Sowell on Demography

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thomas Sowell rebuts a post-election theme I've seen repeated ad nauseam: "demography is destiny". Sowell first boils this "lesson" down to its questionable essentials:

If non-white voters can only be gotten by pandering to them with goodies earmarked for them, then Republicans are doomed, even if they choose to go that route. Why should anyone who wants racially earmarked goodies vote for Republicans, when the Democrats already have a track record of delivering such goodies?
But not only is becoming more like the Democrats futile (even in terms of occupying elected office), Sowell adds that the Republicans haven't really even attempted to articulate why capitalism would be better for nonwhite (read: all) voters:
But the Republicans' greatest failure has been precisely their chronic failure to spell out their principles -- and the track record of those principles -- to either white or non-white voters.

Very few people know, for example, that the gap between black and white incomes narrowed during the Reagan administration and widened during the Obama administration. This was not because of Republican policies designed specifically for blacks, but because free market policies create an economy in which all people can improve their economic situation.
I agree with Sowell up to a point: This has been a horrific failure on the part of the GOP.

This has not, however, been its greatest failure. That would be operating from the same altruistic morality implicit in the Democrats' platform. So long as voters feel that there is a conflict between what is in their practical self-interest and what is right, they will continue to vote with their consciences. This means that, when push comes to shove, they will vote against their pocketbooks if they deem it necessary. For example, the reason we should move towards capitalism is because it allows each of us life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- not that it will make some group more prosperous. However, this means that the government will not be there to help anyone who fails in this pursuit: Such help would necessarily require the government to injure someone, however slightly, who has succeeded. Any altruist who notices that obvious fact will be troubled enough to fudge on the sanctity of individual rights enough to support some form of government "safety net". This is why you don't hear much talk, even among Tea Partiers about how we will phase out such programs as social security.

Until more Americans want to stand on their own two feet, and do not feel guilty in the least about this, proponents of capitalism -- and this country -- will continue to be in deep trouble.

-- CAV


Steve D said...

‘But these facts do not "speak for themselves.’

I am guilty sometimes of assuming this as well, especially relating to minimum wages laws. I find it unbelievable when I find someone who does not realize the harm that minimum wage laws cause (and must cause). This is about as straightforward a free market-based argument as there is. It is NOT difficult to understand.

If this simple argument does not register; if minimum wage laws exist despite mountains of logic and evidence, how in the world can we expect to get across the more complicated stuff like anti-trust; price controls and Obamacare?

We have two foes; bad philosophy AND serious economic ignorance.

Gus Van Horn said...

The first foe is so much worse as to arguably be THE foe.

Anonymous said...

I was speaking with my brother who works in DC in "the belly of the beast," as he phrases it. We were talking about the same thing that Steve was and I asked, "Can't these people follow a causal chain back just one step?"

His response, "No, they can't."

He works in a section of some 200 people, the vast majority of which have advanced degrees and they can have a causal explanation repeated again and again and they just can't "get it."

Such is the value of the progressive education system. Because tyranny thrives on ignorance, and these folks are not just ignorant, but incapable of learning. Comprachicos, indeed!

c andrew

Gus Van Horn said...


Yep. Bad philosophy leads, through its application the educational system, to crippled minds, making it that much harder to bounce back, as a civilization.

That said, our educational system isn't UNIFORMLY horrendous, and some people will still emerge even from lousy schools with a somewhat rational mind through their own efforts. So I hold out some hope.