Politics & Policy

Odds & Ends

A collection of Sowellisms.

Random thoughts on the passing scene:

If politicians stopped meddling with things they didn’t understand, there would be a more drastic reduction in the size of government than anyone in either party advocates.

It was fascinating to see Barack Obama warning us not to leap to conclusions about the killings at Fort Hood, Texas — after the way he leaped to conclusions over the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, when he knew less about the facts than we already know about the massacre at Fort Hood.

My first column, more than 30 years ago, was titled “The Profits of Doom.” Recent news stories about the millions of dollars that Al Gore has made out of his “global warming” hysteria suggest that some things haven’t changed much in three decades.

#ad#Although the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation backs up bank accounts, a recent audit suggests that the FDIC does not have enough money in its own account to do its job. No doubt more money will be printed in Washington if necessary. But what this means is that even the record-breaking federal deficit understates the government’s real financial liabilities, because agencies such as the FDIC and the Federal Housing Authority are likely to need increased amounts of money to keep going.

An e-mail from a reader says that liberals like to take the moral high ground, even though their own moral relativism means that there is no moral high ground.

I doubt whether the man responsible for the massacre at Fort Hood will pay with his life for the lives that he took. He may well be free again someday. We can only hope that he does not get a hero’s welcome when he arrives in some terror-sponsoring country, the way the Lockerbie bomber did.

A recent study by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights showed that, after the housing boom and bust, blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and American Indians all reduced their subprime-mortgage loans. Only politicians seem not to have learned anything from the economic disaster, and to persist in the reckless policies that brought it on.

Baseball has too many close plays and too many judgment calls to have wholesale instant replay that could add hours to a game. However, there is no reason why there can’t be some device to show automatically whether any part of a ball went over any part of the plate, before an umpire can call it a strike. How wide the strike zone is shouldn’t depend on what umpire is behind the plate.

Among the many infirmities of age is omniscience.

What I most remember about the late Irving Kristol, aside from his wisdom — which is much rarer among intellectuals than one might expect — was that I never saw him angry, either in person or in the media. And he lived in a time when there was much to be angry about. Those of us who are getting along in years are unlikely to see another like him, and even those who are younger will be lucky if they do.

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No statement is more unnecessary than the statement that the government should “do something” about some issue. Politicians are going to “do something,” whether or not something needs to be done, and regardless of whether what they do makes matters better or worse. All their incentives are to keep themselves in the public eye.

There is no point dwelling on all the foolish mistakes we have made in our lives. For one thing, it can be very time-consuming.

#ad#One of the few advantages to the country in having Congress overwhelmingly in the hands of one party is that the lack of need to compromise lets the leaders of that party reveal themselves for what they are — in this case, people with unbounded arrogance and utter contempt for the right of ordinary people to live their lives as they see fit, much less the right to know as citizens what laws are going to be passed by their government. The question is whether voters will remember on election day in 2010.

Even if this country can survive intact and unharmed after the Obama administration — or, heaven help us, two terms of Obama — the gullibility that led to his being elected in the first place will still be there for some other slick demagogue to come along and get the power to put the American way of life, and even our physical safety, at risk again.

Thomas Sowell — Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author, whose books include Basic Economics. He is currently senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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