So I’ve been out awhile for the holidays. Upon returning, I learned that Thomas Sowell is finally retiring, at the ripe age of 86. I had this to say elsewhere:
Thomas Sowell is retiring, and it’s something of a sad day. He’s 86, now, and he’s had a good run. We can’t ask anything more of this man. But for decades he has been a voice from the old Chicago school of economics. While others of this economic philosophy were experts in the arcane details (and make no mistake, Thomas Sowell was also), Dr. Sowell had a special gift: he could articulate the principles of the Chicago school in a way that the everyday layman could understand.
Many of us libertarian-minded folks learned the basics from Dr. Sowell’s books and videos. I remember his appearances with Milton Friedman and other Chicago school economists in debates, and he would come armed with a litany of facts, statistics, and prepared data. His opponents, most often, did not do their homework. He embarrassed many Socialists and Keynesians in such a way.
At the same time, he was always calm, collected, and respectful. You almost never saw him angry or frustrated. He was confident in his positions, but spent much of life learning and modifying them as he gained new data (it is little-known that he began his career as a Marxist, and only later changed his mind). He was less ideologically driven than most. And so I came to trust him on that basis. It takes a pair to admit you’re wrong, modify your position, and start over.
He came from a humble background, and rose to become the star of the Chicago school. In a day and age when American blacks often believe they can’t succeed, due as much to the toxic influence of Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons as anything else, Thomas Sowell stands out. And he possessed intellectual courage. If he had spouted the party line, and put his intellect to the service of Marxist race-peddlers, he could have had far greater fame, wealth, and power. If Obama could sling himself into the Presidency off of nothing, imagine what a mind like Dr. Sowell’s could have done, if only he embraced Progressivism? He chose to forgo these in the search for truth, and that alone is worthy of great respect, without even taking into account his many other accomplishments.
The Left, of course, reviled him for this. He could never be forgiven his sin of leaving the ideological plantation. As a friend of mine said this morning: “It’s been a Leftist rite of passage to call Thomas Sowell an Uncle Tom since the 1970s.”
I don’t know who will take his place, or if it could ever be filled. I can only wish him the best in retirement, and say thank you, for a great part of my own understanding of economics and philosophy began with him. He’s been an enormous impact in my own life.