Like Thomas Sowell, it was life facts that made me conservative

Thomas Sowell telling said that facts — real world, life facts — ended his Marxist phase. I’ve compiled a list of life facts that made me conservative.

Thomas Sowell and the primacy of factsDave Rubin interviewed Thomas Sowell, who has a new book out called Discrimination and Disparities. I will get myself a copy as soon as I’m finished with Dennis Prager’s The Rational Bible: Exodus. Reading the latter, incidentally, makes me want to me a more moral and just person.

I’ve been listening to the Sowell interview over the past couple of days while I cook and do other household chores. You can find it as a Dave Rubin podcast or watch the YouTube video. Sowell may be in his very high 80s, but he is totally on the ball and well worth listening to. For this post, though, I’d like to focus on a single, short exchange he and Rubin had, in which Sowell mentioned that many of the most rigorous conservative economists, such as Friedman and Hayek, like Sowell himself, started off as Leftists — although Sowell was a Marxist, putting him at the extreme Left. Rubin, who also made a journey from Left to right, asked Sowell about his own journey. I’ve queued the video up at that point:

RUBIN: Do you remember sort of what you were thinking, what appealed to you at that time about Marxism?

SOWELL: Yes. I mean there was no alternative being discussed. My first job was as a Western Union messenger and I would come home. On some nights I would take the Fifth Avenue bus — which cost all of 15 cents in those days. But I figured I’d splurge now and then and I would drive. . . . It would go all the up Fifth Avenue, past all these Lord and Taylor and all these fancy places, and then it would across 57th Street past Carnegie Hall and down Riverside Drive. Now it’s sort of the Gold Coast area and then I came across this long viaduct and it turned into 135th Street. Suddenly there were the tenements and I wondered “Why is this?” I mean it’s so different. And then nothing in schools or most of the books seemed to deal with that and Marx dealt with that. So it’s like winning in an election when there’s only one person running.

RUBIN: So then what was your wake up to what was wrong with that line of thinking?

SOWELL: Facts.

RUBIN: Well. We could probably end the interview right there.

Facts, as John Adams said, are stubborn things. Listening to Sowell, I started thinking about the facts my years on earth have taught me, all of which have led me to my current conservative world view. Here are the ones I could think of off-hand. They are not in any particular order:

1. If people are rewarded for doing nothing, they will do nothing.

2. If people benefit from activities that hurt the people or institutions around them, and do not experience negative consequences for those activities, they will continue to act regardless of the hurt they inflict on others.

3. Once you become completely responsible for small children, taking on that responsibility marks the end of your childhood — whether you’re in your teens, twenties, thirties, forties, or (probably) fifties.

4. Catch your children being good. Indeed, catch everyone around you being good. In other words, rather than calling children and other people out only when you see them failing or erring, note when they’ve done well. You’ll be surprised at the good results you get operating on this principle.

5. Don’t be afraid to correct or control your children. This is not the same as physically or emotionally abusing them. This is about preparing them to function in the greater world. It’s always about letting children know that you are looking out for them. If they were passengers on an airplane, they’d want to have the captain say “Fasten your seatbelts” just so they could know a captain is up there, flying the plane. When you give them instructions or follow through on consequences, they know you’re flying that life plane and keeping them safe.

6. If systems exist that supplant your need to be responsible for small children, you will remain a child.

7. People who have been unable to have children for reasons beyond their control, but who make a conscious decision to embrace adulthood and its responsibilities, are adults.

8. When you’re out and about, dealing with passing strangers (store clerks, mechanics, librarians, etc.), really see them. Too often, we ignore them as people, treating them only as vehicles for the services they provide. Again, you’ll be surprised at the good results you get when you open your eyes to the people behind the services.

9. For most people, chronic, consistent pot use makes them stupid.

10. Government agencies established to address a specific problem — e.g., differences in educational outcomes, environmental concerns — justify their existence only so long as the problem continues. The agencies’ employees therefore have an incentive to maintain the problem, rather than resolving it, to keep their jobs.

11. Lord Acton was right: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

12. The huge computer, search engine, and social media giants — Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, etc. — are coming way too close to having absolute power.

13. People who want to take away guns always want to take away all sorts of other things too, such as free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to spend one’s money as one pleases, etc. Gun grabbing is the equivalent of a rattlesnake’s rattle, warning everyone that worse is yet to come.

14. The NRA was correct — when seconds count, the police are (at least) minutes away and, as Hurricane Katrina showed, they may be days or even weeks away.

15. Whether or not you believe in God, there is no better moral code for a well-functioning society than the 10 commandments and the lesser rules that God handed down to the Jewish people in Sinai.

16. Contrary to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there is no better constitution in the world than the American Constitution. The American Constitution not only describes a carefully limited government, it details rights inherent in individuals irrespective of government. All other constitutions describe, in endless detail, the privileges governments graciously allow to their un-free citizens.

17. Speaking of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the further Left a Supreme Court justice is, the worse their writing is. I realized over the years that this is because judicial activism requires a lot of fakery, sleight of hand, and sewing together disparate ideas to create the illusion that there is a legitimate legal principle behind unprincipled activism. The best writers are conservative jurists who don’t have to lie through their decisions.

18. Nationalism simply means identifying with one’s nation. It is a neutral act, dependent on whether the nation is a good one or not. The problems begin when socialism aligns itself with that nationalism. Hitler wasn’t a National Socialist for nothing.

19. Europe, having taken away the wrong lesson from WWII — namely, that nationalism, not socialism, is the greatest evil — has given up on itself and is dying. Apparently, Oswald Spengler was right — civilizations come and civilizations go. Only the Jews stick around. (Arnold Toynbee was a little more optimistic, believing that WASPs would save the world, undoing the cyclical death of civilizations. It’s a good thing he didn’t live to see England’s cultural suicide.)

20. The most successful nations throughout history are the ones that treat their Jews well. This is because the nation that is most committed to individual liberty by the standards of its day, will not only treat Jews better, it will treat all its citizens better too.

21. Scratch an Israel hater and you’ll find an anti-Semite, no matter how strongly the Israel haters insist that one can hate Israel without being an anti-Semite. That’s as true for anti-Israel Jews as it is for anti-Israel non-Jews. There have always been self-loathing Jews who crave approval from the non-Jewish Jew haters around them.

22. The government should stay out of the free market, because (a) it moves too slowly to catch important trends and (b) its mere presence in the market perverts it. The government’s role should be to create optimal conditions for a free market to function without heavy-handed government interference.

23. The best antidote to discrimination is the free market. As I periodically remind anyone who will listen, there were many in the South who would have been happy to take black people’s money in exchange for goods and services. Jim Crow survived because the government imposed it.

24. Human sexuality and gender behaviors are a big bell curve. The bulgiest part of that curve is one in which men are men and women are women and they like to have heterosexual relationships. On the long tail part of the curve there definitely are people who are homosexual or who do not fit traditional gender roles. These people should be treated with respect, but they shouldn’t call the shots about how our society’s gender and sexuality are constructed. The healthiest society is one in which men and women marry, stay married, raise children within that marriage, and, if possible, raise those children to identify with their biological gender.

25. Common sense agrees with studies showing that the surest way to leave poverty behind in America is to get educated, get a job, get married, have children, and stay married — in that order.

26. Values are color blind — and those who pretend values are racist are the same people who gain money or fame by preserving racism in American society.

27. The best way to teach people is the Montessori way, which I call “why” learning. If you first tell them why something matters or why we do things in the way we do, learning is easy and interesting. If you do “how” teaching, which is simply impose data or methodologies from above, without telling the “why” first, most learning is dull, pointless, hard to do, and easy to forget.

28. America’s public schools are heavily invested in “how” teaching, to the detriment of America’s students.

29. It’s the wise man who never discusses a woman’s weight.

30. Pets make life better. I’m a dog person, but I can’t deny that cat people are happy too. Also, cat videos are often funnier than dog videos.

31. No matter how hard you try to teach your kids life lessons, they’re not going to learn them from you. They’re going to learn them from life and, often, they’ll learn them in the most painful way possible.

32. Count your blessings every day. Never take for granted the good things in your life.

33. Surround yourself with people who respect you. They don’t have to agree with you about everything, but they do have to think you’re a worthwhile person with a meritorious intelligence and sense of values.

34. If possible, exercise. Few things are deadlier for old people than falling down a lot because their strength and balance declined over the years. You can stave that decline off with regular exercise.

35. Pessimists are sometimes pleasantly surprised, but not as often as optimists are unpleasantly surprised.

36. My grandmother’s doctor was correct back in 1920 when he told her that the healthiest way to live was “everything in moderation.” The only exception to this rule, of course, is chocolate.

37. No Leftist is a true patriot because, as Obama said, all Leftists want to “fundamentally transform” America. And if you want fundamental transformation, you really hate the thing the way it is.

38. America is still the greatest country in the world. The crazies are confined to the coastal enclaves and the rest of the people, who have strong common sense and good morals, occupy the vast middle. It is to be hoped that they will rouse themselves in the 2018 midterms to ensure that the crazies don’t retake Congress and lead this country right off the cliff by impeaching Trump, grabbing guns, opening borders, and paving the way for a cultural takeover similar to that in Europe.

39. The US would be a better place if our colleges and universities collapsed under the weight of their own Leftism. They are a virus that infects all the institutions to which they send their graduates: the media, K-12 education, more colleges and universities, the entertainment world, and corporate America.

None of the above facts support the Left’s current barrage of ideas, values, and (above all) laws. All of the above facts are things I picked up through life that saw me abandon the loosey-goosey Leftism of my youth and young adulthood and become a solid conservative.

What are your conservative life facts?


What Business Thinks