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Archive for August 19th, 2013

HC

Purchase: Amazon

An excellent work by economist Thomas Sowell.  This is the second book I’ve read by Sowell and he doesn’t disappoint.  This book is about intellectuals, which he define as those whose occupation is chiefly dealing with ideas as the product that they market.  Here Sowell makes a good distinction between intellect and wisdom; and just because intellectuals deal with ideas do not necessarily mean they are wise or correct.  Nor does that mean they are smarter than others (such as doctors, chess masters, etc).  In fact, as Sowell goes on to argue in the book, typically intellectuals are those with specialized knowledge (versus ‘mundane’ knowledge) who seeks the approval of peers which can immune them from the typical tests of removing good and bad ideas through the market such as other job sector.  This in turn allows intellectuals’ bad ideas to go on for a long time and often intellectuals get away from the responsibility of their bad ideas with little or no consequences.  The book has a wonderful chapter on specialized knowledge that has led some intellectuals to think they thus have authority to speak on other areas outside of their specialty (think of Bertrand Russell, Noam Chomsky, etc).  I enjoyed Sowell’s example of this in the case of how some liberal intellectuals criticize police officers’ for firing too much rounds in officer related shooting.  The criticism often is without the consideration of studies on gunfire under stress, where a NYPD study shows the low accuracy of shooting under pressure (such as shooting a target 16-25 yards away in life-risking scenario results in 14 percent hit, etc).  At times intellectuals can be down right misleading with their twisted worldview such as the uncritically accepted notion in history that president Herbert Hoover did nothing during the Great Depression or how Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is nothing more than a loner and a follower of Anthony Scalia, etc.  Readers will enjoy Sowell’s examination of the axioms intellectuals take for granted such as the “One day at a time mentality” of the elite versus long haul consequences of action.  I was surprise that the book devoted two chapters on intellectuals view on war.  I highly recommend this book and wish to read more like it.

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