Earlier this week, shockwaves were sent through the liberty movement. At age 86, Thomas Sowell, one of the most gifted and influential libertarian economists of our lifetime, announced that he is finally putting the brakes on his weekly column.
This came as sad news to many. Over the past 25 years, Sowell has guided countless youngsters to the path of liberty for the first time. One of them was me.
I was a liberal, both economically and socially, until I began reading Sowell’s column in school.
I’ve always believed that, as president-elect Donald Trump frequently says, the system is rigged. While there is some validity to this claim, I, like most liberals, took it to the extreme.
While I’m still a sharp critic of corruption, I at one time thought the wealthy had the economy tied to strings like it was their personal marionette puppet and that we needed to level the playing field by implementing things like wage, price, and rent controls — things that would merely ensure that the middle class has enough purchasing power to get by every day.
Sowell showed me for the first time how these “middle class” laws are based on false promises. I’ll never forget the sparks that flew in my head for days after watching Sowell eloquently argue against minimum wage laws for the first time a few years ago. This year, he put it even better when he demonstrated how these laws hurt the precise people they intend to help, especially minorities and the poor:
“Back in 1948, when inflation had rendered meaningless the minimum wage established a decade earlier, the unemployment rate among 16- to 17-year-old black males was under 10%. But after the minimum wage was raised repeatedly to keep up with inflation, the unemployment rate for black males that age was never under 30% for more than 20 consecutive years”
It’s why he says that only a fool can support such laws despite years and years of history proving their harmfulness. From there, he introduced me to other prolific authors like Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Walter Williams, who showed me that free market prices are the middle class’s friend, not our enemy.
Now, however, one of my foremost intellectual influences is calling it quits, saying that he’s tired of keeping up with the national news (and who could blame him?).
“During a stay in Yosemite National Park last May, taking photos with a couple of my buddies, there were four consecutive days without seeing a newspaper or a television news program — and it felt wonderful,” he wrote. “With the political news being so awful this year, it felt especially wonderful.”
Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University and then received his Master’s from Columbia University. He is the author of over 30 books, including Basic Economics, a staple of every bookstore’s economics collection.
Sowell has never won a Nobel Prize. While he probably should’ve won one long ago, he doesn’t need the medal. He has gained the trust and respect of millions of readers, and that’s worth more than any award.
Thomas Sowell, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for everything you’ve done. Have a happy, healthy, and relaxing retirement — you deserve it more than anyone.