Economist Tom Sowell On Dennis Prager’s Radio Show

Dennis: "I am about to speak about one of the clearest thinkers living. One of the top five…"

"Allen Estrin, my producer, said America would be different if every college kid read this book.

"The first edition of Applied Economics, I asked him if he had a department in charge of naming his books. I didn’t think that ‘Applied Economics’ juimped off the shelves at the bookstore. I thought ‘Tom Sowell’s Guide to Bikinis’ would be better. They now have a sexy subtitle — ‘Thinking Beyond Stage One.’ That is so riveting. I can’t wait for the third edition."

"You didn’t think beyond stage one."

Dennis and Tom agree that the world’s thinking is upside down on many issues including the Middle East.

Dennis: "Hillary’s number one agenda as secretary of state is to bring peace to the Middle East — the self-confidence that liberals have to change the world is one of their great virtues — and to combat global warming. Every day I read about a new record low in some part of the world."

Prager plays a clip from Senator John Kerry who repeatedly pronounces on the need for a profound commitment to combat climate change. Kerry says it is a national security threat.

Tom Sowell: "You can use the word ‘profound’ and that doesn’t stop it from being shallow."

Dennis: "When you hear the grave intonation of an important senator who believes what he just said when people like you and I are so aware that the whole edifice is false, how do you explain this?"

Tom: "We live in a world where there are people are crusade-happy. If it wasn’t global warming, it would be something else. Before it was global warming, it was the danger of a new ice age. As you get off the climate kick, it will be something else that will destroy us immediately unless we send more money to Washington and give them more power."

Dennis: "Why are some people crusade-happy? You and I don’t need to do that to be happy."

Tom: "Our colleges and universities are turning out more and more people who will not be able to feel fulfilled unless they are telling other people what to do. This is long-standing among intellectuals. A hundred years ago, this was eugenics. That if you didn’t allow them to set up various programs, then the low-IQ people would have more children and the national IQ would go down. Empirical studies show that the national IQ is going up. They were convinced on zero evidence. But it made them important. What we believe does not make us important. If you believe in judicial restraint, free market and the family, then you are just a guy who believes in judicial restraint, free market, and the family. You’re nothing. But if you believe in social justice, you are one of the anointed."

Dennis: "Every study shows that conservatives are more happy than liberals. I don’t think it is liberalism that makes people less happy and conservatism that makes people more happy. It is that the happier person is less likely to be a liberal. We don’t need to change the world to be happy."

Tom: "One of the crusades that is going on is that intellectuals feel it is their job to bring meaning to the meaningless lives of ordinary people. I don’t know that a mother who holds a newborn baby in her arms feels that her life is meaningless. There are all sorts of people who don’t need this hype to be happy."

Dennis: "Or they are religious. They get meaning from something other than politics."

Tom: "If you believe you are among the anointed, you feel not only a right but a duty to impose this on the lesser people around you. If you live in a place like San Francisco which is solidly to the left they are constantly thinking up new rules. You can’t leave your leaves on the curb more than a certain time, you’ll get hit with a big fine."

"There are laws about what kind of light bulbs you can use. New ideas coming up every day."

A caller criticizes Dennis Prager for sacrificing his libertarian ideals to go to war around the world to create democracy.

Dennis: "I supported the war in Iraq once it was engaged in. Before we went in, I was ambivalent for all sorts of reasons. Once we went in, we had to win. Even if I supported it from the outset, that’s it. Everybody has some crusade. You want people to be nice or we want smaller government. The difference is that liberals want to control your life far more than we do. I don’t have any agenda in this case beyond getting rid of a particular evil known as Islamic terror. We don’t have a choice. Beyond that, Tom Sowell and I want less power."

Tom: "In the case of Saddam Hussein, I don’t think a war on terror would have had any credibility if it didn’t do something about him. He was thumbing his nose at us and shooting at American planes with impugnity indefinitely. Nobody but the United States could do anything about it. One of the dividends was that Qaddafi stopped his nuclear program once he saw American troops pulling Saddam Hussein out of a hole in the ground. He wondered if he was going to be next.

"That Saddam Hussein at that given moment did not have weapons of mass destruction… Twenty or thirty years from now, when historians look back at it, they will think, such a trivial point. Hitler didn’t have a nuclear weapon when we started the Manhattan Project but he was looking to get one. We realized we had better get one first."

Dennis Prager: "Pay your kids to read ‘Applied Economics.’ I’m a big believer that you can’t raise kids without bribery so you might as well do something good for them."

"What is stage one thinking?"

Tom: "You think only about the immediate consequences about what you do and you don’t worry about what the repercussions will be. There are so many examples. What are the stage one effects of promoting more people having home ownership? What are the repercussions of doing this? We are now suffering those repercussions and showing no signs that it was the thoughtless pursuit of a desirable goal that got us into this mess in the first place."

Dennis: You cite a New York Times report that interest-only mortgages represented more than 40% of all mortgages issued in many major American cities.

Tom: "What is truly galling is seeing some of the key players who created this mess — Barney Frank, Chris Dodd — acting like they are rescuing us when they are the problem."

Dennis: "These are the architects of the idea that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and private banks have to give more lines to people who otherwise wouldn’t qualify, such as the poor and minorities."

"If you could have dessert with the new president of the United States, what one issue would you raise?"

Tom: "A nuclear Iran. A nuclear Iran means nuclear-armed terrorists who can not be deterred because they are willing to commit suicide. That will change for all time the history of the United States and Western Civilization. That he and Hillary will chitchat with these people and talk them out of it, it would be funny if it were not so historically tragic."

Dennis: "I happen to be a bit optimistic…because hell hath no fury like a liberal scorned. They will learn who Iran is. There is no one angrier than a dissed liberal and they will be dissed. Take a look on the internet. Yesterday, pictures of Barack Obama were burned in Iran."

"Wall Street takes these lousy loans, bankers who are supposed to be brilliant, and they lump them in with better securities and then the rating agencies give these things triple A ratings, it seems across the board there’s been a fall."

Tom: "Sainthood and infallibility are not common in Washington or Wall Street."

Dennis: "What do you think about the stimulus plan?"

Tom: "It will stimulate inflation when it goes into effect."

"If you plan on building a new bridge, don’t plan on doing it this decade [due to environmental impact reports and the like]."

"All of this [stimulus] stuff was tried during the Jimmy Carter administration."

Dennis: "What do you recommend?"

Tom: "I recommend what they will never do — nothing. The politician has to be seen as active to show his concern and his compassion."

Dennis: "Were you opposed to the $700 billion bailout?"

Tom: "Not initially… These institutions create the credit that fuel demand… Now there’s a huge pot of money that politicians are running around with…"

Dennis: "What’s a trillion dollar deficit?"

Tom: "A trillion seconds ago, no one could read or write… If you put that much money into the system, you’ll get hyper-inflation or stiff medicine like Paul Volker imposed."

"On a number of campuses, it is common for people to refer to a ‘Teacher of the Year’ award as the kiss of death for a new teacher [wanting tenure]. Good teaching takes a lot of time. You’re not going to do that and turn out scholarly articles."

Dennis: "What are you working on now?"

Tom: "A book on the role of intellectuals in Western society."

Question: "How will your book differe from Paul Johnson’s?"

Tom: "Mine will not be as charitable."

Tom Sowell writes for

Since everybody seems to be criticizing Israel for its military response to the rockets being fired into their country from the Gaza strip, let me add my criticisms as well. The Israelis traded land for peace, but they have never gotten the peace, so they should take back the land.

Maybe a couple of generations of Palestinians in Gaza living in peace under Israeli occupation and a couple of generations of the occupation troops squelching the terrorists– "militants" for those of you who are squeamish– would set up conditions where the Palestinians would be free to vote on whether they would like to remain occupied or to have their own state– minus terrorists and their rockets.

Casualty totals alone should be enough to show that the Palestinian people are the biggest losers from the current situation, where the terrorists among them, firing rockets into Israel, can bring devastating retaliatory strikes.

Why don’t the Palestinians vote for some representatives who would make a lasting peace with Israel? Because any such candidates would be killed by the terrorists long before election day, so nobody volunteers for that dangerous role.

We don’t know what the Palestinians really want– and won’t know as long as they are ruled by Hamas, Hezbollah and the like.

Whatever the benefits of peace for the Palestinian population, what are the terrorists going to do in peacetime? Become librarians and furniture salesmen?

So-called "world opinion" has been a largely negative factor in this situation. Nothing is easier than for people living in peace and safety in Paris or Rome to call for a "cease fire" after the Israelis retaliate against people who are firing rockets into their country.

The time to cease fire was before the rockets were fired.

What do calls for "cease fire" and "negotiations" do? They lower the price of launching attacks. This is true not only in the Middle East but in other parts of the world as well.

During the Vietnam war, when American clergymen were crying out "Stop the bombing!" they paid little attention to the fact that bombing pauses made it easier for North Vietnam to move more ammunition into South Vietnam to kill both South Vietnamese and Americans.

After Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, if British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had heeded calls for a "cease fire," that would have simply lowered the price to be paid by the Argentine government for their invasion. Continued…

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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