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The Washington Free Beacon

REVIEW: ‘Social Justice Fallacies’ by Thomas Sowell

Christine Rosen    
November 25, 2023

In economics, the law of diminishing returns states that the benefits gained from an enterprise will be proportionally smaller the more money, time, or energy is invested in it.

Thankfully this is not true in the realm of ideas, as the career of the economist Thomas Sowell attests. Now 93 years old and the author of more than 40 books, Sowell’s most recent contribution, Social Justice Fallacies, tackles the many misguided social experiments of the past few decades and their often malign fallout.

Any discussion of social justice benefits from the clarifying wisdom of Sowell, but in this book, he provides a further service beyond the forensic accounting of the mistakes made by social justice advocates in areas such as race, criminal justice, wealth redistribution, and other forms of would-be social engineering: He reminds readers of the importance of understanding the history behind contemporary ideas and he offers useful international comparisons that reveal just how myopic the debate over social justice in the United States has become. With his trademark directness in describing the facts and his wry humor, Sowell is always a pleasure to read; despite the slim size of this volume, it contains a thorough debunking of the fallacies noted in the title.

The book could not have arrived at a better time, given continued confusion over what, exactly, "social justice" means. As Sowell told one interviewer recently, social justice is a powerful idea difficult to refute "because it has no specific meaning … fighting it would be like trying to punch the fog." While lacking meaning, it does have "emotionally powerful connotations." Sowell added, "There is a strong sense that it is simply not right—that it is unjust—that some people are so much better off than others."


But this answer captures well Sowell’s unique blend of wisdom, fact-based reasoning, and insight. He is not a partisan for any particular contemporary political project. He’s a partisan for rigorous analysis and truth-telling about the past and the present—something we have too few of these days. It is fitting that he chose as the epigraph to his book the oft-cited observation by the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts." For decades Thomas Sowell has given us both his thoughtful opinions and a solid grounding in the facts. The world is a much better place for it.



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