Thomas Sewell is an American economist born on the 30th June 1930, who is also known as a social theorist and writer about important topics including race, politics and education. He grew up in Harlem, New York, having been born in North Carolina and dropped out of high school, subsequently serving in the armed forces during the Korean War. Following the war, he completed a degree from Harvard University and completed his masters at Columbia in 1959. Nine years later, Sewell completed his doctorate in economics.
Sewell has worked for various universities and think tanks, as well as writing over 30 books on social policy on race, ethnicity and education, as well as multiple aspects of economics. He has been an outspoken critic of race-based quotas and affirmative action, calling for a better solution and has even commented on the issue of gun control and how current laws do not in fact save lives, but cost them. This has, of course, caused him to draw both supporters and critics to his work, but there is no denying his influence as an academic, economist and social commentator.
Please see below for a list of Thomas Sewells most popular and influential quotations.
1. “I have never understood why it is “greed” to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else’s money.”
2. “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.”
3. “It’s amazing how much panic one honest man can spread among a multitude of hypocrites. ”
4. “People who pride themselves on their “complexity” and deride others for being “simplistic” should realize that the truth is often not very complicated. What gets complex is evading the truth.”
5. “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”
6. “Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.”
7. “The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.”
8. “Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.”
9. “Intellect is not wisdom.”
10. “Racism does not have a good track record. It’s been tried out for a long time and you’d think by now we’d want to put an end to it instead of putting it under new management.
11. “It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer it.”
12. “Despite a voluminous and often fervent literature on “income distribution,” the cold fact is that most income is not distributed: It is earned.”
13. “Socialism is a wonderful idea. It is only as a reality that it has been disastrous. Among people of every race, color, and creed, all around the world, socialism has led to hunger in countries that used to have surplus food to export…. Nevertheless, for many of those who deal primarily in ideas, socialism remains an attractive idea — in fact, seductive. Its every failure is explained away as due to the inadequacies of particular leaders. ”
14. “The fact that the market is not doing what we wish it would do is no reason to automatically assume that the government would do better.”
15. “Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”
16. “There are only two ways of telling the complete truth–anonymously and posthumously.”
17. “Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric.”
18. “Bailing out people who made ill-advised mortgages makes no more sense that bailing out people who lost their life savings in Las Vegas casinos.”
19. “Since this is an era when many people are concerned about ‘fairness’ and ‘social justice,’ what is your ‘fair share’ of what someone else has worked for?”
20. “Can you cite one speck of hard evidence of the benefits of “diversity” that we have heard gushed about for years? Evidence of its harm can be seen — written in blood — from Iraq to India, from Serbia to Sudan, from Fiji to the Philippines. It is scary how easily so many people can be brainwashed by sheer repetition of a word.”
22. “Unfortunately, the real minimum wage is always zero, regardless of the laws, and that is the wage that many workers receive in the wake of the creation or escalation of a government-mandated minimum wage, because they lose their jobs or fail to find jobs when they enter the labor force. Making it illegal to pay less than a given amount does not make a worker’s productivity worth that amount—and, if it is not, that worker is unlikely to be employed.”
23. “The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best.”
24. “Competition does a much more effective job than government at protecting consumers.”
25. “One of the consequences of such notions as ‘entitlements’ is that people who have contributed nothing to society feel that society owes them something, apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence.”
26. “If politicians stopped meddling with things they don’t understand, there would be a more drastic reduction in the size of government than anyone in either party advocates.”
27. “There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.”
28. “When people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment seems like discrimination.”
29. “Rhetoric is no substitute for reality.”
30. “What is history but the story of how politicians have squandered the blood and treasure of the human race?”
31. “Virtually no idea is too ridiculous to be accepted, even by very intelligent and highly educated people, if it provides a way for them to feel special and important. Some confuse that feeling with idealism.”
32. “What sense would it make to classify a man as handicapped because he is in a wheelchair today, if he is expected to be walking again in a month, and competing in track meets before the year is out? Yet Americans are generally given ‘class’ labels on the basis of their transient location in the income stream. If most Americans do not stay in the same broad income bracket for even a decade, their repeatedly changing ‘class’ makes class itself a nebulous concept. Yet the intelligentsia are habituated, if not addicted, to seeing the world in class terms.”
33. “The fact that so many successful politicians are such shameless liars is not only a reflection on them, it is also a reflection on us. When the people want the impossible, only liars can satisfy.”
34. “Life does not ask what we want. It presents us with options”
35. “It doesn’t matter how smart you are unless you stop and think.”
36. “If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else’s expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves.”
37. “Economics is a study of cause-and-effect relationships in an economy. It’s purpose is to discern the consequences of various ways of allocating resources which have alternative uses. It has nothing to say about philosophy or values, anymore than it has to say about music or literature.”
38. “One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain.”
39. “Don’t you get tired of seeing so many “non-conformists” with the same non-conformist look?”
40. “No government of the left has done as much for the poor as capitalism has. Even when it comes to the redistribution of income, the left talks the talk but the free market walks the walk.
41. What do the poor most need? They need to stop being poor. And how can that be done, on a mass scale, except by an economy that creates vastly more wealth? Yet the political left has long had a remarkable lack of interest in how wealth is created. As far as they are concerned, wealth exists somehow and the only interesting question is how to redistribute it.”
42. “If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism.”
43. “Whenever someone refers to me as someone “who happens to be black,” I wonder if they realize that both my parents are black. If I had turned out to be Scandinavian or Chinese, people would have wondered what was going on.”
44. “It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.”
45. “If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 50 years ago, a liberal 25 years ago and a racist today.”
46. “I think we’re raising whole generations who regard facts as more or less optional.
47. We have kids in elementary school who are being urged to take stands on political issues, to write letters to congressmen and presidents about nuclear energy.
48. They’re not a decade old, and they’re being thrown these kinds of questions that can absorb the lifetime of a very brilliant and learned man. And they’re being taught that it’s important to have views, and they’re not being taught that it’s important to know what you’re talking about.
49. It’s important to hear the opposite viewpoint, and more important to learn how to distinguish why viewpoint A and viewpoint B are different, and which one has the most evidence or logic behind it. They disregard that. They hear something, they hear some rhetoric, and they run with it.”
50. “We seem to be getting closer and closer to a situation where nobody is responsible for what they did but we are all responsible for what somebody else did.”
51. “Hilary Clinton said you know, it takes a village to raise a child and somebody said it takes a village idiot to believe that … it is part of the whole thing of third parties wanting to make decisions for which they pay no price for when they’re wrong.”
52. “It takes no more research than a trip to almost any public library or college to show the incredibly lopsided coverage of slavery in the United States or in the Western Hemisphere, as compared to the meager writings on even larger number of Africans enslaved in the Islamic countries of the Middle East and North Africa, not to mention the vast numbers of Europeans also enslaved in centuries past in the Islamic world and within Europe itself. At least a million Europeans were enslaved by North African pirates alone from 1500 to 1800, and some Europeans slaves were still being sold on the auction blocks in the Egypt, years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed blacks in the United States.”
53. “Most officially “poor” Americans today have things that middle-class Americans of an earlier time could only dream about—including color TV, videocassette recorders, microwave ovens, and their own cars. Moreover, half of all poor households have air-conditioning.
54. Leftist redistribution of income could never accomplish that, because there are simply not enough rich people for their wealth to have such a dramatic effect on the living standards of the poor, even if it was all confiscated and redistributed. Moreover, many attempts at redistributing wealth in various countries around the world have ended up redistributing poverty.
55. After all, rich people can see the political handwriting on the wall, and can often take their money and leave the country, long before a government program can get started to confiscate it. They are also likely to take with them skills and entrepreneurial experience that are even harder to replace than the money.”
56. “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”
57. “Liberals seem to assume that, if you don’t believe in their particular political solutions, then you don’t really care about the people that they claim to want to help.”
58. “The welfare state is the oldest con game in the world. First you take people’s money away quietly and then you give some of it back to them flamboyantly.”
59. “The concept of “microaggression” is just one of many tactics used to stifle differences of opinion by declaring some opinions to be “hate speech,” instead of debating those differences in a marketplace of ideas. To accuse people of aggression for not marching in lockstep with political correctness is to set the stage for justifying real aggression against them.”
60.“Everyone may be called “comrade,” but some comrades have the power of life and death over other comrades.”