Whenever you need some sanity, a dose of Thomas Sowell can sometimes be what the doctor ordered.
The venerable conservative economist and pundit was appearing on Fox Business Network on Tuesday in part to discuss his book “Discrimination and Disparities.” If you haven’t read it, the basic premise is that inequalities aren’t necessarily the result of historical injustices.
During the appearance, anchor David Asman asked Sowell about the current fad regarding reparations — one which has been embraced by at least two Democrat presidential contenders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.
Sowell said the premise of the idea — that present inequalities can be blamed on the past — can’t be backed up.
“This is one of any number of one-factor explanations as to why everyone doesn’t have the same outcome,” Sowell said.
“A hundred years ago it was genetics. In other times and places it was exploitation. But again, these are ideas that sound plausible, but when you do research, you discover that everywhere you turn, there are a thousand reasons why people don’t turn out the same.”
Sowell then gave one of the more curious examples from his recent tome.
“It goes right down to the family,” he said.
“In the first chapter of this book, I point out that the firstborn has higher IQs than his siblings and (in) later life has more achievements. Among astronauts, for example, of the 29 astronauts in the Apollo program that put a man on the moon, 22 were either the firstborn or an only child.
“Now, if you can’t get equality among people born to the same parents and raised under the same roof, why in the world do you think you’re going to get it among people who’ve had such different histories and cultures around the world?”
In “Discrimination and Disparities,” Sowell presented even more evidence regarding this unusual disparity.
“Data on male medical students at the University of Michigan, class of 1968, showed that the proportion of first-born men in that class was more than double the proportion of later-born men as a group, and more than ten times the proportion among men who were fourth-born or later. A 1978 study of applicants to a medical school in New Jersey showed the first-born over-represented among the applicants, and still more so among the successful applicants … whatever the proportion in a given country, the first-born tend to go on to higher education more often than do later siblings. A study of Britons in 2003 showed that 22 percent of those who were the eldest child went on to receive a degree, compared to 11 percent of those who were the fourth child and 3 percent of those who were the tenth child.”
This clearly isn’t an issue of racial discrimination, and other disparities Sowell writes about aren’t either. Why, then, should we assume that discrimination is at the heart of our inequalities in this country?
Sadly, Sowell — a Marxist in his youth — says he’s somewhat pessimistic about the future, particularly when it comes to socialism.
“I do have a great fear that, in the long run, we may not make it,” Sowell said.
“I hate to say that. The one thing that keeps me from being despairing is that we don’t know. There are so many things that we can’t possibly know. And so, we may make it, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
“So many people today, including in the leading universities, don’t pay much attention to evidence,” he added.
“When you see people starving in Venezuela and fleeing into neighboring countries and realize that this is a country that once had the world’s largest oil reserves, you realize that they’ve ruined a very good prospect with ideas that sounded good but didn’t turn out well.
“These so-called ‘exceptions’ (involving the failure of socialism) are almost universal on every continent among people of every race, color, creed and whatever.”
However, evidence is evidence. Equality can’t even be guaranteed within families, as the data Sowell cited shows.
How do liberals expect government to solve disparities on a grand scale when inequalities like the success of the firstborn exist?
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