Social justice errors
By Thomas Sowell. Basic books. 2023. 225 pages.
Ninety-three is a good age to see your book published. All the more impressive since the nonagenarian in question has already published more than 40 books.
Thomas Sowell is semi-retired but hasn’t slowed down much. In his last New York Times Bestseller, Social justice errorsthe leading economist and thinker explores familiar territory by interrogating the claims of progressive “social justice warriors” (SJWs) on race, gender, and public policy.
Sowell opens his argument by referencing the French philosopher whose writings arguably played a central role in shaping the modern left’s views on equality.
Citing Rousseau’s words on the contrast between “the equality which nature has established among men and the inequality which they have instituted among themselves”, Sowell argues that the belief that all classes, races and groups will experience equal results is illusory.
“In the real world, there is rarely anything resembling the equal outcomes that would be expected if all the factors affecting outcomes were the same for everyone.
Even in a society where equality of opportunity is assured – in the sense that each individual is judged by the same standards – people from different backgrounds are not necessarily to want doing the same things, let alone investing their time and energy in developing the same types of skills and talents,” he writes.
The impact of now widely held beliefs about structural racism and sexism can be seen in the political discourse of any Western country. Radical messages are no longer confined to college campuses; instead, they are widely distributed in newsrooms, boardrooms and Parliament buildings.
The decision by the Icelandic Prime Minister to join a national strike against the gender pay gap is a notable example: just a few years ago, such a decision would have been ridiculed. Today, the Prime Minister who does this exudes virtue.
Equality or fairness?
Sowell has already spent his life using his skills as an economist and superhuman erudition to examine these questions forensically in books like Race and economics, Migrations and cultures And Wealth, poverty and politics.
Despite Sowell’s earlier work, differences in outcomes (such as income gaps between different demographic groups or the underrepresentation of certain social groups in major industries or academic institutions) are now automatically seen as the product of a societal or institutional bigotry.
The corollary of this proposition is that governments should take whatever action is necessary—such as imposing gender or racial quotas (“affirmative action,” as it is euphemistically called), or expanding various programs social — to correct these imbalances and achieve true equality at all levels.
To illustrate how this happens, Sowell cites a recent San Francisco newspaper headline that asks, “Why are blacks and Latinos still kept out of the tech industry?”
Here, the question implies that anonymous forces within the IT industry are conspiring against certain marginalized groups.