Thomas Sowell is an award-winning economist who has spent his lifetime discussing politics, race, education, and more.
To look into his mind, check out the Thomas Sowell quotes below.
Sowell began his career in higher education as an assistant professor at Cornell University.
During his professional career, he taught economics at a myriad of prestigious universities throughout the United States.
They include Rutgers, Howard, Amherst College, and Stanford.
Sowell is also an established author.
His latest book, Charter Schools and Their Enemies, was released in 2020.
Learn more about Thomas Sowell’s perspectives on politics, government, and more below.
Thomas Sowell quotes on economics and politics
1. “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.” – Thomas Sowell
Everyday Application: Scarcity in economics means the demand for a good or service is greater than the availability of the good or service. This is viewed as a problem because it forces people to have to choose and make trade-offs.
2. “The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best.” – Thomas Sowell
Everyday Application: This is a question that sets up a lot of people’s belief systems. Do you believe that each individual should be able to make their own decisions in regard to their bodies? Is car insurance something the government can dictate you have? Are decisions from governing entities made with the individual person or the greater good in mind? Who gets to decide what is for the greater good?
3. “There are few things more dishonorable than misleading the young.” – Thomas Sowell
Everyday Application: The youth are our future, and they should be given accurate information about the state of the world, the planet itself, and what life can really be like. They are full of passion and ideas and have a lot to add to the conversation. Just look at Greta Thunberg!
4. “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.” – Thomas Sowell
Everyday Application: Our entire system of law is set up this way. The people making the rules that you and I must live by are not affected by them in the same way. When people are vested in the outcome of a decision (because it will impact them personally if they are wrong), they are often much more conscientious of doing the right thing.
5. “There are only two ways of telling the complete truth – anonymously and posthumously.” – Thomas Sowell
Everyday Application: People are likely to omit, exaggerate, or mislead others in many situations. It might be because they are trying to protect themselves or because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. However, doing any of these things means you are not getting the complete truth.
6. “Balanced budget requirements seem more likely to produce accounting ingenuity than genuinely balanced budgets.” – Thomas Sowell
7. “Sometimes it seems as if there are more solutions than problems. On closer scrutiny, it turns out that many of today’s problems are a result of yesterday’s solutions.” – Thomas Sowell
8. “Capitalism knows only one color: that color is green; all else is necessarily subservient to it, hence, race, gender and ethnicity cannot be considered within it.” – Thomas Sowell
Powerful Thomas Sowell quotes
9. “All of us should be on guard against beliefs that flatter ourselves. At the very least, we should check such beliefs against facts.” – Thomas Sowell
Everyday Application: Check your beliefs against facts. Beware of gaslighting, which is when someone is trying to convince you of something that has no basis in fact. Do actual research and know that you can change a belief if you find it to be factually wrong.
10. “A moral monopoly is the antithesis of a marketplace of ideas.” – Thomas Sowell
11. “If you want to get each individual’s honest opinion, you don’t want that opinion to be influenced by others who are present, much less allow a group to coordinate what they are going to say.” – Thomas Sowell
12. “The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.” – Thomas Sowell
Everyday Application: Meetings serve a purpose, but they can also be a time waster. If you are constantly meeting when it is not necessary, then you have less time to actually do something. Check out this article for ways that you can be more productive.
13. “People who have time on their hands will inevitably waste the time of people who have work to do.” – Thomas Sowell
Everyday Application: People who are not working toward a goal or purpose have time on their hands for more idle pursuits. This can look like a good time when you are bogged down with work that needs to be done. Of course, it is ok to take a break.
14. “A shortage is a sign that somebody is keeping the price artificially lower than it would be if supply and demand were allowed to operate freely.” – Thomas Sowell
15. “If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today.” – Thomas Sowell
16. “The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.” – Thomas Sowell
Everyday Application: It can be difficult to remove your emotions from your thought process. Feel your emotions, but don’t get stuck in them. Use facts and logic to make decisions. If your emotions are high, try not to make a decision until you have processed how you feel!
17. “Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric.” – Thomas Sowell
18. “Facts do not speak for themselves. They speak for or against competing theories. Facts divorced from theories or visions are mere isolated curiosities.” – Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell quotes on government and policy
19. “What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don’t like something to saying that the government should forbid it. When you go down that road, don’t expect freedom to survive very long.” – Thomas Sowell
Everyday Application: The fact that we don’t like something doesn’t mean it should be forbidden. Freedom gives us the opportunity to engage in something or not. Do you dislike a book because of its content? Then don’t read it. Think something is immoral based on your beliefs? Then, do not engage in that behavior.
20. “Those who cry out that the government should ‘do something’ never even ask for data on what has actually happened when the government did something, compared to what actually happened when the government did nothing.” – Thomas Sowell
21. “Life in general has never been even close to fair, so the pretense that the government can make it fair is a valuable and inexhaustible asset to politicians who want to expand government.” – Thomas Sowell
22. “Would you bet your paycheck on a weather forecast for tomorrow? If not, then why should this country bet billions on global warming predictions that have even less foundation?” – Thomas Sowell
23. “Stopping illegal immigration would mean that wages would have to rise to a level where Americans would want the jobs currently taken by illegal aliens.” – Thomas Sowell
24. “Mystical references to society and its programs to help may warm the hearts of the gullible, but what it really means is putting more power in the hands of bureaucrats.” – Thomas Sowell
25. “As for gun control advocates, I have no hope whatever that any facts whatever will make the slightest dent in their thinking – or lack of thinking.” – Thomas Sowell
26. “The word ‘racism’ is like ketchup. It can be put on practically anything – and demanding evidence makes you a ‘racist.’” – Thomas Sowell
27. “The biggest and most deadly ‘tax’ rate on the poor comes from a loss of various welfare state benefits – food stamps, housing subsidies and the like – if their income goes up.” – Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell quotes on civilization and education
28. “Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good.” – Thomas Sowell
29. “If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.” – Thomas Sowell
30. “In various countries and times, leaders of groups that lagged behind, economically and educationally, have taught their followers to blame all their problems on other people – and to hate those other people.” – Thomas Sowell
31. “If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism.” – Thomas Sowell
32. “Too much of what is called ‘education’ is little more than an expensive isolation from reality.” – Thomas Sowell
33. “Education is not merely neglected in many of our schools today, but is replaced to a great extent by ideological indoctrination.” – Thomas Sowell
34. “The time is long overdue to stop looking for progress through racial or ethnic leaders. Such leaders have too many incentives to promote polarizing attitudes and actions that are counterproductive for minorities and disastrous for the country.” – Thomas Sowell
35. “Our schools and colleges are turning out people who cannot feel fulfilled unless they are telling other people what to do.” – Thomas Sowell
36. “If the battle for civilization comes down to the wimps versus the barbarians, the barbarians are going to win.” – Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell quotes on politics
37. “Liberals seem to assume that, if you don’t believe in their particular political solutions, then you don’t really care about the people that they claim to want to help.” – Thomas Sowell
38. “The more people who are dependent on government handouts, the more votes the left can depend on for an ever-expanding welfare state.” – Thomas Sowell
39. “All the political angst and moral melodrama about getting ‘the rich’ to pay ‘their fair share’ is part of a big charade. This is not about economics, it is about politics.” – Thomas Sowell
40. “Elections should be held on April 16th- the day after we pay our income taxes. That is one of the few things that might discourage politicians from being big spenders.” – Thomas Sowell
41. “I suspect that even most conservatives would prefer to live in the kind of world conjured up in the liberals’ imagination rather than in the kind of world we are in fact stuck with.” – Thomas Sowell
42. “All too often when liberals cite statistics, they forget the statisticians’ warning that correlation is not causation.” – Thomas Sowell
43. “The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that they do not work. Therefore we should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive.” – Thomas Sowell
44. “The big divide in this country is not between Democrats and Republicans, or women and men, but between talkers and doers.” – Thomas Sowell
45. “In liberal logic, if life is unfair then the answer is to turn more tax money over to politicians, to spend in ways that will increase their chances of getting reelected.” – Thomas Sowell
46. “One of the most pervasive political visions of our time is the vision of liberals as compassionate and conservatives as less caring.” – Thomas Sowell
47. “There is no question that liberals do an impressive job of expressing concern for blacks. But do the intentions expressed in their words match the actual consequences of their deeds?” – Thomas Sowell
48. “Those parts of history that would undermine the vision of the Left – which prevails in our education system from elementary school to postgraduate study – are not likely to get much attention.” – Thomas Sowell
49. “People who identify themselves as conservatives donate money to charity more often than people who identify themselves as liberals. They donate more money and a higher percentage of their incomes.” – Thomas Sowell
50. “Although the big word on the left is ‘compassion,’ the big agenda on the left is dependency.” – Thomas Sowell
More Thomas Sowell quotes and sayings
51. “I have never understood why it is “greed” to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else’s money.” – Thomas Sowell
52. “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” – Thomas Sowell
53. “When people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment seems like discrimination.” – Thomas Sowell
54. “If politicians stopped meddling with things they don’t understand, there would be a more drastic reduction in the size of government than anyone in either party advocates.” – Thomas Sowell
55. “It doesn’t matter how smart you are unless you stop and think.” – Thomas Sowell
Everyday Application: You can be the smartest person in the room, but if you are not thinking and making use of that knowledge, it won’t matter. Someone less intelligent than you, who is out there thinking and hustling and doing the work, will reach their goals.
56. “Life does not ask what we want. It presents us with options.” – Thomas Sowell
Everyday Application: Every good and bad thing that happens to us leaves us with an option. Sometimes, our choices lead us down a path, and we realize we need to course correct. That is an option, too! Once you realize you have wandered down a road you shouldn’t have, you can choose to turn around or go back. Which option you choose during those tough life moments will determine everything else.
57. “It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.” – Thomas Sowell
Everyday Application: We are always learning. There is always going to be someone more knowledgeable about something than you are. You can use this knowledge to learn from them, or you can remain ignorant.
58. “Many on the political left are so entranced by the beauty of their vision that they cannot see the ugly reality they are creating in the real world.” – Thomas Sowell
59. “Opportunity alone is not sufficient for economic or other accomplishments.” – Thomas Sowell
60. “One of the reasons for the political success of price control is that part of its costs is hidden. Even the dire consequences of the shortage are unable to show the whole picture.” – Thomas Sowell
When was the last time your views or opinions were challenged?
Without realizing it, we can build echo chambers around us from the media we consume.
This media (social media, news outlets, etc.) constantly fuels our beliefs and rarely challenges them.
It’s healthy to hear both sides of an issue.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone may lead you to deeper reasoning behind your own beliefs.
You may even gain compassion for others you may not have agreed with once you see the world through their eyes.
I challenge you to remain open to hearing other people’s perspectives.
For example, watch a different news outlet than normal or read a new book.
Which of these Thomas Sowell quotes and sayings is your favorite?
Tell us your thoughts below!