Thomas Sowell

Rebuking the Spirit of Ignorance

At some point, the spirit will be exorcised.


It’s not clear when this spirit possessed the body. It’s not clear when this perverse entity took control and caused so much havoc, unleashed so much hell, directed so much destruction.


However, at some point, this spirit will be forced out.


This spirit—the spirit of ignorance—has taken over too many host bodies on the right. It’s a dark, devastating spirit, a painful poltergeist that threatens to destroy the conservative movement as we know it.


The spirit of ignorance causes its hosts to believe that knowledge is not necessary…education is not necessary…enlightenment is not necessary…nothing is necessary except for having the right values.


You can be as ignorant as you want to be, according to the dictates of this spirit. It doesn’t matter, so long as you have the right views and values.


This spirit is antithetical to conservatism’s past—for historically, it was conservatives who brought the knowledge, brought the ideas, brought the sense, brought the reason.


Bill Buckley. Milton Friedman. Thomas Sowell. Irving Kristol. They were the intellectual all-stars, the Dream Team of the right.


Who are their heirs? Who did they pass the torch to? Did the torch just fall to the ground, incinerating everything in its path?


There’s too much ignorance on the right these days—not enough intellectual depth, not enough erudition, not enough study. We have become geniuses at catchphrases and putdowns, but moronic when it comes to lifting this country up.


It’s not enough in this day and age to have the right principles. One must have the intellectual and rhetorical skills to communicate those principles to those willing to listen. Are conservatives now so fond of talking to themselves that they’ve lost the ability to talk to anyone else? Have we lost this art?


Can conservatives take a collective vow to spend the 2010s actually recruiting new people to the conservative movement, instead of building rhetorical monuments to the last Titan of the Right who tried to reach beyond his base? Consider the realm of faith—who’s a better Christian, someone who talks about Jesus Christ all the time, or someone who actually tries to help others as Jesus helped? The answer is obvious, no?


I would rather conservatives never mention Ronald Reagan’s name again, while continuing his work of reaching others with a conservative message, than constantly mention Reagan’s accomplishments while never bothering to bring people around to the worldview he advocated. Too many folks on the right have become the real-life versions of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen’s proverbial showbiz kids, spending their time making movies of themselves while not giving a damn about anybody else. It’s time for that to stop. Now.


The Tea Party movement is all nice and good, but it’s nowhere near enough. Protest, in and of itself, is never enough. Remember Frederick Douglass’ words: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” What have the Tea Partiers truly demanded?  And what will they do if they fail to get it?


Sometimes it seems that conservatives don’t realize just how much work they need to do to truly make this a center-right nation. The recent Gallup polls indicate that forty percent of the country self-identifies as conservative. That’s a pathetically low number. Why doesn’t sixty-five to seventy percent of the country self-identify as conservative? (And please don’t blame the mainstream media. Our message should be loud enough, strong enough, logical enough to be heard above the din of the mainstream media. If we haven’t made our message this loud and this clear, it’s our fault, not the Fourth Estate’s.)


There needs to be a real revolution within the right—a revolution that casts out the demon of ignorance, and elevates intelligent traditionalism—the sort that Buckley, Friedman, Sowell and Kristol, among others, represented—to its rightful place in the movement. There needs to be a real revolution that simplifies and clarifies conservative principles so that those principles can be communicated to those who aren’t already in the conservative camp.  There needs to be a real revolution that brings about a vibrant, vigorous conservatism, not the old, musty, dusty stuff that passes for conservatism today.


If that real revolution doesn’t come, then we deserve to be trashed as teabaggers—and we’ll find ourselves steeped in spitefulness.



I see an American electorate split into three groups. We are the first. We are called conservatives, right wingers, the right, sometimes libertarians.

Secondly, the left. Called socialists, lefties, libtards, moonbats, etc.

These two groups share one feature, Vision. They don't share a vision, they both have a vision. Thomas Sowell elucidates in Conflict of Visions.

The left has an unconstrained vision, the right a constrained vision. That is, the left sees human nature as malleable and perfectable and we can perfect human nature and society if only we have the right program or institution. The right sees human nature as fallen or flawed and unchanging but if we set up simple constraints, people can thrive. This is why we have a balance of powers in our constitution, and this is why the left has always been uncomfortable with the constraints of power designed into our constitution. (Libertarians can fall for this vision and can say that mankind can be perfected if we only get rid of government.)

In the middle we have a group without vision. Not comfortable with the socialists and misunderstanding the constraints that lead to our liberty and prosperity they can swing from side to side as one group errs or successfully hides its agenda.

We need more conservatives. In order to obtain more, we need to communicate our vision to people without a vision and to people whose vision is in conflict with our own. In order to communicate our vision we must understand our own vision.

This is our fundamental problem. We take positions which seem heartless and stupid to our opponents because they don't share our vision. But when we debate on the matter we can't communicate our vision because we don't understand our vision. WIthout communicating the vision which leads to our conclusion there is no way we can convince our opponents or the middle because we never get to the heart of the issue.

I would suggest starting with Thomas Sowell's book Conflict of Visions and learning our own core principles over again. Then we can communicate our vision without getting mired in hopeless debates over policy points. We can have the advantage in this battle, because our opponent doesn't understand their vision either. But make no mistake it will be a battle.

As a movement, we need to better understand our vision, better communicate our vision, and then select leaders and candidates who best expresses our vision in order to have lasting impact and restore our nation to the principles which made us great.


Not the Conservatives I Know

Thomas Sowell advances the narrative that a slew of conservatives are throwing their support to Barack Obama.  Is he serious, or is this a twisted form of reverse psychology to fire up the conservative base?  

A number of friends of mine have commented on an odd phenomenon that they have observed-- conservative Republicans they know who are saying that they are going to vote for Barack Obama. It seemed at first to be an isolated fluke, perhaps signifying only that my friends know some strange conservatives. But apparently columnist Robert Novak has encountered the same phenomenon and has coined the term "Obamacons" to describe the conservatives for Senator Obama.

Who are these conservatives?  Republicans or those who have voted Republican in the past? Maybe. But conservatives who believe in more freedom and power for the people and less for the government? I can't fathom it.

Admittedly, I have friends who are uncertain about voting for the Republican nominee this year, but I don't envision them voting for Barack Obama, and in effect, endorsing the greatest expansion of government since FDR.  

A great orator Obama certainly is.  A symbol of how much our nation has advanced since only white, men with land could vote?  Yes!  I would also argue he's probably a better actor than Ronald Reagan ever was, even as "the Gipper."  I admire all of those qualities in a presidential candidate.  

But a friend of conservatism?



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