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.