Do Gun Control Laws Control Guns? – Thomas Sowell

Do Gun Control Laws Control Guns? – Thomas Sowell 

availabilityThe gun control controversy is only the latest of many issues to be debated almost solely in terms of fixed preconceptions, with little or no examination of hard facts.

Media discussions of gun control are dominated by two factors: the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment. But the over-riding factual question is whether gun control laws actually reduce gun crimes in general or murder rates in particular.

If, as gun control advocates claim, gun control laws really do control guns and save lives, there is nothing to prevent repealing the Second Amendment, any more than there was anything to prevent repealing the Eighteenth Amendment that created Prohibition.

But, if the hard facts show that gun control laws do not actually control guns, but instead lead to more armed robberies and higher murder rates after law-abiding citizens are disarmed, then gun control laws would be a bad idea, even if there were no Second Amendment and no National Rifle Association.

The central issue boils down to the question: What are the facts? Yet there are many zealots who seem utterly unconcerned about facts or about their own lack of knowledge of facts.

397024_4268935677955_1569853995_nThere are people who have never fired a shot in their life who do not hesitate to declare how many bullets should be the limit to put into a firearm’s clip or magazine. Some say ten bullets but New York state‘s recent gun control law specifies seven.

Virtually all gun control advocates say that 30 bullets in a magazine is far too many for self-defense or hunting — even if they have never gone hunting and never had to defend themselves with a gun. This uninformed and self-righteous dogmatism is what makes the gun control debate so futile and so polarizing.

Anyone who faces three home invaders, jeopardizing himself or his family, might find 30 bullets barely adequate. After all, not every bullet hits, even at close range, and not every hit incapacitates. You can get killed by a wounded man.

disarmThese plain life-and-death realities have been ignored for years by people who go ballistic when they hear about how many shots were fired by the police in some encounter with a criminal. As someone who once taught pistol shooting in the Marine Corps, I am not the least bit surprised by the number of shots fired. I have seen people miss a stationary target at close range, even in the safety and calm of a pistol range.

We cannot expect everybody to know that. But we can expect them to know that they don’t know — and to stop spouting off about life-and-death issues when they don’t have the facts.

The central question as to whether gun control laws save lives or cost lives has generated many factual studies over the years. But these studies have been like the proverbial tree that falls in an empty forest, and has been heard by no one — certainly not by zealots who have made up their minds and don’t want to be confused by the facts.

9lhvviMost factual studies show no reduction in gun crimes, including murder, under gun control laws. A significant number of studies show higher rates of murder and other gun crimes under gun control laws.

How can this be? It seems obvious to some gun control zealots that, if no one had guns, there would be fewer armed robberies and fewer people shot to death.

But nothing is easier than to disarm peaceful, law-abiding people. And nothing is harder than to disarm people who are neither — especially in a country with hundreds of millions of guns already out there, that are not going to rust away for centuries.

When it was legal to buy a shotgun in London in the middle of the 20th century, there were very few armed robberies there. But, after British gun control zealots managed over the years to disarm virtually the entire law-abiding population, armed robberies became literally a hundred times more common. And murder rates rose.

One can cherry-pick the factual studies, or cite some studies that have subsequently been discredited, but the great bulk of the studies show that gun control laws do not in fact control guns. On net balance, they do not save lives but cost lives.

Gun control laws allow some people to vent their emotions, politicians to grandstand and self-righteous people to “make a statement” — but all at the cost of other people’s lives.

 

Invincible Ignorance – Thomas Sowell – Townhall.com

Invincible Ignorance – Thomas Sowell – Townhall.com.

By Thomas Sowell

Must every tragic mass shooting bring out the shrill ignorance of “gun control” advocates?

gunfreeThe key fallacy of so-called gun control laws is that such laws do not in fact control guns. They simply disarm law-abiding citizens, while people bent on violence find firearms readily available.

If gun control zealots had any respect for facts, they would have discovered this long ago, because there have been too many factual studies over the years to leave any serious doubt about gun control laws being not merely futile but counterproductive.

Places and times with the strongest gun control laws have often been places and times with high murder rates. Washington, D.C., is a classic example, but just one among many.

When it comes to the rate of gun ownership, that is higher in rural areas than in urban areas, but the murder rate is higher in urban areas. The rate of gun ownership is higher among whites than among blacks, but the murder rate is higher among blacks. For the country as a whole, hand gun ownership doubled in the late 20th century, while the murder rate went down.

The few counter-examples offered by gun control zealots do not stand up under scrutiny. Perhaps their strongest talking point is that Britain has stronger gun control laws than the United States and lower murder rates.

But, if you look back through history, you will find that Britain has had a lower murder rate than the United States for more than two centuries– and, for most of that time, the British had no more stringent gun control laws than the United States. Indeed, neither country had stringent gun control for most of that time.

In the middle of the 20th century, you could buy a shotgun in London with no questions asked. New York, which at that time had had the stringent Sullivan Law restricting gun ownership since 1911, still had several times the gun murder rate of London, as well as several times the London murder rate with other weapons.

Neither guns nor gun control was not the reason for the difference in murder rates. People were the difference.

Yet many of the most zealous advocates of gun control laws, on both sides of the Atlantic, have also been advocates of leniency toward criminals.

disarmIn Britain, such people have been so successful that legal gun ownership has been reduced almost to the vanishing point, while even most convicted felons in Britain are not put behind bars. The crime rate, including the rate of crimes committed with guns, is far higher in Britain now than it was back in the days when there were few restrictions on Britons buying firearms.

In 1954, there were only a dozen armed robberies in London but, by the 1990s– after decades of ever tightening gun ownership restrictions– there were more than a hundred times as many armed robberies.

Gun control zealots’ choice of Britain for comparison with the United States has been wholly tendentious, not only because it ignored the history of the two countries, but also because it ignored other countries with stronger gun control laws than the United States, such as Russia, Brazil and Mexico. All of these countries have higher murder rates than the United States.

blame3You could compare other sets of countries and get similar results. Gun ownership has been three times as high in Switzerland as in Germany, but the Swiss have had lower murder rates. Other countries with high rates of gun ownership and low murder rates include Israel, New Zealand, and Finland.

Guns are not the problem. People are the problem– including people who are determined to push gun control laws, either in ignorance of the facts or in defiance of the facts.

There is innocent ignorance and there is invincible, dogmatic and self-righteous ignorance. Every tragic mass shooting seems to bring out examples of both among gun control advocates.

evil1Some years back, there was a professor whose advocacy of gun control led him to produce a “study” that became so discredited that he resigned from his university. This column predicted at the time that this discredited study would continue to be cited by gun control advocates. But I had no idea that this would happen the very next week in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

 

The Invincible Lie – Thomas Sowell – Townhall.com

The Invincible Lie – Thomas Sowell – Townhall.com.

Anyone who wants to study the tricks of propaganda rhetoric has a rich source of examples in the statements of President Barack Obama. On Monday, July 9th, for example, he said that Republicans “believe that prosperity comes from the top down, so that if we spend trillions more on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, that that will somehow unleash jobs and economic growth.”

Let us begin with the word “spend.” Is the government “spending” money on people whenever it does not tax them as much as it can? Such convoluted reasoning would never pass muster if the mainstream media were not so determined to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil when it comes to Barack Obama.

Ironically, actual spending by the Obama administration for the benefit of its political allies, such as the teachers’ unions, is not called spending but “investment.” You can say anything if you have your own private language.

But let’s go back to the notion of “spending” money on “the wealthiest Americans.” The people he is talking about are not the wealthiest Americans. Income is not wealth — and the whole tax controversy is about income taxes. Wealth is what you have accumulated, and wealth is not taxed, except when you die and the government collects an inheritance tax from your heirs.

People over 65 years of age have far more wealth than people in their thirties and forties — but lower incomes. If Obama wants to talk about raising income taxes, let him talk about it, but claiming that he wants to tax “the wealthiest Americans” is a lie and an emotional distraction for propaganda purposes.

The really big lie — and one that no amount of hard evidence or logic seems to make a dent in — is that those who oppose raising taxes on higher incomes simply want people with higher incomes to have more money, in hopes that some of their prosperity will “trickle down” to the rest of the people.

Some years ago, a challenge was issued in this column to name any economist, outside of an insane asylum, who had ever said any such thing. Not one example has yet been received, whether among economists or anyone else. Someone is always claiming that somebody else said it, but no one has ever been able to name and quote that somebody else.

Once we have put aside the lies and the convoluted use of words, what are we left with? Not much.

Obama is claiming that the government can get more tax revenue by raising the tax rate on people with higher incomes. It sounds plausible, and that may be enough for some people, but the hard facts make it a very iffy proposition.

This issue has been fought out in the United States in several administrations — both Democratic and Republican. It has also been fought out in other countries.

What is the real argument of those who want to prevent taxes from rising above a certain percentage, even for people with high incomes? It has nothing to do with making them more prosperous so that their prosperity will “trickle down.”

A Democratic president — John F. Kennedy — stated the issue plainly. Under the existing tax rates, he explained, investors’ “efforts to avoid tax liabilities” made them put their money in tax shelters, because existing tax laws made “certain types of less productive activity more profitable than other more valuable undertakings” for the country.

Ironically, the Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney for putting his money in the Cayman Islands substantiate the point that President Kennedy and others have made, that higher tax rates can drive money into tax shelters, whether tax-exempt municipal bonds or investments in other countries.

In other words, raising tax rates does not automatically raise tax revenues for the government. Higher tax rates have often led to lower tax revenues for states, the federal government and other countries. Conversely, lower tax rates have often led to higher tax revenues. It all depends on the circumstances.

But none of this matters to Barack Obama. If class warfare rhetoric about taxes leads to more votes for him, that is his bottom line, whether the government gets a dime more revenue or not. So long as his lies go unchallenged, a second term will be the end result for him and a lasting calamity for the country.

The Immigration Ploy – Thomas Sowell – Townhall.com

The Immigration Ploy – Thomas Sowell – Townhall.com.

President Obama’s latest political ploy — granting new “rights” out of thin air, by Executive Order, to illegal immigrants who claim that they were brought into the country when they were children — is all too typical of his short-run approach to the country’s long-run problems.

Whatever the merits or demerits of the Obama immigration policy, his Executive Order is good only as long as he remains president, which may be only a matter of months after this year’s election.

People cannot plan their lives on the basis of laws that can suddenly appear, and then suddenly disappear, in less than a year. To come forward today and claim the protection of the Obama Executive Order is to declare publicly and officially that your parents entered the country illegally. How that may be viewed by some later administration is anybody’s guess.

Employers likewise cannot rely on policies that may be here today and gone tomorrow, whether these are temporary tax rates designed to look good at election time or temporary immigration policies that can backfire later if employers get accused of hiring illegal immigrants.

Why hire someone, and invest time and money in training them, if you may be forced to fire them before a year has passed?

Kicking the can down the road is one of the favorite exercises in Washington. But neither in the economy nor in their personal lives can people make plans and commitments on the basis of government policies that suddenly appear and suddenly disappear.

Like so many other Obama ploys, his immigration ploy is not meant to help the country, but to help Obama. This is all about getting the Hispanic vote this November.

The principle involved — keeping children from being hurt by actions over which they had no control — is one already advanced by Senator Marco Rubio, who may well end up as Governor Romney’s vice-presidential running mate. The Obama Executive Order, which suddenly popped up like a rabbit out of a magician’s hat, steals some of Senator Rubio’s thunder, so it is clever politics.

But clever politics is what has gotten this country into so much trouble, not only as regards immigration but also as regards the economy and the dangerous international situation.

When the new, and perhaps short-lived, immigration policy is looked at in terms of how it can be administered, it makes even less sense. While this policy is rationalized in terms of children, those who invoke it are likely to do so as adults.

How do you check someone’s claim that he was brought into the country illegally when he was a child? If Obama gets reelected, it is very unlikely that illegal immigrants will really have to prove anything. The administration can simply choose not to enforce that provision, as so many other immigration laws are unenforced in the Obama administration.

If Obama does not get reelected, then it may not matter anyway, when his Executive Order can be gone after he is gone.

Ultimately, it does not matter what immigration policy this country has, if it cannot control its own borders. Whoever wants to come, and who has the chutzpah, will come. And the fact that they come across the Mexican border does not mean that they are all Mexicans. They can just as easily be terrorists from the Middle East.

Only after the border is controlled can any immigration policy matter be seriously considered, and options weighed through the normal Constitutional process of Congressional hearings, debate and legislation, rather than by Presidential short-cuts.

Not only is border control fundamental, what is also fundamental is the principle that immigration policy does not exist to accommodate foreigners but to protect Americans — and the American culture that has made this the world’s richest, freest and most powerful nation for more than a century.

No nation can absorb unlimited numbers of people from another culture without jeopardizing its own culture. In the 19th and early 20th century, America could absorb millions of immigrants who came here to become Americans. But the situation is entirely different today, when group separatism, resentment and polarization are being promoted by both the education system and politicians.

Holder’s Chutzpah – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative Columnists

Holder’s Chutzpah – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative Columnists.

Attorney General Eric Holder recently told a group of black clergymen that the right to vote was being threatened by people who are seeking to block access to the ballot box by blacks and other minorities.

This is truly world-class chutzpah, by an Attorney General who stopped attorneys in his own Department of Justice from completing the prosecution of black thugs who stationed themselves outside a Philadelphia voting site to harass and intimidate white voters.

This may have seemed like a small episode to some at the time, but it was only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The U.S. Attorney who was prosecuting that case — J. Christian Adams — resigned from the Department of Justice in protest, and wrote a book about a whole array of similar race-based decisions on voting rights by Eric Holder and his subordinates at the Department of Justice.

The book is titled “Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department.” It names names, dates and places around the country where the Department of Justice stopped its own attorneys from pursuing cases of voter fraud and intimidation, when it was blacks who were accused of these crimes.

If Mr. Adams is lying, he has taken a huge risk in citing individuals by name and quoting them directly. Yet, despite the fact that most of those he accuses are lawyers, apparently no one has sued him. Moreover, Adams has also testified under oath before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, on the racial double standard at the Department of Justice, when it comes to voting rights.

What Attorney General Holder has been complaining loudly about, and launching federal lawsuits about, are states that require photo identification to vote. Holder calls this blocking minority “access” to the voting booths.

Since millions of black Americans — like millions of white Americans — are confronted with demands for photo identification at airports, banks and innumerable other institutions, it is a little much to claim that requiring the same thing to vote is denying the right to vote. But Holder’s chutzpah is up to the task.

Attorney General Holder claims that the states’ requirement of photo identification for voting, in order to prevent voter fraud, is just a pretext for discriminating against blacks and other minorities. He apparently sees no voter fraud, hears no voter fraud and speaks no voter fraud.

Despite Holder’s claim, a little experiment in his own home voting district showed how easy it is to commit voter fraud. An actor — a white actor, at that — went to a voting place where Eric Holder is registered to vote, and told them that he was Eric Holder.

The actor had no identification at all with him, either with or without a photo. He told the voting official that he had forgotten and left his identification in his car. Instead of telling him to go back to the car and get some identification, the official said that that was all right, and offered him the ballot.

The actor had the good sense not to actually take the ballot, which would have made him guilty of voter fraud — and, being white, he would undoubtedly have been prosecuted by Eric Holder’s Department of Justice.

But the actor had made his point. When a white man with no identification can go to a voting site, impersonate a black man who lives in that district, and get his ballot offered to him, then it is far too easy to commit voter fraud.

Does not Attorney General Eric Holder understand that? Of course he understands it! The man is not stupid, despite his other failings.

Holder’s pooh-poohing of voter fraud dangers, and hyping the “threat” of denying minorities “access” to the voting booth, are completely consistent with his drive to (1) maximize the number of votes by black Democrats and (2) spread as much fear as possible among minorities that they are under siege, and that the Democrats are their only protection and salvation.

It is a political protection racket, with payoffs in votes.

Nor can Holder’s boss, Barack Obama, be unaware of voter fraud. After all, he comes from Chicago, where voting officials refuse to discriminate against dead people.

Big Lies in Politics – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative Columnists

Big Lies in Politics – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative Columnists.

The fact that so many successful politicians are such shameless liars is not only a reflection on them, it is also a reflection on us. When the people want the impossible, only liars can satisfy them, and only in the short run. The current outbreaks of riots in Europe show what happens when the truth catches up with both the politicians and the people in the long run.

Among the biggest lies of the welfare states on both sides of the Atlantic is the notion that the government can supply the people with things they want but cannot afford. Since the government gets its resources from the people, if the people as a whole cannot afford something, neither can the government.

There is, of course, the perennial fallacy that the government can simply raise taxes on “the rich” and use that additional revenue to pay for things that most people cannot afford. What is amazing is the implicit assumption that “the rich” are all such complete fools that they will do nothing to prevent their money from being taxed away. History shows otherwise.

After the Constitution of the United States was amended to permit a federal income tax, in 1916, the number of people reporting taxable incomes of $300,000 a year or more fell from well over a thousand to fewer than three hundred by 1921.

Were the rich all getting poorer? Not at all. They were investing huge sums of money in tax-exempt securities. The amount of money invested in tax-exempt securities was larger than the federal budget, and nearly half as large as the national debt.

This was not unique to the United States or to that era. After the British government raised their income tax on the top income earners in 2010, they discovered that they collected less tax revenue than before. Other countries have had similar experiences. Apparently the rich are not all fools, after all.

In today’s globalized world economy, the rich can simply invest their money in countries where tax rates are lower.

So, if you cannot rely on “the rich” to pick up the slack, what can you rely on? Lies.

Nothing is easier for a politician than promising government benefits that cannot be delivered. Pensions such as Social Security are perfect for this role. The promises that are made are for money to be paid many years from now — and somebody else will be in power then, left with the job of figuring out what to say and do when the money runs out and the riots start.

There are all sorts of ways of postponing the day of reckoning. The government can refuse to pay what it costs to get things done. Cutting what doctors are paid for treating Medicare patients is one obvious example.

That of course leads some doctors to refuse to take on new Medicare patients. But this process takes time to really make its full impact felt — and elections are held in the short run. This is another growing problem that can be left for someone else to try to cope with in future years.

Increasing amounts of paperwork for doctors in welfare states with government-run medical care, and reduced payments to those doctors, in order to stave off the day of bankruptcy, mean that the medical profession is likely to attract fewer of the brightest young people who have other occupations available to them — paying more money and having fewer hassles. But this too is a long-run problem — and elections are still held in the short run.

Eventually, all these long-run problems can catch up with the wonderful-sounding lies that are the lifeblood of welfare state politics. But there can be a lot of elections between now and eventually — and those who are good at political lies can win a lot of those elections.

As the day of reckoning approaches, there are a number of ways of seeming to overcome the crisis. If the government is running out of money, it can print more money. That does not make the country any richer, but it quietly transfers part of the value of existing money from people’s savings and income to the government, whose newly printed money is worth just as much as the money that people worked for and saved.

Printing more money means inflation — and inflation is a quiet lie, by which a government can keep its promises on paper, but with money worth much less than when the promises were made.

Is it so surprising voters with unrealistic hopes elect politicians who lie about being able to fulfill those hopes?

Who Is ‘Racist’? – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative Columnists

Who Is ‘Racist’? – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative Columnists.

Who Is 'Racist'? - Thomas Sowell - Townhall Conservative Columnists

Whatever the ultimate outcome of the case against George Zimmerman for his shooting of Trayvon Martin, what has happened already is enough to turn the stomach of anyone who believes in either truth or justice.

An amazing proportion of the media has given us a painful demonstration of the thinking — and lack of thinking — that prevailed back in the days of the old Jim Crow South, where complexion counted more than facts in determining how people were treated.

One of the first things presented in the media was a transcript of a conversation between George Zimmerman and a police dispatcher. The last line in most of the transcripts shown on TV was that of the police dispatcher telling Zimmerman not to continue following Trayvon Martin.

That became the basis of many media criticisms of Zimmerman for continuing to follow him. Only later did I see a transcript of that conversation on the Sean Hannity program that included Zimmerman’s reply to the police dispatcher: “O.K.”

That reply removed the only basis for assuming that Zimmerman did in fact continue to follow Trayvon Martin. At this point, neither I nor the people who assumed that he continued to follow the teenager have any basis in fact for believing that he did or didn’t.

Why was that reply edited out by so many in the media? Because too many people in the media see their role as filtering and slanting the news to fit their own vision of the world. The issue is not one of being “fair” to “both sides” but, more fundamentally, of being honest with their audience.

NBC News carried the editing even further, removing one of the police dispatcher’s questions, to which Zimmerman was responding, in order to feed the vision of Zimmerman as a racist.

In the same vein were the repeated references to Zimmerman as a “white Hispanic.” Zimmerman is half-white. So is Barack Obama. But does anyone refer to Obama as a “white African“?

All these verbal games grow out of the notion that complexion tells you who is to be blamed and who is not. It is a dangerous game because race is no game. If the tragic history of the old Jim Crow South in this country is not enough to show that, the history of racial and ethnic tragedies is written in blood in countries around the world. Millions have lost their lives because they looked different, talked differently or belonged to a different religion.

In the midst of the Florida tragedy, there was a book published with the unwieldy title, “No Matter What … They’ll Call This Book Racist.” Obviously it was written well before the shooting in Florida, but its message — that there is rampant hypocrisy and irrationality in public discussions of race — could not have been better timed.

Author Harry Stein, a self-described “reformed white liberal,” raised by parents who were even further left, exposes the illogic and outright fraudulence that lies behind so much of what is said about race in the media, in politics and in our educational institutions.

He asks a very fundamental question: “Why, even after the Duke University rape fiasco, does the media continue to give credence to every charge of racism?”

Harry Stein credits Shelby Steele‘s book “White Guilt” with opening his eyes to one of the sources of many counterproductive things said and done about race today — namely, guilt about what was done to blacks and other minorities in the past.

Let us talk sense, like adults. Nothing that is done to George Zimmerman — justly or unjustly — will unlynch a single black man who was tortured and killed in the Jim Crow South for a crime he didn’t commit.

Letting hoodlums get away with hoodlumism today does not undo a single injustice of the past. It is not even a favor to the hoodlums, for many of whom hoodlumism is just the first step on a path that leads to the penitentiary, and maybe to the execution chamber.

Winston Churchill said, “If the past sits in judgment on the present, the future will be lost.” He wasn’t talking about racial issues, but what he said applies especially where race is involved.

The Left’s Presumption of Superiority – Patriot Update

The Left’s Presumption of Superiority – Patriot Update.

by David L. Goetsch

Conservative economist Thomas Sowell once wrote: “People are never more sincere than when they assume their own superiority.”  I could not have said it better.  Having spent 36 years in that bastion of presumed superiority—higher education—I am accustomed to people who simply assume they are superior, and then act accordingly.  I once debated a fellow professor whose academic background was philosophy.  My field was business.  He was decrying the fact that so many college students now choose to pursue degrees in professional fields such as engineering or business rather than the traditional liberal arts (i.e. Humanities, Philosophy, and Art).  This professor wore his presumed intellectual superiority like a badge of honor and virtually dripped righteous indignation as he spoke.

After listening to my snooty colleague repeatedly refer to business majors as “baby capitalists” and engineering majors as “glorified auto mechanics,” I interrupted and asked him two questions: 1) What is wrong with capitalists and auto mechanics? and 2) Next time your car breaks down, why don’t you call a philosopher?  The audience enjoyed the intended humor in my questions and laughed accordingly.  But my colleague was greatly offended that someone would dare question his obvious superiority.  He responded that I was “stupid” and stomped off the stage in a huff.

This debate took place in an academic environment where righteous indignation permeates the very bricks and mortar.  College professors and their liberal counterparts outside of the academy are what Thomas Sowell once referred to as the “perpetually indignant.”  When liberals cannot rebut conservative ideas with logic or reason, they simply brush them aside and call them “stupid” or “unworthy.” When a conservative gets under their skin with an argument based on those inconvenient little things known as facts, liberals quickly resort to name calling.  For example, make a cogent, well-reasoned argument against any of President Obama’s misguided economic policies and see how long it takes before liberals call you a “racist.”

In discussions and debates, liberals seldom attempt to explain themselves or to offer more viable ideas. To liberals who are blindly invested in their own intellectual and moral superiority, explanations are not necessary.  To them, the viability of leftist opinions should be self-evident, a convenient defense for those who cannot justify their opinions on the basis of logic, reason, or facts.  This is why colleges and universities are such comfortable places for liberals.

On most college campuses in America, liberals know they are among like-minded colleagues who share the same presuppositions. By associating exclusively with fellow travelers, liberal professors eliminate the inconvenience of having to defend their opinions.  Hence, they quickly become intellectually flabby.  On the typical college campus in America a conservative is about as welcome as a roach in the punch bowl, and a business leader is welcome only if he is there to make a substantial donation. In this type of environment a liberal is free to pontificate without any fear of being challenged by logic, reason, or facts.

In his book, The Thomas Sowell Reader, Sowell summed up the left’s presumed superiority in these words: “It would never occur to people with academic degrees and professorships that they are both ignorant and incompetent in vast areas of human life, much less that they should keep that in mind before they vent their emotions and wax self-righteous.  Degrees show that you have knowledge in some special area. Too often they embolden people to pontificate on a wide range of subjects where they don’t know what they are talking about.”

As he typically does, Sowell hit the nail on the head.  He too has spent years in an academic environment surrounded by intellectual elites who believe so fervently in their own superiority that they brush aside conservative arguments like annoying flies at a picnic.  To his credit, Sowell never dons the armor of presumed superiority.  He does not need to because, although in a league of his own compared with most professors, Sowell’s arguments are always backed by logic, reason, and facts.  Unlike liberals, Sowell knows that it is his logic, reason, and facts that must be superior.  There is a lesson here that liberals would do well to learn.

Pettiness and Mud – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative Columnists

Pettiness and Mud – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative Columnists.

The only good news for the Republicans coming out of the seemingly endless presidential candidate “debates” is that some Republican leaders are now belatedly thinking about how they can avoid a repetition of this debacle in future elections.

What could they possibly have been thinking about, in the first place, when they agreed to a format based on short sound bites for dealing with major complex issues, and with media journalists — 90 percent of them Democrats — picking the topics?

The conduct of the candidates made things worse. In a world with a record-breaking national debt and Iran moving toward creating nuclear weapons, they bickered over earmarks and condoms. I am against earmarks, but earmarks don’t rank among the first hundred most serious problems facing this country.

Mud-slinging has replaced rational discussions of differences on serious issues — not only during the debates themselves, where the moderators sic the candidates on each other, but even more so in the massive television character assassination ads in which Romney supporters seem to specialize.

Groups supporting Mitt Romney have turned character assassination almost into a science. You take something that most people, outside of politics, do not understand and twist it to sound terrible to those who are unaware of the facts.

Blanketing Florida with misleading ads attacking Newt Gingrich won that state for Romney, after Gingrich scored an upset victory in South Carolina. The ads made a big deal out of charges that the former Speaker broke tax laws — charges that the Internal Revenue Service exonerated him of, after a long investigation.

When Rick Santorum suddenly surged after his upset victories in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado, the Romney character assassination machine attacked him for having voted in the Senate for various things that conservatives don’t like.

But, when it comes to voting in Congress, seldom do you get a pure bill that you can agree with in all its parts. If you never voted for bills containing anything you didn’t like, you might get very little voting done.

But, if it is a bill to provide American soldiers with the equipment they need to fight a war, and somebody has put into it an earmark for a federal boondoggle in his district, are you going to vote against that bill and let American soldiers go into battle without all the equipment and supplies they need?

Taking advantage of the public’s lack of knowledge is something that Barack Obama already does very effectively in his political propaganda. But is that something the Republicans want to imitate?

It has worked during the primary season, when the media are perfectly happy to see Republicans destroying each other. But it will not work in the general election campaign, when even truthful criticisms of the president will have a hard time getting out through the media, which hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil when it comes to Obama.

The pettiness and mud-slinging during the Republican primary campaigns is especially irresponsible during a time when there are very serious problems, at home and abroad, that need to be addressed in a serious way.

Discussions of particular issues, one by one, often miss the larger point that goes beyond the issue at hand — namely, this administration’s steady movement toward arbitrary government that circumvents the restrictions of the Constitution.

Nothing demonstrates this more starkly than the president’s arbitrary power to waive the requirement that employers have to provide ObamaCare coverage for their workers. That can be the difference between paying, or not paying, millions of dollars. What does that mean for anybody’s other rights?

What does freedom of speech mean if criticizing the administration can mean you get no exemption, while your competitor who keeps quiet, or who praises the administration, gets a waiver? The Constitution requires “equal protection of the laws” for a reason.

And what about nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran, the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism? Is that not worth discussing in something other than sound bites?

A Brass Age? – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative

 

English: occupy wall street

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A Brass Age? – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative.

This may be the golden age of presumptuous ignorance. The most recent demonstrations of that are the Occupy Wall Street mobs. It is doubtful how many of these semi-literate sloganizers could tell the difference between a stock and a bond.

Yet there they are, mouthing off about Wall Street on television, cheered on by politicians and the media. If this is not a golden age of presumptuous ignorance, perhaps it should be called a brass age.

No one has more brass than the President of the United States, though his brass may be more polished than that of the Occupy Wall Street mobs. When Barack Obama speaks loftily about “investing in the industries of the future,” does anyone ask: What in the world would qualify him to know what are the industries of the future?

Why would people who have spent their careers in politics know more about investing than people who have spent their careers as investors?

Presumptuous ignorance is not confined to politicians or rowdy political activists, by any means. From time to time, I get a huffy letter or e-mail from a reader who begins, “You obviously don’t know what you are talking about…”

The particular subject may be one on which my research assistants and I have amassed piles of research material and official statistics. It may even be a subject on which I have written a few books, but somehow the presumptuously ignorant just know that I didn’t really study that issue, because my conclusions don’t agree with theirs or with what they have heard.

At one time I was foolish enough to try to reason with such people. But one of the best New Year’s resolutions I ever made, some years ago, was to stop trying to reason with unreasonable people. It has been good for my blood pressure and probably for my health in general.

A recent column that mentioned the “indirect subsidies” from the government to the Postal Service brought the presumptuously ignorant out in force, fighting mad.

Because the government does not directly subsidize the current operating expenses of the Postal Service, that is supposed to show that the Postal Service pays its own way and costs the taxpayers nothing.

Politicians may be crooks but they are not fools. Easily observed direct subsidies can create a political problem. Far better to set up an arrangement that will allow government-sponsored enterprises — whether the Postal Service, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or the Tennessee Valley Authority — to operate in such a way that they can claim to be self-supporting and not costing the taxpayers anything, no matter how much indirect subsidy they get.

As just one example, the Postal Service has a multi-billion dollar line of credit at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Hey, we could all use a few billions, every now and then, to get us over the rough spots. But we are not the Postal Service.

Theoretically, the Postal Service is going to pay it all back some day, and that theoretical possibility keeps it from being called a direct subsidy. The Postal Service is also exempt from paying taxes, among other exemptions it has from costs that other businesses have to pay.

Exemption from taxes, and from other requirements that apply to other businesses, are also not called subsidies. For people who mistake words for realities, that is enough for them to buy the political line — and to get huffy with those who don’t.

Loan guarantees are a favorite form of hidden subsidies for all sorts of special interests. At a given point in time, it can be said that these guarantees cost the taxpayers nothing. But when they suddenly do cost something — as with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — they can cost billions.

One of the reasons for so much presumptuous ignorance flourishing in our time may be the emphasis on “self-esteem” in our schools and colleges. Children not yet a decade old have been encouraged, or even required, to write letters to public figures, sounding off on issues ranging from taxes to nuclear missiles.

Our schools begin promoting presumptuous ignorance early on. It is apparently one of the few things they teach well. The end result is people without much knowledge, but with a lot of brass.