Compassion vs. Guilt in the Age of Barack Obama


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Sowell challenges the “crusaders” and “deep thinkers” who think every problem has a solution. In an essay on the 1980s drug war – which could just as well be reprinted today following Barney Frank and Ron Paul’s legislation on marijuana – Sowell advocates legalization not as a “solution” but a trade-off. Noting that bootleggers often financed the campaigns to ban liquor, Sowell brings an economic perspective to the issue:

Legalization of narcotics would similarly destroy the profits of today’s drug pushers. There is no way that they can compete with drugs that can be mass-produced cheaply by big pharmaceutical companies.

This is not a complete “solution.” Nowhere is it written in stone that there are always answers in the back of the book. What we can do as a society is to cut our losses. It is bad enough that some people destroy their own lives with drugs. We don’t need to add vast numbers of innocent victims who are robbed, mugged or murdered by addicts trying to get money for a fix.

Sowell also has his eye on foreign policy and applies this paradigm of compassion versus guilt and solutions versus trade-offs. The United Nations was created with the noble, “compassionate” agenda of preventing wars and facilitating peace talks and negotiations. But this emphasis on trying to make negotiations the “solution” to every conflict has unequal costs for different nations:

Nothing is more predictable in any war today than a U.N. call for a “cease-fire” and “negotiations.” Non-democratic aggressors, like the Soviets in Afghanistan or the Syrians in Lebanon, ignore such calls with impunity. But in democratic nations, the political weight of this call from “world opinion” cannot always be brushed aside.

This has made aggression a game of heads-I-win and tails-we-tie.

Those words were published in September of 1983 but almost 30 years later they are just as relevant and accurate, particularly when it comes to the Jihadist war against Israel. This is what Caroline Glick means when she talks about Israel as a “shackled warrior” unable to fight its enemies properly.

A new Sowell column arrives only once a week. However for those who cannot get enough of the thinker’s insights and refreshingly straightforward prose, perhaps it’s time to dig into the archives a bit.

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  • paddydonovan

    Just finished reading his book on the housing bust. Absolutely dead on perfect in regards to what regulation and quotas have done and how nobody has the political will to make sure it doesn't happen again, which it is in the process of happening again.

  • Daren

    Truly an American intellectual treasure !!! Mr. Sowell is perhaps Harlem's greatest gift to America – down to earth COMMONSENSE !!! Instrumental in curing my black nationalist marxist ideologic blindness !!! Thank You Mr. SOWELL! May God bless you and smile upon you .

  • 11bravo

    Sowell is the MAN! the BOMB!
    I do not understand why they (Sowell and Dr, Williams) are not brought on to TV much more often.
    They relate to the american people on a level no politician or TV talking can even come close to. Complicated issues stated plainly.
    Rubio and West should be the spokesmen for the Senate and House respectively. Beohnert (sp) and McConnell need to get there faces off the TV.
    They are the Trent Lot-Tom Delay hangovers from bad GOP politics of the past. The Bob-get off my lawn-Dole old rich white men image that conservatives need to shake off.

    Please bring up this point on other blogs to hopefully get out the word to the GOP establishment.

  • johnnywoods

    I wish Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams were a few years younger. Can you imagine them as a political ticket.?

  • paddydonovan

    Towering intellectual force in the world today and it drives the left insane. Why is that?

    • Daren

      because it is inconceivable that a two poor black boys -one from Harlem and the other one from a North Philly housing project – could be so brilliant!!! Racists social darwinists that the marxist leftists are !!!

  • aspacia

    Sowell is on target as usual. I sent sent one of his videos to my high school principal to refute his claims regarding economics. Guess what he said: "Why did you send me a video of some guy on the internet?" I was dumbfounded at first, and walked away. After I recovered I sent this ill-informed pedagogue a list of Sowell's credits. No response, and he never mentioned economics near me again:-)