shown what happens when the liberal world view exists unchecked by democracy… Stalin, Mao, Castro, etc. Read “10 Books That Screwed Up the World – and Five Others that Didn’t Help” and “Liberal Fascism”. These two books explore these connections.
BMC, M.S. Applied Economics

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Gus diZerega

posted October 28, 2010 at 7:52 pm

I have read plenty of Sowell, maybe more than you, and his Ethnic America is a good book, So spare me your lecture until you actually respond to the blog post. Otherwise to my mind you are just another right wing authoritarian using personal attacks and changing the subject to avoid responding to the issue. And I am sick of right wing hypocrites and worse prancing around as defenders of “small government” while endorsing theocrats, torture, and all the rest of the Republican war on the Constitution
Address his quote, not what you think you know about me. Put up or shut up.

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posted October 29, 2010 at 4:08 am

Not Really…, The idea that Stalin, Mao and Castro ever embraced anything resembling a liberal worldview tells me that you have little of value to say on the subject. Nothing about classic or modern liberalism has anything to do with authoritarian communist regimes, no matter how many times the ignorant or disingenious conflate the two.

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posted June 30, 2011 at 12:54 am

Humoured… but of course. Funny how we “usually grow the hell up”. But god bless you,distracted by anger,envy and the boys you seek to “educate”. Hehe. Sad,actually. Hope you sissy’s don’t have children. Yes,I I too hate pragmatic common sense,critical thinkers like Sowell.

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AZ Rock

posted June 7, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I find your post to be excellent. What I find sad is that whether Sowell wants to see himself as black or not, he is black and so is the President. More black men such as Sowell, Allen West, J.C. Watts etc., have bend over backwards in their lives and careers to appease white men; the same white men that would have them in shackles literally. His intellectual dogma is stymied in the fact that all men are equal. In America this is not the case and many factors remind black men of that fact every day. Sowell’s legacy will go down as a man with the intellectual capacity to have enacted change, but the cowardice to be afraid to truly do so.

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posted July 19, 2012 at 12:47 am

Its unfortunate that everyone feels compelled to “be right”.
On the other hand, there is a BIG salary disparity between the lowly halls of Cal and the Mahogany Row of Stanford‘s Hoover Institution. Perhaps that explains some of the animosity and overwhelming need to “be right” on the part of this blogger. He sure seems angry….

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Dominador Sagun

posted May 8, 2013 at 12:51 pm


In Deutchesland, VE HAV VAYS for dealing with SVINE like U.

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