Thomas Sowell – Knowledge and Decisions

Thomas Sowell – Knowledge and Decisions

Sowell’s politics have always different from mine. But as an economic analyst, he is as good as it gets. He writes clearly, and his reasoning is merciless. This book’s core is Hayekian. It emphasizes how dispersed knowledge and individual-level decisionmaking result in an coherent, emergent economic order. Design without a designer is both more prosperous and more humane than centrally planned alternatives.

The problem is when Sowell leaves economics and goes into politics. Sowell has always been conservative, and has become progressively crankier about it over the years, to the point of recently changing his views on immigration from an economist’s view to a conservative politician’s view. This book, first published in 1980, is Sowell in his prime. But he lets political preferences overtake economic analysis in his views on capital punishment, the role of the judiciary, military spending, and family policy. Sowell’s mid-career conservatism here is more curmudgeonly than reflexively partisan, but still easier to pick apart than his rock-solid economic reasoning.

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