This evening, I finished Thomas Sowell s Wealth, Poverty and Politics An International Perspective.This well researched book deals with the subject of factors responsible for the progress of some groups and why others lag As usual, Sowell s main accomplishment in the book is ruthlessly reasoning to a conclusion, peeling back extraneous layers and illogical reasoning to bring out a clear, defensible, and essentially irrefutable conclusion.It broke down factors responsible for the success or lack of into Geographic, Cultural, Social and Political factors.In the discussion about geography, you get to learn that a country may be endowed with natural resources, yet not know because it is isolated due to bad geography and thus cannot access the knowledge it needs to know it has abundant resources, not to talk of exploiting them Some groups like the Chinese used favourable geography to race ahead of the rest However, geography is not deterministic While it might be the starting point and give societies a head start, several other groups like the Japanese have managed to be highly productive even beginning from a bad geographic position.And some of the best ways for countries to achieve upward mobility is via a change in culture Using solid evidence, it explains how being receptive to education not just in quantity but in quality has enabled minority groups like Jews and overseas Germans outpace others in development It also mentioned the ability of some cultures to successfully change to adapt new ideas Japan , and the fact that some cultures have failed by rejecting change and regressing Japan again, but earlier China in the 1400s.Touching on social factors, he shredded Thomas Piketty assertions about inequality Here, he took his time to explain why measuring income inequality by pretending there are two groups, the rich and the poor, by percentiles, is not smart, because the composition of those groups changes continuously, and many actual people who are poor at one point in their lives are rich later In fact, 95% of working class people never remain at the bottom, and a lot of people who used to be at top leave in less than a decade.As someone passionate about the plight of Black Americans, Sowell was particularly vocal about how political choices spearheaded by black politicians have led to incidences of high unemployment, high crime rate and an overall reduced income mobility for the group Programs like affirmative actions and welfare programs have achieved the opposite of what was desired While politicians have used these programs to achieve political success, the group has regressed economically due to these bad choices It s an example of how individuals tell the group what they want to hear instead of what will improve their lives.Sowell rejects the currently fashionable attempt to ascribe success to poorly defined privilege Sowell believes in personal responsibility, which may be made harder or easier by the culture one comes from, but which does not excuse failure or prevent achievement.While some may not agree with Thomas Sowell s conclusions, they must first deal with the comprehensive historical and current facts, evidence, and sheer logic he presents in a convincing manner I have often said that Thomas Sowell packs in a paragraph than some manage to pack into a book, and I had to read the book again immediately after finishing it, because some of the arguments were just so compelling.Sowell does tend to seem repetitive in places But he s not In almost all cases, he s drawing a somewhat different conclusion but pointing to the same base material, hammering the point home But again, to a casual reader this can seem repetitive Neither of these are a big deal, of course, but if I had any criticism of the book, this would be it.The book is another reminder why Thomas Sowell is my favorite economist In each of his books he takes on conventional wisdom and tears it to shreds This book was no exemption. Originally when I started this book, I was hoping it was going to have great analysis of non anecdotal or surveyed data But, for weeks, I d stop, look at the source of the data he used and looked at the papers that only a few actually refer to Luckily my lab has access to those resources because like a lot of Harvard Business Review and The Economist papers, you have to pay for access.moving along..Here s where I really had problems, even some of his own graduate economics papers contradict the views he s pedaling in this book My graduate professors told me that unless I wanted to be a broke scientist, I d have to occasionally write things for the buyer and not the scientist It seems that s what Sowell did Example The papers in which it refers to how many books are found in a black home even the wealthy black home vs white homes was actually surveyed data that had been revisited than once in the 70s, 90s, and then again this past 15 years Every single time, the actual paper gives you the correlation test numbers, which are really low.21 in one paper, and.16 in the one Sowell refers to which I REALLY had to dig for as he references an article that references the peer review of the paper For those not in the know, Even a randomly generated number base usually scores higher than.13, and those are RANDOMLY generated.But conservatives often overlook this Also, libraries During the Reagan era, there was a huge funding push for major city libraries The checkout rates skyrocketed in the poorest homes So, those books are not owned by the families in that study, which is mentioned slightly, but pointed out in detail in the paper the article forgets to mention.The thing is, he s a conservative I get that But, the bias is glaring here and the format is one that has been used at Harvard and Princeton both make enough references to papers that are paid access or hard to find, and no one will question the results Well, I did Another thing I couldn t help but run over were the references to self referencing papers I actually work with another Data Scientist that does this Every new paper they published is just a tweaked self referencing paper This is annoying to me since there is usually benign and uninteresting phenomena involved nothing revealing.After two months of reading his book and checking the sources, I found only a few that were un biased Funny, they re also located in the chapter that is the most conversational and anecdotal, also the longest I ll never get this time back I did, however, learn that most of the abstracts for the papers all start out with a simplification explanation definition to base the paper on, since these issues are than tertiary in complexity A quote from his one paper, Since it is impossible to define a justified access level to education in the vacuum of religion, we take the CEV model approach to variations in the surveying process , We could not include males from two of the population samples In other words, a lot of the essays and articles were references to justify one stochastic volatility model, while focusing one problem so as not to take up too many resources during the simulations This does not mean you can come to some of the conclusions that people often come to when reading the Economist s academic versions of the articles This book is simply a disappointment in Science of Economics and Social research It s simply a prescribed, scientific looking propaganda book for people to defend policies that do not improve the very gaps he is referencing There is also the overall tone that a lot of people take when they are ashamed of their roots and pool poverty into a problem too large to solve But, it really isn t. In Wealth, Poverty, And Politics, Thomas Sowell, One Of The Foremost Conservative Public Intellectuals In This Country, Argues That Political And Ideological Struggles Have Led To Dangerous Confusion About Income Inequality In America Pundits And Politically Motivated Economists Trumpet Ambiguous Statistics And Sensational Theories While Ignoring The True Determinant Of Income Inequality The Production Of Wealth We Cannot Properly Understand Inequality If We Focus Exclusively On The Distribution Of Wealth And Ignore Wealth Production Factors Such As Geography, Demography, And CultureSowell Contends That Liberals Have A Particular Interest In Misreading The Data And Chastises Them For Using Income Inequality As An Argument For The Welfare State Refuting Thomas Piketty, Paul Krugman, And Others On The Left, Sowell Draws On Accurate Empirical Data To Show That The Inequality Is Not Nearly As Extreme Or Sensational As We Have Been Led To BelieveTranscending Partisanship Through A Careful Examination Of Data, Wealth, Poverty, And Politics Reveals The Truth About The Most Explosive Political Issue Of Our Time Apart from the fact that this book is basically apologist for the status quo, it lacks any real strengths The basic claim is that the development of an economy precedes down a path identical to, and unwavering from the path our economy took historically in its development for some reason this justifies the way things are, and can be used to explain away the giant disparity in wealth if you want to read one book that goes deep into the development of an economy, let me recommend a book by Jared Diamond Matt Taibbi has recently written a very good book about the disparity in fair treatment by the justice system between the wealthy, and the poor, and there are any number of recently written books treating the topic of the wealth gap, which don t just explain it away Robert Reich is a very notable voice on this topic.This author paints the notion of the wealth gap being detrimental to our national health as a liberal conceit He discounts the idea as silly, that greed has any bearing on the mechanism at work in our world today He suggests, as so many do who are carefully sticking to approved talking points, that the men and women who hold the greatest portion of our nation s wealth have gotten it by their hard work, and by their superior understanding It should be natural, this argument goes, that people of this caliber will accrue much greater wealth.I m not impressed by this argument, and I assert that greed is a primary and elemental factor influencing the growth of great fortunes the day is coming in the next few months, when the 1% holds wealth than the 99% There s nothing natural about this, when all aspects of our culture have been subverted to make it easier for the wealthy to profit The government, press and media, legal system, labour market, education system, and penal system all have New features the break in favor of the wealthy, those with influence, and those who seek a profit, and always at the expense of those with no influence, power, or resources.For my part, I declaim this author as a lap dog The Economist equivalent of a scientist who denies climate change for money What he says is patently wrong, but it s right to somebody Somebody with cash to pay for the book to be written, and we can see this writer has written a number of them I would say, if you wish to be well well informed, to look elsewhere than with this author s writings. If you ve read Sowell before, then this one will not be anything strikingly new to you however, it is still a current and relevant look into the grossly backward logic of the welfare state enthusiasts Extreme partisans from either side need not read this, as their opinions will not be swayed either way, but if you are a middle ground moderate open to reason and logical arguments, then this book will be very interesting, enlightening, and entertaining for you.This story is full of useful historical facts and trends, but the one thing that stood out the most to me was the assertion that the welfare state today makes it enticing to stay on government subsidies than to work your way into an income bracket that does not qualify for subsidies Such an economic ascension would actually result in a net loss of real financial benefits This is scholarly confirmation of a narrative that I have heard repeated over and over again from my peers all the way from growing up a poor child in the country in the 80 s, to my middle class career over the last few years. I think my problem with Sowell s book is that it s so transparently ideological He starts with the premise that the only way to create widespread and sustained prosperity is by offering incentives for people and business concerns to create wealth And, then he seeks out examples that seem to prove his point, without seriously considering any counter points If he weren t so consumed with his own confirmation bias, Sowell might also consider the merits of targeted wealth redistribution programs on sustaining, and even growing, a society s wealth Is it possible, when seriously looking at the economic data, that redistributive wealth programs in specific areas like education e.g universal pre K, public schools , health care e.g Medicare, Medicaid, COBRA , and social security e.g disability insurance, welfare to work programs, paid parental leave might actually also increase overall productivity and wealth over the long run I just wished Sowell had a intellectually honest approach to what is a serious and complex policy question. I knew I would love this book and Dr Thomas Sowell In basic, this is an incredible logical sweep of demographic, political and cultural impacts on economics and income in equality Also incorporates personal stories of hardship as a child that makes for some great memoirs that are applicable to his message So many books you read about economics are very quantitative with statistics galore, but Dr Sowell discusses the fragile human psyche and the many cultures on what impacts human wealth and prosperity Society so wants to point the finger at anything that seems different, but really we should be pointing the thumb Also a major point is that isolation results in backwardness When people locate themselves to advanced countries, no matter who they are or where they came from, can be just as successful as anyone else Which can create resentment among society, because they are different.So many great quotes Ideas have consequences, even when they have no validity.What is truly reprehensible are attempts to pull down those who have achieved , instead of facilitating the rise of those less fortunate who seek to rise through their own achievements.Isolation is a major handicap, creating or perpetuating poverty and backwardness.When you want to help people, tell them the truth When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear David HumeYou re entitled to your own opinion, but you re not entitled to your own facts Daniel Patrick MoynihanCivilization is a continuous process. A very current answer on some causes and misperceptions on income inequality There are 536 American billionaires That is a good thing that our economy has help them achieve such wealth Their wealth did not come to the disadvantage of others less fortunate The creation of wealth is not a zero sum game Some of these billionaires are Democrats and philanthropists To blame the ills of the U.S body politic on this billionaire class is a false narrative At least Bernie has broadened his attack from just the Koch brothers to what he now calls the billionaire class Bernie, confiscating all the wealth of the 536 billionaires and redistributing would have little or no effect on income inequality or what ails the U.S economy Better to focus on what leads to better opportunities for those less fortunate. Common sense revisited The bigger picture on wealth that does not contain redefined terms for closed agenda whole piece world views I was especially interested in the chapters upon geographic determination for production and transport And the many facts and world wide research details upon isolated mountain poverty The story of a 12 year old who never saw an orange OR an olive in the countries that produce them, really ran home true for my ancestry.But the crux is held here, although it isn t advertised much within the application or the epilogue portions that the real wealth is formed from production, and never comes to fruition by governments printing paper to represent it or to transfer its worth In fact, like Spain in its American empire years that wealth is for growth, little than a miasma The cultural section held some priceless sports and particular business successes by social groups from the combinations of specific input circumstances That part was much appreciated and interesting indeed to read, as well This author is not closed minded to a linear theory Nor does he redefine for one Nor does he blame And the factors of difference cited are so many and so differing for wealth or cultural association towards its production What if China did not hold strong politico by the Emperor to close all out going ships and contact in the 15th century Lots to think about after reading this one And the re introduction to a context of common sense re the vast differences in 1000 s of factors to wealth stability too So refreshing in 2015 Thomas Sowell s latest book is the usual tour de force It s not so much that there s anything startlingly new although there are some interesting new statistics and several new lines of thought , but that Sowell has a unique ability to clearly and concisely bring together an analysis In this case, that analysis is of why are outcomes different for different people Sowell writes in opposition to the current vogue for equating differential outcomes with differential justice resulting from malign actions by others, with negative nods to Thomas Piketty, John Rawls and a wide range of similar social justice warriors.Sowell is a truth seeker His main objection is not to those who think it s unfair that some people have than others, although he thinks that s demonstrably false, and demonstrates it His main philosophical objection is to people who won t think, because they re afraid of the truth And his main accomplishment in the book is ruthlessly reasoning to a conclusion, peeling back extraneous layers and illogical reasoning to bring out a clear, defensible, and essentially irrefutable conclusion This is a skill all but lost in these days of third rate arguments, especially on platforms like Facebook, where most people have no idea what a syllogism is, and believe that depth of feeling has any relevance to reasoning.Sowell s book works on two levels His basic arguments are fairly well trodden ground including being trodden by him , but pithy and exquisitely expressed, and therefore ideal for beginners At the same time, he expands those arguments in ways that aren t always obvious, and the clarity of his language and thought makes his arguments seem simple and inevitable So, for example, Sowell discusses that some ethnic groups place heavy emphasis on education, and therefore their children have better educational outcomes This is not controversial to anyone but true ideologues But Sowell points out something fairly obvious that I had never considered, nor seen anyone else consider that it s not just the quantity, but the quality The same groups that educate quantitatively also educate qualitatively differently, with the goal of providing real value to the student and therefore to society They choose hard, real subjects engineering rather than social work medicine rather than Latino Studies computer science rather than Gender Sexuality The result is they gain , both absolutely and relatively and they contribute to society.Sowell is, of course, an economist by profession, and this book s basic point is an economic one namely, as Sowell quotes Henry Hazlitt The real problem of poverty is not a problem of distribution but of production The poor are poor not because something is withheld from them but because, for whatever reason, they are not producing enough This seems entirely obvious that if you produce inadequate amounts of output valuable to others, you may be happy, but you will be poor, and you will deserve to be poor Yet this truth is everywhere denied or ignored Sowell drags it back to center focus.Ultimately, productivity is the only possible concrete measure of human achievement and progress, and it explains why there are haves and have nots This does not imply a perfect linear relationship as Sowell frequently notes, sometimes people get because they steal, not because they produce, and this can result in inequality But that cannot explain than a fraction of unequal outcomes, and cannot explain outcomes far removed in time from the theft as Sowell notes, the Spanish stole an awful lot from people in South America, yet quickly reverted to being towards the bottom in prosperity So the key question for Sowell is, why are some people productive than others Sowell begins with observing what we all know that there is a huge range of human achievement, both for societies and for individuals Sowell evaluates possible drivers for these differences in achievement, dividing them into geographical, cultural, social and political As far as geography, the simplest analysis, Sowell points out that geography is not egalitarian, but it is not deterministic, either His basic belief, for which he argues cogently, is that isolation from other human communities is the most deleterious effect of bad geography it s from interaction with others that people gain the knowledge to turn natural resources into wealth Other problems, from poor soil to poor transport, to less obviously lack of seasons resulting in a lack of urgency about time, also contribute None of this is startlingly new see Jared Diamond but it s valuable to reiterate the objective, largely unalterable character of this source of inequality Sowell emphasizes, however, that geography is merely the starting point many societies and individuals have managed to be highly productive even beginning from a bad geographic position.Sowell then addresses culture He points out the success of some frequently transplanted cultures Germans, Chinese, Lebanese and the ability of some cultures to successfully change to adapt new ideas Japan , and the fact that some cultures have failed by rejecting change and regressing Japan again, but earlier China in the 1400s He is unfailingly polite, though he points out that, for example, Arab culture today lacks cultural receptivity, as shown by that every year Spain translates books into Spanish than the entire Arab world has translated into Arabic in the past thousand years And since cultural receptivity and flexibility is, for Sowell, the touchstone of the ability to flourish in productivity it is the opposite of cultural isolation , that spells bad things for the Arabs Other cultures, such as the old American South, come in for similar criticism, and are knocked for laziness and lack of productivity.Related to the benefit of cultural flexibility is one manifestation of the reverse the frequent hostility of majorities to productive minorities, which Sowell points out is rationally encouraged by majority political leaders for their own benefit This is where Sowell again addresses education, pointing out that while some cultures value education, and this can be valuable, not all education increases human capital some education develops little or no human capital when it produces few, if any, marketable skills and some education even produces negative human capital, in the form of attitudes, expectations and aversions that negatively impact the economy Sowell hammers this point repeatedly People who have acquired academic degrees, without acquiring many economically meaningful skills, not only face personal disappointment and disaffection with society, but also have often become negative factors in the economy and even sources of danger, especially when they lash out at economically successful minorities and ethnically polarize the whole society they live in In many places and times, soft subject students and intellectuals have inflamed hostility, and sometimes violence, against many other successful groups Sowell s next topic is social factors By this he means characteristics of a group as a whole, as opposed to individual behaviors that create culture Here is where social and geographic mobility becomes important, and Piketty comes into play Sowell in this section particularly shows his knack for digging deeper than most writers For example, crucially, he points out that even when mobility is possible, movement may or may not occur Therefore, measuring mobility by actual movement is inadequate, since cultural or other barriers may result in people choosing not to move up the social scale And here Sowell again drives home a point that he has hammered many times before measuring income inequality by pretending there are two groups, the rich and the poor, by percentiles, is stupid, because the composition of those groups changes continuously, and many actual people who are poor at one point in their lives are rich later Where actual movement occurs, this is even true, and therefore a key indicator of social factor success is both theoretical mobility and actual movement, where a high percentage of the population spends part of its lifetime in the upper brackets of income Sowell also here rejects the idea that overpopulation causes poverty, reasoning along the same lines as Angus Deaton did, at greater length and with moral outrage, in The Great Escape This section is where Sowell addresses a topic about which he frequently speaks the argument that black people s modern collective but not individual inability to compete on standardized test scores and educational attainment shows lower IQ He does not reject that possibility as I say, he is all about thinking, not rejecting arguments for ideological reasons , but he points out that prior to the modern post 1960s deterioration of black culture, black students scored much higher test and IQ scores than today and other students from deficient cultures, like whites from Appalachia, scored lower IQ scores than black students One prime example is Stuyvesant High School in New York, where entry is purely meritocratic in 1979, black students were 12.9% now they are 1.2% Sowell points out None of the usual explanations of racial disparities genetics, racism, poverty or a legacy of slavery can explain this retrogression over time He attributes it to ghetto culture, essentially an offshoot of the dysfunctional redneck culture of the South He also explicitly rejects slavery and later discrimination as an explanation for black failures it d be interesting to see Sowell feed Ta Nehisi Coates into his intellectual meat grinder This ghetto culture is not confined to black people, of course there are white subcultures e.g., Appalachia with similar bad culture and bad scores, and not just here in the US Sowell discusses the similar vices and failings of the modern British white lower classes as well.As part of this, Sowell rejects the currently fashionable attempt to ascribe success to poorly defined privilege Sowell believes in personal responsibility, which may be made harder or easier by the culture one comes from, but that does not excuse failure or prevent achievement Slippery use of the word privilege is part of a vogue of calling achievements privileges a vogue which extends far beyond educational issues, spreading a total confusion in many other aspects of life So much for white privilege, surely one of the stupidest neologisms of the decade, the use of which merely serves to show the ignorance and mendacity of anyone who uses the phrase without laughing hysterically.Sowell then addresses political factors Here, he essentially distinguishes between good and bad political choices, though he repeats his point that political choices that are good for individual politicians are often bad for the societies they lead For example, he correctly trashes diversity as an inherent good Few words have been repeated so often or so insistently as diversity, without a speck of evidence being offered or asked for to substantiate its claims of economic or social benefits And the evidence to the contrary is huge He points out that if diversity is so great, India should be a paradise and Japan a hell, when the reverse is true But Sowell s related main point is that political polarization is a huge barrier to national success, as he shows with examples ranging from the Ottoman Empire to modern Malaysia.Sowell attacks the welfare state vision, the idea that people who lack success are merely victims of bad luck and will thrive if given handouts or legal changes in their favor such as increased minimum wages, as an example of unreasoned political polarization He points out the stupidity of attributing lack of morality to those opposed to the welfare state vision, and that American poor are nearly all not poor by any historical standards e.g., Americans living below the official poverty level today have housing space per person than the average European not poor Europeans, but the average European Of course, This is not to say that Americans living in official poverty have no problems They have serious and often catastrophic social problems, but these are seldom the result of material deprivation and are far often the result of social degeneration, much of it representing social retrogressions during the era of the rising welfare state and the pervasive, non judgmental welfare state ideology And Sowell repeatedly points out that identity group politics don t correlate with improvements for that group, but rather for benefits for grievance leaders So, in the US, Latinos agitate and stagnate Vietnamese work and get ahead.Sowell s book is in part an analysis of the Great Divergence why some human societies have reached escape velocity from the poverty that has universally characterized human society until the Industrial Revolution and others haven t Unlike recent authors like Greg Clark and Nicholas Wade, who basically think that the humans in successful societies have genetically evolved superior traits, Sowell is skeptical of the evolution explanation It s not that he rejects it out of hand he s open to the possibility that evidence could show, for example, that one group of humans consistently has a higher IQ, though as mentioned above he largely rejects it for black people in America And, in fact, although he only mentions it in passing, Sowell actually in part rejects the concept of the Great Divergence, noting that Economic inequalities among nations did not begin with the industrial revolution, and the international inequalities of ancient times were by no means necessarily less than the inequalities of today Greg Clark might disagree, and exploring this point might actually be a fascinating follow up book by Sowell.While discussing cultural differences, Sowell makes a point that I had made to myself, but had not seen before in print A few years ago, the book Why Nations Fail, by Acemoglu and Robinson, received wide attention It s about the Great Divergence, and among other things attributes modern differentials among nations to their political systems, finding extractive ones inferior in results But I, at least, quit reading the book a few chapters in, when the authors addressed cultural differences among nations, and wholly rejected that cultural differences could explain any differences among national results, with their WHOLE AND ONLY argument being that Canada and the United States were English colonies, but so were Sierra Leone and Nigeria The variation in prosperity within former English colonies is as great as that in the entire world The English legacy is not the reason for the success of North America Sowell punctures this PC based approach with the obvious point that regardless of colonial status, the actual culture of Sierra Leone and Nigeria was in no way made English, and in fact their cultures are almost certainly the main driver of their differences today He also notes that Barbados, with a mostly sub Saharan ancestry but an absorbed British culture, is much richer than Argentina, which once was rich but threw it all away with a degenerating culture.Sowell finally addresses Implications and Prospects Here, speaking of income inequality, he has pithy rebuttals of Thomas Piketty To say, as Piketty does that the upper decile is truly a world unto itself is to fly in the face of the fact that most American households 56 percent are in the top decile at some point in their lives, usually in their older years This is not even class warfare, but confusion between social classes and age cohorts Even the vaunted top one percent, so often discussed in the media, is a level reached by 12 percent of Americans at some point in their lives And even then the statistics mis state the level of inequality, for the differences are calculated pre tax and without including massive transfers of in king benefits Finally, of course, true persistent income differences are not necessarily bad they typically result from the higher productivity of those paid , who also benefit others which is why they re paid Sowell also eviscerates the bell bottom flavored philosopher John Rawls in four pages To say, as Rawls does, that morally nothing should be done to benefit the rest of society if it does not also help those at the bottom can amount to enshrining a veto on progress, on behalf of those with a counterproductive lifestyle And, of course, By pushing the production process off into the background, redistributionists such as Rawls avoid confronting the question whether income inequalities might be matched by corresponding inequalities in economic productivity The book does contain the usual Sowell tics, which some readers may find distracting Nearly every cited authority is called distinguished, which is Sowell s way of complimenting them But it seems odd after a while, and a reader who s not overly familiar with Sowell might think it was being used defensively And Sowell does tend to seem repetitive in places He s not, actually in almost all cases, he s drawing a somewhat different conclusion but pointing to the same base material, hammering the point home But again, to a casual reader this can seem repetitive Neither of these are a big deal, of course, but if I had any criticism of the book, this would be it.