Stanford, Calif. – Thomas Sowell has been a force among us for a long time. He turned 80 last summer, and is more a force than ever. He has the largest audience of his entire career. His syndicated column is now in more newspapers than ever before — over 200. And this at a time when newspapers are cutting back on content, if not disappearing altogether. His latest book, Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy (Fourth Edition), is the biggest seller he has ever had. His books number about 40 (depending on how you count). He has taught in many universities: Howard, Cornell, and UCLA, to name only three. But, as a “public intellectual,” he has taught society at large. In 2008, David Mamet, the playwright, called him “our greatest contemporary philosopher.”
The coming of Barack Obama means that we are in a Sowell moment — a moment ripe for what he has to offer. He is a conservative who specializes in reminding people of the fundamental (as suggested by the title of that book, “Basic Economics”). What is a free economy, and what is an unfree one? What does the Constitution say, and why is this document important? In a recent conversation, Sowell said that we are seeing “the slow but systematic dismantling of the Constitution.” And “the idea that ‘We the People’ are self-governing is being eroded at every opportunity.” Society-changing bills are rushed and rammed through Congress, before the public knows what’s in them — before even those voting on the bills know what’s in them. “Czars” dot the executive branch, issuing edicts. These power-wielders are barely known to us, and barely accountable.