My Tribute to Dr. Thomas Sowell

It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.” — Thomas Sowell

On Tuesday, Dr. Sowell announced retirement from writing his weekly syndicated column. Dr. Thomas Sowell is above most things, a communicator. Sowell grew up in poverty (not knowing what hot water felt like until he was 9 years old, for instance), was adopted and raised by his great aunt, was the first in his family to study past the 6th grade, and was then, after all of this, drafted in the Vietnam War. In spite of or perhaps because of these events, Sowell went on to get his undergraduate degree from Harvard and attained his Doctorate in Economics from the University of Chicago. Has been a part of the faculties at Cornell and UCLA, and is currently a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. Along with these accomplishments, Dr. Sowell has written 40 some odd books and a countless number of columns and papers. Not only is he an accomplished academic (teacher, researcher, etc.), Marine, and author but he, through each of these professions demonstrated an ability to communicate, with great clarity, complex ideas, economic principles, and social constructions.

It was this skill that peaked my interest in Dr. Sowell’s work. One day, in my Sophomore year of high-school, while meandering through the Politics and History section of Barnes and Noble, I stumbled across The Thomas Sowell Reader. Flipping through, I was immediately enthralled. I read two of the short essays and gravitated easily toward his analysis and argumentation regarding that which surrounds us within the human condition (the book is a compilation of certain columns and papers of his writing on a host of topics).

I had not previously tasted political and economic analysis like this. My schooling prior exposed me to history on many of our founding fathers and documents such as The Federalist Papers, but these texts had not grabbed my attention as a young teen. Sowell however, did. There was something extraordinarily enticing about his writing and formulation of arguments. With one fell swoop he chopped down popular beliefs regarding all sorts of systems (welfare, diversity, central government, etc.) and quickly planted healthy and verbose solutions to honest problems.

Dr. Sowell began my education in economics, and with so many of his books centered around or heavily weighted in this subject I would not doubt if he ended it as well. I’ve read a good handful of the Sowell Library and have been a faithful reader of his syndicated column since college. Watching his appearances on Firing Line or any lecture I can find has brought more entertainment, wit, and knowledge than most others (he, Friedman, and Buckley on a debate team is well worth your time).

Thomas Sowell is retiring, but his work will not. It will continue to educate me in the areas of economics, politics, systems, thought process, argumentation, and effective communication. In my Sophomore year of College I wrote Dr. Sowell with all of these sentiments which remain true today, hoping to encourage him – a man in his 80’s – that his travail is not done working in my own life, not even close. I wish him the best.