Conservatism's Answer to Black Lives Matter: How One Journalist Is Spreading the Work of Thomas Sowell


“I think he deserves to be a lot better known than he is, particularly among blacks,” Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley told The Western Journal.

The man Riley was referring to is none other than Thomas Sowell, one of the most influential conservative economists and philosophers of the past half-century.

Sowell’s built up quite an impressive résumé over the years — he’s authored over 30 books, written a nationally syndicated column and dazzled television audiences time and again throughout numerous debates and various network appearances.

For decades, Riley has followed Sowell’s work, and now, he’s hoping to share all he’s learned with as many people as possible.

In order to do so, Riley has two projects in the works.

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The first is “Thomas Sowell: Common Sense in a Senseless World,” a documentary hosted by Riley that reviews both Sowell’s private life and his work’s influence. The second is a book titled “Maverick,” which Riley describes as an intellectual biography focusing on Sowell’s ideas and “how he’s distinguished himself as a scholar and what his legacy will be.”

Riley’s interest in Sowell dates backs to his college years in the early 1990s.

“I worked on the school paper and I remember having a discussion in the newsroom about affirmative action one day,” Riley told The Western Journal.

“One of the other guys on the paper said, ‘You sound like Tom Sowell.’ And I said, ‘Tom who?’ I had never heard of him.”

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Intrigued, the young Riley went straight to the school’s library and checked out one of Sowell’s books.

He read it in one sitting.

What drew Riley to Sowell’s work was their shared point of view grounded in the libertarian principle of prioritizing education, personal responsibility and free markets when addressing issues such as racial economic disparities.

Sowell’s philosophy rejects the premise of the widely celebrated Black Lives Matter movement — that American society is rooted in so-called “systemic racism” and is programmed to privilege those with white skin over those with darker skin. Moreover, the Black Lives Matter philosophy posits that systemic racism can only be overcome by creating racial equity through economic distribution and a radical transformation of government and social institutions.

Instead, when it comes to racial economic disparities, Sowell argues that social programs often create downward pressure on economic mobility through incentivizing government dependency.

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Furthermore, Sowell’s work shows that cultural differences account for varying levels of economic success between different communities in modern-day America. In his view, many of these differences have had more of an effect on black economic disparities than the vaguely defined notion of “systemic racism.”

Clearly, Sowell has inspired Riley’s work, as is evidenced in his review of Riley’s 2014 book, “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed.”

“Pick up a copy and open pages at random to see how the author annihilates nonsense,” Sowell wrote in his syndicated column.

Riley’s review of Sowell’s work is similarly glowing. He notes how the economist has “written circles” around many of the men considered to be “black academic superstars” today, such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, a staunch advocate of reparations for slavery, and Ibram X. Kendi, the best-selling author of “How to Be an Antiracist.”

“Tom has written much more widely than they have, I think his thinking is much more rigorous than those, yet Tom is never mentioned in sort of the black pantheon of great black intellectuals in America and I think that’s unfortunate,” Riley told The Western Journal.

“I hope that the documentary and this book I’m also publishing, this biography of Tom that I’m publishing in the spring, will maybe help to change that simply by whetting people’s appetite.”

One of the reasons Sowell remains so popular, in Riley’s view, is that “what he has written about for many years remains so relevant to a lot of our discussions today.”

“You take a topic like social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement and the social justice warriors and debates about affirmative action and income inequality and so forth, and socialism, Tom’s been writing about this stuff for 40 or 50 years. None of this is new,” he said.

“And his ability to draw on that experience and relate it to what’s going on today and then trace its origins back hundreds of years to differences in different political philosophies and the roots of those differences.”

Indeed, the continued rise of the Black Lives Matter movement over the course of the past year has brought many of the subjects Sowell specialized in to the forefront of the American zeitgeist.

If successful in his aim to spread the work of Thomas Sowell, Riley will have provided an important new facet to the national dialogue on race — conservatism’s answer to Black Lives Matter.

Thomas Sowell: Common Sense in a Senseless World” can be watched in its entirety on the Free To Choose Network’s YouTube Channel.

“Maverick” will be released on May 25, 2021, and is available for pre-order on Basic Books and Amazon.

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Michael wrote for a number of entertainment news outlets before joining The Western Journal in 2020 as a staff reporter. He now manages the writing and reporting teams, overseeing the production of commentary, news and original reporting content.
Michael Austin graduated from Iowa State University in 2019. During his time in college, Michael volunteered as a social media influencer for both PragerU and Live Action. After graduation, he went on to work as a freelance journalist for various entertainment news sites before joining The Western Journal in 2020 as a staff reporter.

Since then, Michael has been promoted to the role of Manager of Writing and Reporting. His responsibilities now include managing and directing the production of commentary, news and original reporting content.
Ames, Iowa
Iowa State University
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