All Commentary
Monday, August 1, 1983

Book Review: Pink and Brown People and Other Controversial Essays by Thomas Sowell and America: A Minority Viewpoint by Walter Williams

Pink and Brown People and Other Controversial Essays

by Thomas Sowell

158 pages • $8.95 paperback

America: A Minority Viewpoint

by Walter Williams

(Both books published by the Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, 1982.)
183 pages • $8.95 paperback

Doctors Sowell (Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution) and Williams (professor of economics at George Mason University) are seminal and incisive thinkers and essayists. Each of the above books consists of articles which originally appeared as columns in major newspapers. These terse coherent articles, ranging in subject matter from race, economics, and politics to various social trends and issues, pack the wallop of a wet bag of cement. They provide a compact, revealing, scholarly but readily interpretable analysis of the fads, fallacies, and foibles of the self-anointed elite whose commitment to coerced utopia through the compulsive reach of government threatens the very fabric of our Constitutional system, and of the cultural and economic prosperity which has been possible under that system.

The theory of how the world works underlying the thought of doctors Sowell and Williams is what they term a “vision of social processes.” This viewpoint recognizes that perfection is precluded by the realities of the human condition, and that the most feasible adjustment to the human condition is through the family, Constitution, market, and the traditions of freedom. This perspective contrasts with the “vision of the anointed” who perceive the world as a place wherein perfection can be achieved if mankind can be persuaded, tricked, or coerced into adopting their elitist version of virtue and wisdom. The “anointed” feel that they have advanced beyond reactionary and conservative mythologies, and that their enlightenment and messianism is the route to salvation. The institutions of freedom to which defenders of the “vision of social processes” pay homage are major obstacles to the implementation of the vision of the “anointed” messiahs in academia, government, and media.

Doctors Sowell and Williams feel that the American public has allowed itself to be duped by the political medicine men of quick fixes, fine tuning, collectivization, plus such will-o- the-wisps as perfect justice, affirmative redress, and “equal opportunity.” The authors combine knowledge, understanding, research, and valid insight with consummate literary skill, all derived from a firm philosophical footing. The result is a merciless dissection of the pious hokum and cant which underlie much of the respectable but illusory and disastrous public policy notions of our time.

The moral appeal of the “vision of the anointed” is understandable and interpretable, but much of its success is due to the public’s willingness to fulfill Barnum’s jibe about suckers. Generally, the victim of con games has a streak of larceny himself and contributes to his own fleecing. Thus the elite and “the public” feed on each other.

Ideas, beliefs, and perspectives have consequences. History, to a large degree, is the outworking, the denouement in time and space, of the ideas by which men live. Doctors Sowell and Williams are premier spokesmen for the vision of freedom, and the prosperity which freedom makes possible. These two volumes of essays from their deft pens make for reading which is both incisive and instructive.