Saturday, 1 March 2008

Criticisms of Thomas Sowell on EconTalk

Link: Sowell on Economic Facts and Fallacies

I have just listened to a podcast featuring Thomas Sowell. The podcast can be downloaded from the link above. The link also has a text summary of what was said.

I think there are a number of problems with what Sowell says. I especially have issues with what he says on the topic of immigration. He makes many logically inconsistent statements.

Sowell says society does not have a say on what CEOs are paid because there is no such thing as a society. There is no person named "society." The CEO is just paid by the person who hires him. Then when Sowell talks about immigration he talks about what is "best for us." When he says "us" he means "society." Society doesn't hire the CEO. Likewise, under a pure Libertarian immigration system society does not hire immigrants. Rather, employers employ them. It is inconsistent for Sowell to criticize the immigrant who works yet praise the CEO.

One moment Sowell says he is against central planning, saying that knowledge is dispersed and that the elites don't know what is best for all. Then when he talks about immigration he talks about how "we" should select "good" citizens? In other words, he wants immigration to be centrally planned. Instead of letting employers and immigrants get together voluntarily for free exchange, he wants the Federal Government to centrally decide who comes in based on a imaginary notion of a "society" or a fantasy idea of "citizenship."

Sowell does a good job arguing against central planning and socialism, yet when the issue is immigration, he turns socialist himself.

If you go to EconTalk website link above you'll see I have put these criticisms in the comments section, so be sure to read that to see how the argument progresses, if it does progress at all.


Luke said...

Hi!Good thoughts--I agree with your point about immigration. I find this inconsistency common among the conservative narrative. Big Thomas Sowell fan--claims he became more of a conservative and less of a libertarian after reading "The Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire"

Anonymous said...

Yes, Sowell isn't particularly good when it comes to immigration or environmentalism, as opposed to subjects with which he cut his teeth--economics and race. However, there are some good libertarian reasons for rejecting immigration in the current day-and-age.

At present, because of the modern welfare state, the issue is not simply a matter of opening the borders and letting the productive people contribute to society and the unproductive fail (and go back home, whatever). Because the modern social net catches anyone entering this country--legally or illegally, productive or not--we are paying a cost for every immigrant who enters the country. Now it is up to us to try and figure out which will be a good immigrant or a bad.

Norak said...

Libertarian policy would not try to let government decide what is a good immigrant and what is a bad immigrant. Allowing the government to centrally control these decisions is the definition of communism or socialism. Libertarian policy would allow immigrants to be judged by the market. For example, in Australia, immigrants coming in under employment or student visas do not have the same rights to welfare as Australian citizens do. Employers therefore have the ability to hire immigrants just like they do CEOs or other workers.