164+ Best Thomas Sowell Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Dr. Thomas Sowell is an American economist and social theorist who is currently a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is known for his controversial views on race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. He is the author of over 20 books and has edited or contributed to others. Powerful Thomas Sowell quotes will enrich your life by making your life as fulfilling, meaningful, and filled with different views as possible.

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Most Famous Thomas Sowell Quotes

I have never understood why it is greed to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else’s money. – Thomas Sowell

One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain. – Thomas Sowell

One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them. – Thomas Sowell

Talkers are usually more articulate than doers, since talk is their specialty. – Thomas Sowell

Our schools and colleges are turning out people who cannot feel fulfilled unless they are telling other people what to do. – Thomas Sowell

The biggest and most deadly ‘tax’ rate on the poor comes from a loss of various welfare state benefits – food stamps, housing subsidies and the like – if their income goes up. – Thomas Sowell

Over the generations, black leaders have ranged from noble souls to shameless charlatans. – Thomas Sowell

Prices are important not because money is considered paramount but because prices are a fast and effective conveyor of information through a vast society in which fragmented knowledge must be coordinated. – Thomas Sowell

Immigration laws are the only laws that are discussed in terms of how to help people who break them. – Thomas Sowell

It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance. – Thomas Sowell

Even the Soviet Union, with its huge nuclear arsenal, was a threat that could be deterred by the prospect of retaliation. But suicide bombers cannot be deterred. They can only be annihilated – preemptively and unilaterally, if necessary. – Thomas Sowell

In liberal logic, if life is unfair then the answer is to turn more tax money over to politicians, to spend in ways that will increase their chances of getting reelected. – Thomas Sowell

Mistakes can be corrected by those who pay attention to facts, but dogmatism will not be corrected by those who are wedded to a vision. – Thomas Sowell

The word ‘racism’ is like ketchup. It can be put on practically anything – and demanding evidence makes you a ‘racist.’ – Thomas Sowell

What ‘multiculturalism’ boils down to is that you can praise any culture in the world except Western culture – and you cannot blame any culture in the world except Western culture. – Thomas Sowell

If the battle for civilization comes down to the wimps versus the barbarians, the barbarians are going to win. – Thomas Sowell

A shortage is a sign that somebody is keeping the price artificially lower than it would be if supply and demand were allowed to operate freely. – Thomas Sowell

People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything. – Thomas Sowell

If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference and choose their news sources accordingly. – Thomas Sowell

Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good. – Thomas Sowell

What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don’t like something to saying that the government should forbid it. When you go down that road, don’t expect freedom to survive very long. – Thomas Sowell

Do all children have some inherent right to live in America if they have done nothing wrong? If not, then why should the children of illegal immigrants have such a right? – Thomas Sowell

The big divide in this country is not between Democrats and Republicans, or women and men, but between talkers and doers. Think about the things that have improved our lives the most over the past century – medical advances, the transportation revolution, huge increases in consumer goods, dramatic improvements in housing, the computer. The people who created these things – the doers – are not popular heroes. Our heroes are the talkers who complain about the doers. – Thomas Sowell

All too often when liberals cite statistics, they forget the statisticians’ warning that correlation is not causation. – Thomas Sowell

The black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow, but it has disintegrated in the wake of the liberals’ expansion of the welfare state. – Thomas Sowell

Liberals seem to assume that, if you don’t believe in their particular political solutions, then you don’t really care about the people that they claim to want to help. – Thomas Sowell

One of the most pervasive political visions of our time is the vision of liberals as compassionate and conservatives as less caring. – Thomas Sowell

The real goal should be reduced government spending, rather than balanced budgets achieved by ever rising tax rates to cover ever rising spending. – Thomas Sowell

The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings. – Thomas Sowell

The march of science and technology does not imply growing intellectual complexity in the lives of most people. It often means the opposite. – Thomas Sowell

Too much of what is called ‘education’ is little more than an expensive isolation from reality. – Thomas Sowell

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong. – Thomas Sowell

The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best. – Thomas Sowell

Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it. – Thomas Sowell

The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that they do not work. Therefore, we should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive. – Thomas Sowell

The next time some academics tell you how important diversity is, ask how many Republicans there are in their sociology department. – Thomas Sowell

All the political angst and moral melodrama about getting ‘the rich’ to pay ‘their fair share’ is part of a big charade. This is not about economics; it is about politics. – Thomas Sowell

Imagine a political system so radical as to promise to move more of the poorest 20% of the population into the richest 20% than remain in the poorest bracket within the decade? You don’t need to imagine it. It’s called the United States of America. – Thomas Sowell

Groups that rose from poverty to prosperity seldom did so by having their own racial or ethnic leaders to follow. – Thomas Sowell

Stopping illegal immigration would mean that wages would have to rise to a level where Americans would want the jobs currently taken by illegal aliens. – Thomas Sowell

Like a baseball game, wars are not over till they are over. Wars don’t run on a clock like football. No previous generation was so hopelessly unrealistic that this had to be explained to them. – Thomas Sowell

Capitalism knows only one color: that color is green; all else is necessarily subservient to it, hence, race, gender and ethnicity cannot be considered within it. – Thomas Sowell

Hyperinflation can take virtually your entire life’s savings, without the government having to bother raising the official tax rate at all. – Thomas Sowell

Balanced budget requirements seem more likely to produce accounting ingenuity than genuinely balanced budgets. – Thomas Sowell

President Obama seems completely unaware of how many of the policies he is trying to impose have been tried before, in many times and places around the world, and have failed time and again. – Thomas Sowell

Life in general has never been even close to fair, so the pretense that the government can make it fair is a valuable and inexhaustible asset to politicians who want to expand government. – Thomas Sowell

Those who cry out that the government should ‘do something’ never even ask for data on what has actually happened when the government did something, compared to what actually happened when the government did nothing. – Thomas Sowell

Elections should be held on April 16th- the day after we pay our income taxes. That is one of the few things that might discourage politicians from being big spenders. – Thomas Sowell

People who have time on their hands will inevitably waste the time of people who have work to do. – Thomas Sowell

A moral monopoly is the antithesis of a marketplace of ideas. – Thomas Sowell

Few professors would dare to publish research or teach a course debunking the claims made in various ethnic, gender, or other ‘studies’ courses. – Thomas Sowell

Sometimes it seems as if there are more solutions than problems. On closer scrutiny, it turns out that many of today’s problems are a result of yesterday’s solutions. – Thomas Sowell

Brainy folks were also present in Lyndon Johnson’s administration, especially in the Pentagon, where Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s brilliant ‘whiz kids’ tried to micro-manage the Vietnam war, with disastrous results. – Thomas Sowell

Education is not merely neglected in many of our schools today but is replaced to a great extent by ideological indoctrination. – Thomas Sowell

Wishful thinking is not idealism. It is self-indulgence at best and self-exaltation at worst. In either case, it is usually at the expense of others. In other words, it is the opposite of idealism. – Thomas Sowell

There are few things more dishonorable than misleading the young. – Thomas Sowell

Do countries with strong gun control laws have lower murder rates? Only if you cherry-pick the data. – Thomas Sowell

People who identify themselves as conservatives donate money to charity more often than people who identify themselves as liberals. They donate more money and a higher percentage of their incomes. – Thomas Sowell

The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling. – Thomas Sowell

If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism. – Thomas Sowell

As for gun control advocates, I have no hope whatever that any facts whatever will make the slightest dent in their thinking – or lack of thinking. – Thomas Sowell

The more people who are dependent on government handouts, the more votes the left can depend on for an ever-expanding welfare state. – Thomas Sowell

The people made worse off by slavery were those who were enslaved. Their descendants would have been worse off today if born in Africa instead of America. Put differently, the terrible fate of their ancestors benefitted them. – Thomas Sowell

Facts are not liberals’ strong suit. Rhetoric is. – Thomas Sowell

Even if the government spends itself into bankruptcy and the economy still does not recover, Keynesians can always say that it would have worked if only the government had spent more. – Thomas Sowell

I suspect that even most conservatives would prefer to live in the kind of world conjured up in the liberals’ imagination rather than in the kind of world we are in fact stuck with. – Thomas Sowell

You don’t send people to prison on the basis of what other people imagine, or on the basis of media sound bites like ‘shooting an unarmed child,’ when that ‘child’ was beating him bloody. – Thomas Sowell

You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrat’s procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing. – Thomas Sowell

Actually, lowering the cost of insurance would be accomplished by such things as making it harder for lawyers to win frivolous lawsuits against insurance companies. – Thomas Sowell

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology accepts blacks in the top ten percent of students, but at MIT this puts them in the bottom ten percent of the class. – Thomas Sowell

Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric. – Thomas Sowell

Would you bet your paycheck on a weather forecast for tomorrow? If not, then why should this country bet billions on global warming predictions that have even less foundation? – Thomas Sowell

Helping those who have been struck by unforeseeable misfortunes is fundamentally different from making dependency a way of life. – Thomas Sowell

It is a way to take people’s wealth from them without having to openly raise taxes. Inflation is the most universal tax of all. – Thomas Sowell

Facts do not speak for themselves. They speak for or against competing theories. Facts divorced from theories or visions are mere isolated curiosities. – Thomas Sowell

Tariffs that save jobs in the steel industry mean higher steel prices, which in turn means fewer sales of American steel products around the world and losses of far more jobs than are saved. – Thomas Sowell

There is no question that liberals do an impressive job of expressing concern for blacks. But do the intentions expressed in their words match the actual consequences of their deeds? – Thomas Sowell

It is hard to read a newspaper or watch a television newscast without encountering someone who has come up with a new ‘solution’ to society’s ‘problems.’ – Thomas Sowell

Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late. – Thomas Sowell

Although the big word on the left is ‘compassion,’ the big agenda on the left is dependency. – Thomas Sowell

If you want to get each individual’s honest opinion, you don’t want that opinion to be influenced by others who are present, much less allow a group to coordinate what they are going to say. – Thomas Sowell

The time is long overdue to stop looking for progress through racial or ethnic leaders. Such leaders have too many incentives to promote polarizing attitudes and actions that are counterproductive for minorities and disastrous for the country. – Thomas Sowell

Being willing to donate the taxpayers’ money is not the same as being willing to put your own money where your mouth is. – Thomas Sowell

All of us should be on guard against beliefs that flatter ourselves. At the very least, we should check such beliefs against facts. – Thomas Sowell

Just what is it that academics have to fear if they stand up for common decency, instead of letting campus barbarians run amok? – Thomas Sowell

Both free speech rights and property rights belong legally to individuals, but their real function is social, to benefit vast numbers of people who do not themselves exercise these rights. – Thomas Sowell

Creating whole departments of ethnic, gender, and other ‘studies’ was part of the price of academic peace. All too often, these ‘studies’ are about propaganda rather than serious education. – Thomas Sowell

In various countries and times, leaders of groups that lagged behind, economically and educationally, have taught their followers to blame all their problems on other people – and to hate those other people. – Thomas Sowell

Without a moral framework, there is nothing left but immediate self-indulgence by some and the path of least resistance by others. Neither can sustain a free society. – Thomas Sowell

The Congressional Budget Office has been embarrassed repeatedly by making projections based on the assumption that tax revenues and tax rates move in the same direction. – Thomas Sowell

The simplest and most psychologically satisfying explanation of any observed phenomenon is that it happened that way because someone wanted it to happen that way. – Thomas Sowell

Many people, including some conservatives, have been very impressed with how brainy the president and his advisers are. But that is not quite as reassuring as it might seem. – Thomas Sowell

Those parts of history that would undermine the vision of the Left – which prevails in our education system from elementary school to postgraduate study – are not likely to get much attention. – Thomas Sowell

With various people complaining about price gouging… economist Walter Williams has coined a new term: Tax gouging. But government is never accused of either greed or gouging not even when they bulldoze people’s homes in order to turn the land over to businesses that will pay more taxes. – Thomas Sowell

Most of the founders of this country had day jobs for years. They were not career politicians. … We need leaders with experience in the real world, not experience in the phony world of politics. – Thomas Sowell

The old adage about giving a man a fish versus teaching him how to fish has been updated by a reader: Give a man a fish and he will ask for tartar sauce and French fries! Moreover, some politician who wants his vote will declare all these things to be among his basic rights. – Thomas Sowell

Thanksgiving may be our most old-fashioned holiday. Gratitude itself seems out of date at a time when so many people feel entitled to whatever they get—and indignant that they didn’t get more. – Thomas Sowell

It is a little much when people come to this country preaching hatred against others and demanding tolerance for themselves. – Thomas Sowell

Those who want to take our money and gain power over us have discovered the magic formula: Get us envious or angry at others and we will surrender, in installments, not only our money but our freedom. The most successful dictators of the 20th century—Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao—all used this formula and now class warfare politicians here are doing the same. – Thomas Sowell

The scariest thing about politics today is not any particular policy or leaders, but the utter gullibility with which the public accepts notions for which there is not a speck of evidence, such as the benefits of diversity, the dangers of overpopulation, and innumerable other fashionable dogmas. – Thomas Sowell

It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medications somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medications and a government bureaucracy to administer universal health care. – Thomas Sowell

Much of what is promoted as critical thinking in our public schools is in fact uncritical negativism towards the history and institutions of America and an uncritical praise of the cultures of foreign countries and domestic minorities. – Thomas Sowell

It is self-destructive for any society to create a situation where a baby who is born into the world today automatically has pre-existing grievances against another baby born at the same time, because of what their ancestors did centuries ago. It is hard enough to solve our own problems, without trying to solve our ancestors’ problems. – Thomas Sowell

What multiculturalism boils down to is that you can praise any culture in the world except Western culture—and you cannot blame any culture in the world except Western culture. – Thomas Sowell

When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear. – Thomas Sowell

It’s amazing how much panic one honest man can spread among a multitude of hypocrites. – Thomas Sowell

Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God. – Thomas Sowell

The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics. – Thomas Sowell

The fact that the market is not doing what we wish it would do is no reason to automatically assume that the government would do better. – Thomas Sowell

Racism does not have a good track record. It’s been tried out for a long time and you’d think by now we’d want to put an end to it instead of putting it under new management. – Thomas Sowell

Despite a voluminous and often fervent literature on income distribution, the cold fact is that most income is not distributed: It is earned. – Thomas Sowell

Intellect is not wisdom. – Thomas Sowell

Bailing out people who made ill-advised mortgages makes no more sense that bailing out people who lost their life savings in Las Vegas casinos. – Thomas Sowell

There are only two ways of telling the complete truth–anonymously and posthumously. – Thomas Sowell

Since this is an era when many people are concerned about ‘fairness’ and ‘social justice,’ what is your ‘fair share’ of what someone else has worked for? – Thomas Sowell

Competition does a much more effective job than government at protecting consumers. – Thomas Sowell

What is history but the story of how politicians have squandered the blood and treasure of the human race? – Thomas Sowell

Rhetoric is no substitute for reality. – Thomas Sowell

If politicians stopped meddling with things they don’t understand, there would be a more drastic reduction in the size of government than anyone in either party advocates. – Thomas Sowell

Virtually no idea is too ridiculous to be accepted, even by very intelligent and highly educated people, if it provides a way for them to feel special and important. Some confuse that feeling with idealism. – Thomas Sowell

It doesn’t matter how smart you are unless you stop and think. – Thomas Sowell

If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else’s expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves. – Thomas Sowell

Life does not ask what we want. It presents us with options – Thomas Sowell

Don’t you get tired of seeing so many non-conformists with the same non-conformist look? – Thomas Sowell

We seem to be getting closer and closer to a situation where nobody is responsible for what they did, but we are all responsible for what somebody else did. – Thomas Sowell

Everyone may be called comrade, but some comrades have the power of life and death over other comrades. – Thomas Sowell

What then is the intellectual advantage of civilization over primitive savagery? It is not necessarily that each civilized man has more knowledge but that he requires far less. – Thomas Sowell

Whatever we wish to achieve in the future, it must begin by knowing where we are in the present- not where we wish we were, or where we wish others to think we are, but where we are in fact. – Thomas Sowell

For the anointed, traditions are likely to be seen as the dead hand of the past, relics of a less enlightened age, and not as the distilled experience of millions who faced similar human vicissitudes before. – Thomas Sowell

Clearly, only very unequal intellectual and moral standing could justify having equality imposed, whether the people want it or not, as Dworkin suggests, and only very unequal power would make it possible. – Thomas Sowell

When people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment seems like discrimination. – Thomas Sowell

As an entrepreneur in India put it: ‘Indians have learned from painful experience that the state does not work on behalf of the people. More often than not, it works on behalf of itself. – Thomas Sowell

Extrapolations are the last refuge of a groundless argument. – Thomas Sowell

Mystical references to ‘society’ and its programs to ‘help’ may warm the hearts of the gullible but what it really means is putting more power in the hands of bureaucrats. – Thomas Sowell

Age gives you an excuse for not being very good at things that you were not very good at when you were young. – Thomas Sowell

One of the first things taught in introductory statistics textbooks is that correlation is not causation. It is also one of the first things forgotten. – Thomas Sowell

The welfare state is the oldest con game in the world. First you take people’s money away quietly and then you give some of it back to them flamboyantly. – Thomas Sowell

The fact that so many successful politicians are such shameless liars is not only a reflection on them, it is also a reflection on us. When the people want the impossible, only liars can satisfy. – Thomas Sowell

The New York Times’ long-standing motto, All the News That’s Fit to Print should be changed to reflect today’s reality: Manufacturing News to Fit an Ideology. – Thomas Sowell

To believe in personal responsibility would be to destroy the whole special role of the anointed, whose vision casts them in the role of rescuers of people treated unfairly by society. – Thomas Sowell

There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs. – Thomas Sowell

If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 50 years ago, a liberal 25 years ago and a racist today. – Thomas Sowell

Ronald Reagan had a vision of America. Barack Obama has a vision of Barack Obama. – Thomas Sowell

No matter how much people on the left talk about compassion, they have no compassion for the taxpayers. – Thomas Sowell

As history has also shown, especially in the twentieth century, one of the first things an ideologue will do after achieving absolute power is kill. – Thomas Sowell

It would be very heard, for example, a basketball owner, no matter how racist he was, to try to operate without Blacks. It would be suicidal. – Thomas Sowell

The only people I truly envy are those who can play a musical instrument and those who can eat anything they want without gaining weight. – Thomas Sowell

Differences in habits and attitudes are differences in human capital, just as much as differences in knowledge and skills—and such differences create differences in economic outcomes. – Thomas Sowell

What is called an educated person is often someone who has had a dangerously superficial exposure to a wide spectrum of subjects. – Thomas Sowell

Minimum wage laws appear to give low-income workers something for nothing—and appearances are what count in politics. Realities can be left to others, so long as appearances get votes. – Thomas Sowell

The very commonness of common sense makes it unlikely to have any appeal to the anointed. How can they be wiser and nobler than everyone else while agreeing with everyone else? – Thomas Sowell

Suppose you are wrong? How would you know? How would you test for that possibility? – Thomas Sowell

Free-loading at emergency rooms—mandated by government—makes being uninsured a viable option. – Thomas Sowell

Teachers who pander to minority students by turning their courses into rap sessions and ethnic navel-gazing exercises capture their interest and allegiance. – Thomas Sowell

The next time you see a bum leaving drug needles in a park where children play or urinating in the street, you are seeing your tax dollars at work and the end result of the vision of the anointed. – Thomas Sowell

Have you gone crazy, Lefty? No. On the contrary, I have become educated. Sometimes that’s worse, these days. – Thomas Sowell

Government planning is not an alternative to chaos. It is a pre-emption of other people’s plans. – Thomas Sowell

Failure is part of the natural cycle of business. Companies are born, companies die, capitalism moves forward. Fortune magazine – Thomas Sowell

Isolation is a recurring factor in poverty and backwardness around the world, whether that is physical isolation or cultural isolation, for any number of particular reasons – Thomas Sowell

As George J. Stigler said of some of his fellow Nobel Laureates, the issue stern ultimate to the public on almost a monthly basis, and sometimes on no other basis. – Thomas Sowell

I am so old that I can remember when other people’s achievements were considered to be an inspiration, rather than a grievance. – Thomas Sowell

In short, numbers are accepted as evidence when they agree with preconceptions, but not when they don’t. – Thomas Sowell

The essence of bigotry is denying others the same rights you claim for yourself. Green bigots are a classic example. – Thomas Sowell

Languages as Asians, who outnumber them nearly four to one.121 Linguistic diversity is not only a sign of cultural isolation and fragmentation, it contributes to the barriers – Thomas Sowell

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