Show Notes: Rednecks, Commies and Thomas Sowell

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What do Rednecks like Zee, Commies and Thomas Sowell have in common?  We’ll get to know an amazing man in this episode named Thomas Sowell, who influenced Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and The Mighty Humanzee.

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Break Conventions, From A New Point of View.  Meaning Truth

Thomas Sowell Countered Conventional Thinking, With Truth

Frances Fox Piven, of Cloward and Piven Socialist Fame, was put in her place by Sowell.  This exchange was in the early 70s, you can see who engaged Sowell was.

Rush Limbaugh on Thomas Sowell

Rush was influenced by many, but Thomas Sowell was integral to Rush’s outlook because Sowell possessed ability, and never relied on pedigree.

Who Is Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is the author of over 44 books on economics, society, race and culture.  He is a controversial figure because he, above all, adheres to truth and shuns the wisdom of the crowds.  And Sowell embodies the saying “Favor ability over pedigree every time.”  His Bio page from the Hoover Institute lists an impressive career, yet even more impressive are the circumstances of his childhood, his early thinking and his evolution to become one the best proponents for liberty, individualism and sovereignty of the mind.  In short, he doesn’t suffer the fools of the intellectual elite.

Over the past three decades, Sowell has taught economics at various colleges and universities, including Cornell, Amherst, and the University of California at Los Angeles, as well as the history of ideas at Brandeis University. He has also been associated with three other research centers, in addition to the Hoover Institution. He was project director at the Urban Institute, 1972-1974, a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, 1976–77, and was an adjunct scholar of the American Enterprise Institute, 1975-76.

Sowell was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2002. In 2003, Sowell received the Bradley Prize for intellectual achievement. Sowell received his bachelor’s degree in economics (magna cum laude) from Harvard in 1958, his master’s degree in economics from Columbia University in 1959, and his PhD in economics from the University of Chicago in 1968.

Childhood – “Life Doesn’t Present Us With What We Want, It Presents Us With Options”

Thomas Sowell was born into poverty during the beginnings of the Great Depression in Gastonia, North Carolina, on June 30, 1930. His father, Henry, died before he was born, and his mother, Willie, unable to care for young Thomas, gave him up for adoption to his great-aunt Molly. Willie died a few years later during complications while giving birth to another child.

Sowell followed a winding path his achievements, being the first in his family to complete high school, but only after dropping out at 16, serving in the Marines and working a series of jobs in low skilled trades.  After his military service he worked as a civil service clerk in Washington DC and attended night school.  This is when he began to follow Marxism.

Communists and Marxism

How could someone who is such a staunch defender of individual rights, as well as an attack dog against the ideals of social engineering based on a technocratic knowledge base, been a communist?  As Sowell relays, “Marxism explained the world around me …But it took the federal government to cure me.”


You would think that the universities would be his intellectual home, for despite studying Friedrich Von Hayek under Milton Friedman, Sowell, stubborn, remained true to his ideals, convinced that he had yet to learn that Marxism was one way street to disaster.  His masters from Columbia was on Marx Theory of business cycles.  Unlike most Marxists who are closed ideals that are contrary to their own, Sowell relates that he soon discovered how fragmented and scattered people’s knowledge was, leading him to question whether centralized authority could truly have the right combination of knowledge in order to lead a collectivized society. 

Practical experience caused him to abandon his Marxist ideals and turn on the idea that centralized authority and experts were capable of governing a society.  He relates:

The sugar industry was experiencing increasing rates of unemployment, leading unions and experts within the Labor Department to conclude that hurricanes were causing declining output. Sowell wanted to dig deeper into the data and suggested that the cause of unemployment might have been a mandated minimum wage.

“I came into the office one day, and I announced to the whole group: ‘What we need are statistics on the amount of sugarcane standing in the fields before the hurricane came through,’” Sowell recalled. “I am waiting for the congratulations and I could see looks of shock in the room: ‘This idiot has stumbled on something that could ruin us all.’ I was concerned whether this law was beneficial or not beneficial to low-income people. They were concerned because this law was providing one-third of the income of the US Department of Labor.”

Catskills or Appalachians?

Black Rednecks and White Liberals

I, the Mighty Humanzee, am of Scot Irish descent from long line of folks who lived in the Catskill Mountains.  Think of the Catskills as the Appalachia of the North.  Farming community, not much else.  It’s beautiful, I love it dearly but as an 18 year old I knew I needed to leave to find opportunity.  Growing up in a community of less than 2000 in those hills you saw a lot drug and alcohol addiction take family members and destroy lives.

Thomas Sowell wrote a book “Black Rednecks and White Liberals” which illuminated the MANY parallels between southern black culture and the Scot-Irish Appalachian culture.  Being of the clans McGregor, McPherson, Burr, Stevens and Hamilton and knowing the battles of addiction from small mountain life could take, I was intrigued by many of his premises.

Ulster County

Ulster County Scotland a region in Ireland where Scottish “settlers” relocated.  This migration happened in many phases, first with the Ulster Plantation initiated by King James VI in the 1600s, then accelerated with the Highland Clearances a century later.  The Scots remained in Ulster, an insular minority until they found a way to the American colonies.

We Can’t Have These People Here

These people are creating a terrible problem in our cities. They can’t or won’t hold a job, they flout the law constantly and neglect their children, they drink too much and their moral standards would shame an alley cat. For some reason or other, they absolutely refuse to accommodate themselves to any kind of decent, civilized life.

Sowell continues: “This was said in 1956 in Indianapolis, not about blacks or other minorities, but about poor whites from the South… A 1951 survey in Detroit found that white Southerners living there were considered ‘undesirable’ by 21 percent of those surveyed, compared to 13 percent who ranked blacks the same way” (p. 1).

Sowell points that much of black culture parallel the Scot Irish tenement farmer culture:  alcoholism, high crime, high out of wedlock birthrates (higher in whites during the 1800s than blacks), low education.  Sowell writes:

[t]he 1970 census showed that black West Indian families in the New York metropolitan area had 28 percent higher incomes than the families of American blacks. The incomes of second-generation West Indian families living in the same area exceeded that of black families by 58 percent. Neither race or racism can explain such differences. Nor can slavery, since native-born blacks and West Indian blacks both had a history of slavery. Studies published in 2004 indicated that an absolute majority of the black alumni of Harvard were either West Indian or African immigrants, or the children of these immigrants. Somewhat similar findings have emerged in studies of some other elite colleges. With blacks as with whites, the redneck culture has been a less achieving culture” (p. 32-33)

So if a culture shared among races has similar trajectories and outcomes, and if people of the same race but from a different region such as the West Indian blacks achieve success at a higher rate, if racism at the center of plight for African Americans?  In fact you could say it was the Ulster Scot culture and not slavery that holds many back.  As Sowell will tell you, the 10 poorest counties in the US are populated by whites.

Examining Cultures vs Pure Statistics

Housing is currently one of the progressives and socialist left favorite fodder for crying out for “social change”.  Using strict demographics yet ignoring cultural context paints a far more dire picture from which they will attempt to initiate their disastrous socialized remedies.   Going by quantity and quality alone, they miss important factors.  Sowell explains in his essay Race and Economics:

In closing, Sowell says he was taught to respect facts.  In the end he realized that the best and brightest in government were incapable of saving us.

Favor ability over pedigree every time.

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