Clear thinking on race

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Article Highlights

  • Clear Thinking on Race is a wonderful spin-off from Thomas Sowell’s 2009 volume Intellectuals and Society.

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  • Sowell's book remains a primer for thinking on social and economic issues.

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  • Intellectuals are lost when analyzing America’s vital domestic issues like the status of blacks and race relations.

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Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the May 6, 2013 issue of National Review

This book is a wonderful spin-off from Thomas Sowell's magnificent 2009 volume Intellectuals and Society. For those who want a short introduction to Sowell-think, this small book is a perfect place to start. His main message - amply illustrated - is that, on the subject of race, intellectuals are useless. Indeed, they don't even ask the right questions. Thus, they're woefully lost when it comes to analyzing America's most important domestic issue: the status of blacks and the state of race relations. Of course his point about lame-brained intellectuals extends far beyond their writings on race. Indeed, his book is a primer on rigorous thinking about social and economic issues in general, here and abroad.

"There is no subject that is more in need of dispassionate analysis, careful factual research and a fearless and honest discussion than is race," Sowell writes. Precisely those qualities are exceedingly hard to find in the mass media, or in academic and popular writing. His book is a gold mine of invaluable insights; he is the teacher most of us never had and badly needed - indeed, still need.

Two very important cases involving race are before the U.S. Supreme Court this term. The Court's wooly thinking is a minor thread in the tale that Sowell tells, but it is not a minor American institution, and the opinions of the justices shape our seemingly never ending debate on race. Intellectuals and Race should be mandatory reading for those who hand down wisdom from their high judicial perch.

The full text of this article is available by subscription to the National Review

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