Friday, September 4, 2015

Steven Pearlstein ― Here’s why poor people are poor, says a conservative black academic

Steven Pearlstein, a professor at George Mason University, reviews Thomas Sowell's book, Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective.

He writes: "As public intellectuals go, few have been more prolific than Thomas Sowell. For more than 40 years, he’s been churning out books at the rate of one a year, in addition to writing a syndicated column and academic articles and teaching courses at Cornell, UCLA, Amherst, Brandeis and Stanford, where he is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His wide-ranging interests include economics, history, race and ethnicity, poverty, higher education, justice, and children with delayed speech.

A Marxist radicalized into a free-market libertarian by a year working at the U.S. Labor Department, Sowell is now the go-to black academic for conservative media outlets. The son of a maid, he earned his way in the old-fashioned style to and through New York’s elite Stuyvesant High School, Harvard College, Columbia and the University of Chicago. He has waged a relentless crusade against those who would try to alleviate poverty or equalize opportunity through welfare, affirmative action or anything else that interferes with the operation of free markets."

He continues his commentary: "Sowell is certainly right in pointing out that when people talk about changes over time in the income of the top 1 percent or the bottom 20 percent, they are unaware that the households in each group are constantly changing. And the simple fact that earnings tend to increase with age means that most people’s incomes aren’t stagnant over their working lifetime, as many liberals often claim.

But to leap from those useful corrections to the sweeping conclusion that inequality is not rising — or, if it is, is not a problem — more than trifles with the truth. Even after accounting for the usual churn and life-cycle changes, the share of national income going to those at or near the top has grown dramatically, concentrating the benefits of economic growth in fewer and fewer hands. This is neither a statistical mirage nor a figment of our imagination."

Read the full book review HERE.