December 27th, 2016

Thomas Sowell is retiring from the column business

I can understand it; after all, Sowell is 86. Writing a regular column takes a lot of dedication, and he’s been working hard all his life. Time for some relaxation while he still has enough health to enjoy it:

Even the best things come to an end. After enjoying a quarter of a century of writing this column for Creators Syndicate, I have decided to stop. Age 86 is well past the usual retirement age, so the question is not why I am quitting, but why I kept at it so long.

It was very fulfilling to be able to share my thoughts on the events unfolding around us, and to receive feedback from readers across the country — even if it was impossible to answer them all.

Being old-fashioned, I liked to know what the facts were before writing. That required not only a lot of research, it also required keeping up with what was being said in the media.

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. With the political news being so awful this year, it felt especially wonderful.

This made me decide to spend less time following politics and more time on my photography, adding more pictures to my website (

As I said, I can understand. On the other hand, I’ll miss him.

Sowell has been one of the conservative voices that spoke to me the most convincingly when I was going through my political change and for a long long while afterward. What an incisive mind he had and still has, and what a remarkably clear way of expressing himself. Several of his books are among the best treatments I’ve ever read of the differences between right and left, and I highly recommend them if you’ve not encountered them before:

The Vision of the Anointed
The Quest for Cosmic Justice

I’ve recommended the above two books in particular for people who are liberals and want to know something about the right. For many liberals Sowell has a special clout because he is a black man of great achievement, and having been a liberal himself at one time—in fact, a leftist—he understands full well what motivates liberals and the more benign leftists, and can write of them and about them and to them with empathy.

That doesn’t mean that Sowell ever—ever ever ever—pulled his punches. Oh my, no! A sharp debater and speaker, he can be seen and heard in his prime on a large number of videos on YouTube; take your pick.

I’ve read Sowell’s autobiography, and reading it gave me a sense of the forces that shaped him into the tough and uncompromising thinker he was and is. But some of it is a mystery, as it is with all people. Sowell just seems to have been born with the stubborn strength to go his own way. That way was a different one, as you will see if you read the autobiography. It led him to, among other things, Harvard (undergrad) and U. of Chicago (PhD) degrees as an economist and then a career as renowned professor, and it led him from left to right when the facts (those stubborn things) didn’t fit his ideology.

I also recommend his book Intellectuals and Race—oh, and just about everything else he’s ever written, even though I certainly haven’t read all of his enormous output.

Have a great time, Thomas Sowell, and I can’t thank you enough.

18 Responses to “Thomas Sowell is retiring from the column business”

  1. NeoConScum Says:

    I have long loved and cherished Dr. Sowell. A Giant. Imagine Robert Conquest and Thomas Sowell sitting down for lunch on a weekday at the Hoover Institution. To have been a fly on that wall would have been, for me, Ecstasy.

  2. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    I always wanted to be Thomas Sowell when I grew up. I’m 63, so I guess I’m out of time on that.

  3. neo-neocon Says:


    Ah, yes! Would love to meet him.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Assistant Village Idiot:

    I think I tried to model myself after him in the sense that I try to do a lot of research, and to use reason, and to emotionally understand liberals because I was once one.

    But there’s no one who comes close to Sowell, in my book.

  5. Stu Says:

    I own the following books of his, all enlightening: Knowledge & Decisions, Ethnic America and Migrations & Cultures. The first is an elaboration on Hayek’s great insights and the others are fascinating studies of different societies and communities of common ethnicity. He is truly a national treasure and hopefully Trump will see that he is awarded the Medal of Freedom.

  6. J.J Says:

    I have mixed emotions about this. Dr. Sowell richly deserves to follow his muse. I cannot but be happy that he has other things he wants to do and wish him well in his desire to escape the cacophony of politics.

    On the other hand, to know that he will no longer be writing his columns filled with wisdom is very saddening. We have a plethora of his works to read and enjoy, but his insights on current events were always like beacons shining through the fog. He has been a reliable guide to safe harbor. He will be sorely missed.

  7. Irene Says:

    Such fond memories of being introduced to Sowell’s writings! Back in the day, just behind NYU, was a funky libertarian bookstore called – of course – Laissez Faire Books. I used to pop in between classes and later, I think after Andrea Rich bought the store, she put a metal turning book rack with only Sowell’s writings on it – pamphlets and books (and later, more and more books) – So, there was Sowell, in the center of the store, rocking out.

    Funny to look back and recall how friggin’ revolutionary he was perceived to be back then. An African-American economist who wasn’t a leftie! Say it ain’t so! The Left hated him, and the reigning Keynesians either dismissed him altogether as an Uncle Tom or disparaged his work.

    Maybe he won’t be writing his column anymore, but I consider myself very lucky to have had him in my life for decades now.

  8. yara Says:

    The book that probably did more to clarify my thinking was his Knowledge and Decisions.

  9. expat Says:

    I first encountered Sowell’s writing on a trip to Palo Alto, where I picked up Race and Culture in a bookstore. After reading it, I wondered what the response would be from Blacks. Sometime after returning to Germany, I much later saw something about Sowell on the internet that showed a picture of him. I was amazed that he is black. That he can talk about things without introducing the race card is one of the things I really love about him. That and his common sense.

    Neo, This is OT, but there is an article on Turkey today at NRO that gives info about what Erdogan is doing in Germany. I can’t validate the info about spies, but it does provide a bit more info on the tightrope that Merkel is trying to walk.

  10. George Says:

    I would recommend to anyone – even the person least attracted to economics – to read Sowell’s “Basic Economics” It’s one of those books that breaks down and describes concepts and principles of economics without dreaded graphs and formulas in a simple and elegant style. It could be a great education tool in schools if free market economics were not generally disdained by the education elite.

  11. parker Says:

    A giant, whose shoulders are broad, is stepping down to enjoy his retirement from the battle. May you enjoy your time left as a mortal be filled with joy. And thank you for your efforts on the side of sanity.

  12. The Other Gary Says:

    As I said, I can understand [Sowell’s retirement from column writing]. On the other hand, I’ll miss him.

    I will, too. As will almost every thoughtful, reasonable person who believes in conservative and/or libertarian values and knows Sowell’s ideas. I’m grateful we’ve had him as an ally for so long, this keenly insightful, knowledgeable, productive man with such steadfast courage and rock-solid integrity (considering how free-thinking blacks who stray too far from the PC party line are singled out and viciously attacked with a double dose of vitriol and abuse).

    What an incisive mind he had and still has, and what a remarkably clear way of expressing himself.

    IMHO, clarity and simplicity are the true indicators of a superior intellect, not big words and complexity. Many times, after reading something Dr Sowell had written, I had this feeling of: Like duh, that makes perfect sense and now seems obvious, but why didn’t I think of it myself?

    Because it’s only “obvious” in retrospect, after someone has thoroughly researched the problem, seen through all the extraneous junk and broken it down into clear, simple (not simplistic) essentials, from which a straightforward explanation is assembled. To my mind, this was Sowell’s forte, a rare and valuable ability I wish more people possessed.

    All honor to Dr Sowell. May he enjoy his well-deserved “retirement” and live to age 120.

  13. AesopFan Says:

    some Sowell links, courtesy of PowerLine

    and Dr. Sowell making pictures

  14. Steve57 Says:

    …On the other hand, to know that he will no longer be writing his columns filled with wisdom is very saddening. We have a plethora of his works to read and enjoy, but his insights on current events were always like beacons shining through the fog. He has been a reliable guide to safe harbor. He will be sorely missed.

    He was also an educator. If we learned anything from him at at all we can also carry the ball forward The man is after all 86.

  15. NeoConScum Says:

    Neo: May I suggest a smiling, nodding, “Yes!!” filled 2-minute revisit to the ‘Flattering Unction’ 1st Chapter of, “The Vision of the Anointed”(1995). Page 1: “Today, despite free speech and mass media, the prevailing social vision is dangerously close to sealing itself off from any discordant feedback from reality.” Or, Page 2: “…what the prevailing vision of our time does (italics)is a special state of Grace for those who believe in it” or, Page 3: “Put differently, those who disagree wirh the prevailing vision are seen as not merely in error, but in sin.”

    And those words were 21-years ago!!!
    Global Warming, anyone?? Sorry, I should’ve asked:CLIMATE
    CHANGE, Anyone?? (My BAAAAD!!!)

  16. DaveMay Says:

    Neo, please read “The Ideological Origin of Political Differences.” I don’t think anyone can consider him or herself a critical thinker if he or she hasn’t pondered over this question: what is the origin of our beliefs? Thomas Sowell is one of the intellectual giants of our time.

  17. neo-neocon Says:


    That book is somewhat similar to The Vision of the Anointed.

  18. Liberty Wolf Says:

    Like you, I owe him a lot because of his clarity and brilliant erudition of the concepts that differentiate left from right. I always recommend his books to people who are open to reading the right. His retirement from a column is well-deserved. Hope he will keep his hand in, but no matter what, he’s earned a break.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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