Sowell on “Dismantling America”

Thomas Sowell is a great thinker and writer who has gotten even better, sharper and more focused, as he sees American society being destroyed. Here is an interview with him related to his book Dismantling America, which is a collection of his columns and articles from the Obama era. I know I’m supposed to excerpt, and maybe I’ll put some good quotes in the comments later, but this is so good that everyone should Read The Whole Thing: Sowell transcript on “Dismantling America” (and then post favorite quotes in the comments yourselves!).

WordPress is going to tell me how many of you clicked on the links, don’t disappoint me. 😛

Here is a 4-part series of Sowell’s columns on the same theme.


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15 Responses to Sowell on “Dismantling America”

  1. What’s hilarious is that he really thinks that a way of life is independent of the demographics of the group you’re part of. Just like I’d have to live like a Muslim woman if I moved to Saudi Arabia, a Saudi would live like a Western man if he was the only Saudi there. But this is irrelevant to what would happen if you moved a ton of Saudis to Sweden and a ton of Swedes to Saudi Arabia. The differences would be that Swedes would have oil and that Muslim women would need thicker burkas.

    Sowell’s other mistake is a relatively myopic view on history – just American history. And he doesn’t follow the evolution of ideas. Still, I do agree that he is an enjoyable read.

    And I wonder if Sowell is against integration of schools – since people were against it. Does he think it was wrong to do it? Because he’d be hypocritical to not be against it since he minds the judges doing the same related to marriage. And since we are at marriage, if experience matters, in the American experience(the only relevant one) interracial marriage was also illegal, until judges(when most people were against it) made it legal. So this whole argument that he has is mushy at best.

    “That there was a notion out there, several notions really about the country…about what was right and who should make what decisions…those notions were out there before he ever became a public figure.”
    And there were a lot of notions out there with who I am sure that Sowell disagrees. So he has no point there.

  2. And Ronald Reagan had some huge failures. First of all, America is supposed to be a nation of laws. If a country is supposed to be that, mass amnesty for law breakers should be an unthinkable thing. And spending went up each year in which he was president.

    Related to housing, I’d like to see a study showing how much of the buying was done due to the schools and getting away from the horrid integrated schools that poorer neighborhoods have. Any white person who sends their child into one is a crackpot idiot, in my opinion. But again, with that curricula, sending your child to any American school is pretty fishy.

    I want to know who Charles Marquel is – the person who wrote the transcript is an idiot with no sense of history. The backward looking civilization thing is already happening – I’m already doing that. And now it is inevitable – Americans will have to live far worse than they did until now. The difference is in between much worse and an unmitigated disaster.

  3. “Will you vote on the basis of rhetoric and symbolism, instead of using your mind.”
    If people voted with their minds, most people wouldn’t vote now since we would have never had universal suffrage. Which is ironic. lol

  4. Polymath says:

    I agree that the transcript is horrible, it was obviously machine-generated and then an idiot formatted it with punctuation and paragraphs but didn’t read it. Charles Martel fought the Muslims in 732 (i.e. A.D.), but the transcript says Charles Marquel at 7:32 (i.e. A.M.), Judge Vaughn Walker is first called “Fawn Walker”, and so on.

    But you don’t give Sowell nearly enough credit. First of all, he absolutely does not think that “a way of life is independent of the demographics of the group you’re part of”. One of his biggest themes is that race and culture matter and that different groups are good at different things, and having them naturally segregate is to be expected. He has written several books about this.

    Second, he is against integration of schools when it results in mismatches of ability. He has said many, many times that affirmative action in colleges is insane and hurts blacks because they get put in classes with smarter white students they can’t keep up with instead of a school where they can handle the work. And he hates the coddling of troublemakers. So he would oppose forced integration of schools, and he would demand that in a diverse neighborhood the children of any race be grouped according to ability and behavior: this would have the consequence that a natural segregation would occur where the smart and well-behaved students would be in classes with other smart and well-behaved students and Sowell would not care about the resulting “disparate impact”.

    And Sowell cares about “who decides” so he would say that interracial marriage should be allowed by legislatures allowing it, which was in fact happening all over the country state by state before the judges stepped in.

    What was really silly about the legal debate over interracial marriage is that there was already a requirement (the Privileges and Immunities clause, Article IV, Section 2, not to be confused with the 14th Amendment’s “Privileges OR Immunities clause”) that states had to recognize each others’ marriages so an interracial couple married in another state could not be punished by a state that banned interracial marriage once they moved there. This is why the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) was passed by Congress and signed by Bill Clinton–its main effect was to clarify the interpretation of that constitutional provision to ensure that it only applied to opposite-sex marriages, and it was necessary because otherwise a same-sex “marriage” in one state might have been necessary for all states to recognize. (Its other main effect was that the Federal government would also not recognize the gay marriages so gay couples would not be able to file a joint Federal tax return.) So the Supreme Court decision Loving vs. Virginia striking down bans on interracial marriage by using the Equal Protection clause was unnecessarily strong — they chose not to use the Privileges and Immunities clause because they didn’t want to make interracial couples go to another state to get married.

    But by using this stronger “equal protection” reasoning they opened the door for gay marriage, completely unintentionally. I think states may still refuse to recognize gay marriages on the basis of an “original meaning” philosophy of legal interpretation, since the word “marriage” was never meant to apply to same-sex couples anywhere until very recently, and redefinitions of it ought to require actual legislation and not merely a judge’s whim. But the “original meaning” method of interpretation, which Sowell and I agree on, is just a legal philosophy that judges should follow, and they don’t always, it would be better to clarify things with a real Amendment. The voters have rejected gay marriage 31 times out of 31 in different states: since only 38 states are needed to ratify an Amendment it is not politically unthinkable, but the DOMA allowing states to refuse to recognize gay marriages contracted in other states takes enough of the pressure off that I think such an Amendment probably won’t happen.

  5. Polymath says:

    Your criticism of Reagan is irrelevant to the topic of this post, but….the Democratic Congress increased spending while he was President (spending bills originate in the House, it didn’t matter that Republicans controlled the Senate for part of Reagan’s terms), they bear most of the blame for the spending (Reagan could have stopped the spending increases by vetos that shut down the government, I suppose).

    The amnesty was a mistake, but Bush 41 betrayed Reagan on enforcement — Sowell points out other ways in which GHW Bush failed to hold the Reagan line and allowed the country to drift to the left. Yes, Reagan should have figured this would happen, if not under Bush than under someone else.

    You are right about the schools, “white flight” to the suburbs was motivated by bad urban schools as much as anything else, and it wasn’t just whites, the minorities buying all the houses they couldn’t afford were also motivated by getting out of the cities and going to suburbs and exurbs with better schools. But Sowell is right that the bad schools weren’t a consequence of the demographics, but of bad educational philosophies; in his day the schools even in very poor areas were run strictly and kids got as much education as they were suited to handle.

    Sowell also agrees with you about looking backwards, at the end of the interview he says that Americans now, and not just Europeans, can see that “those who came just before us were bigger, somehow”.

  6. RebelliousAwesomeness says:

    Polymath, and under that clause of the constitution, DOMA is unconstitutional. At least the way I see it, if it is unconstitutional for a type of marriage, it is for all. Unless a constitutional amendment passes that changes the way Section 2 is.

    And the way marriage is seen is local. In Texas interracial marriage couldn’t happen since the state exists. Otherwise, we should legalize polygamy because in Islam, that’s how marriage is.

    And yes, I would have wanted Reagan to veto every single spending bill. That’s what I would have done. But again, if I had to govern based on my conscience, I’d not be able to be in politics. For instance, as a SCOTUS, I’d be socially liberal and economically conservative because this is how the letter of the Constitution is.

  7. RebelliousAwesomeness says:

    I’d be one of the few persons who strikes down DOMA and bans on gay marriage, but would rule as unconstitutional most of what the government is doing, which is relatively amusing.

  8. Polymath says:

    The reason DOMA is constitutional is that Congress gets to pass regular laws about how to interpret the Constitution even though amending the Constitution is much harder. So they have leeway to get around the Supreme Court sometimes by limiting the jurisdiction of the Court or clarifying legislative intent and so on. They can’t go crazy by giving themselves brand new powers but if there is an issue of interpretation they can weigh in on what the words mean just as well as the Court can.

  9. How can a Congress today establish the legislative intent of something that happened 200 years ago? Also, I hope you realize that if you do this, you open a huge can of worms related to interpreting stuff. This is why as a judge, I’d rule solely based on the letter of the Constitution(yes, I’d render Social Security unconstitutional because it discriminates against young people and I’d make the income tax unconstitutional because it discriminates against rich people).

  10. Polymath says:

    If anyone can establish original legislative intent, it’s the successor of the legislature rather than a court. But with DOMA they weren’t trying to establish the legislative intent that the politicians who passed the XIV amendment didn’t mean to allow gay marriage, since that is obvious to anyone with a pulse — they were addressing those judges who did NOT adhere to an original intent philosophy, and saying “OK judges, if you want to pretend you don’t know what the language meant at the time, we’re telling you what it means NOW, and we’re saying the privileges and immunities clause and the full faith and credit clause don’t mean that states have to recognize each others’ gay marriages”. It is clearly within Congress’s rights to do this. The Court may then disagree and overrule Congress IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE, but they don’t have the power to make nationwide policy against the will of Congress.

    This is what DOMA says:

    Section 2. Powers reserved to the states:

    No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

    Section 3. Definition of ‘marriage’ and ‘spouse’:

    In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

    The authority for Congress to do what they did in Section 2 is in the Constitution itself — the full faith and credit clause reads as follows (Article IV section 1):

    Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

    DOMA falls under the second sentence of that section, as one of the “general Laws” by which Congress defines the subject of the previous sentence.

    The authority for Congress to do what they did in Section 3 is that they are referring only to Federal acts and regulations, and still permitting states to define marriage for themselves, since the 10th Amendment can be interpreted to say that it’s not within the powers of the Federal government to define “marriage” for the states.

    This is a very careful distinction — Congress is saying “when WE use the word ‘marriage’ this is what we mean, and when YOU use it to apply to a same-sex union we don’t prevent you, but we choose not to define that as one of the ‘Acts, Records, and Proceedings’ of yours that other states are required to recognize.” Since the Constitution itself does not contain the word “marriage”, it is up to Congress to say whether or which marriages are to be covered under the full faith and credit clause, because Congress is selecting a class of “Acts, Records, and Proceedings” to be covered and the fact that a state chooses to apply the word “marriage” both to acts Congress does select and acts Congress does not select does not invalidate Congress’s selection.

    The can of worms is not so bad because they can’t change the clear meaning of the Constitution to give themselves new powers.

    You might be able to make Social Security unconstitutional, but not the Income Tax, since that was itself enabled by the 16th Amendment which in its plain language allows it and therefore supersedes earlier anti-discrimination Amendments by implication, because as an Amendment it is the same (highest) level of law but later and more explicit. Social Security despite being later and more explicit is a lower level of law and thus may be overruled by an interpretation that it violates the Constitution.

  11. I can make the income tax unconstitutional if it is progressive. The income tax amendment simply says that income taxes are exempt from being apportioned and all that, it doesn’t say that the government can impose different rates for different people. Hence, the equal protection clause protects rich people under my interpretation in regards to higher tax rates. So the government could keep the income tax, but they’d be forced to impose the same tax rate on everyone. This is what I meant.

    Related to Social Security, not only is it unconstitutional since the government has job in doing it according to the constitution, the equal protection clause protects young people from discrimination against them based on age.

    And I’m sure the states with bans on IR marriage had the argument that marriage is in between two people of the same race. The reason why I said that it is a slippery slope it is this. What if Congress decides that murder is only when a black person kills a white person? Obviously, this won’t happen, but it’s the same principle.

    Here’s my rationale related to gay marriage. The Congress has no authority in settling what marriage is. This power wasn’t given to them by the Constitution. Hence it is a state issue. And the Constitution says that marriages from another state must be recognized.

  12. Polymath says:

    If you read carefully you will see that I answered what you said about gay marriage. This is a subtle logical point. It is precisely because the Constitution doesn’t contain the word “marriage” that Congress may choose precisely which acts of states other states must recognize, even if this choice covers some but not all of what other states choose to apply the label “marriage” to. If the Constitution actually said states must recognize each others’ marriages you could claim Congress does not have the power to define marriage, but all it said is that Congress may define which state acts other states must recognize.

    Many state bans on IR marriage were worded in such a way that mixed-race people couldn’t marry anybody, which was much more clearly unconstitutional. All those laws had the fatal practical flaw of requiring the state to impose discrete classifications on a continuous variable (this runs into the possibility of laws being “unconstitutionally vague”). At least anti-gay-marriage laws are not vague because gender, unlike race, is a sharply defined category.

    But this is not the main point that will decide the issue anyway, it will come down to “original meaning” versus “pure textualism”, because it is completely undeniable that the drafters of the original state laws on marriage and of the 14th Amendment never imagined it would allow gay marriages, so it comes down to “who decides that the meaning gets to change”?

  13. Since we’re at it:
    lol, this fruitcake has 9 children. No wonder America is doomed. 😛

  14. Alvis Velthomer says:

    Everyone with a brain knows that gay marriage is only one Supreme Court decision away from being made legal in every state, and that it is therefore inevitable much like other leftist crusade issues.

    Its funny that gay rights have only taken off in “Christian” countries, namely Europe, the Anglo-Sphere (US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) and Latin and South America. What do all these places have in common? They all used to have Christianity determine the morality and ethics of a large part of their population. I think the only “Christian” territories were homosexual issues still remain unpopular is Eastern Europe.

    I wonder who the next “pure” victims that leftism will discover after the gay crusade is won. Animals? They share over 90% of our DNA afterall.

  15. rebelliousvanilla says:

    Alvis, chimps share 98% of DNA with us. Yeast 70%. Hence why I support civil rights for animals. Considering that I share 99% of my DNA with an African and he deserves equal rights, a chimp is a percentage away from him so he deserves equal rights with Africans and hence with me. Ta da! 😛

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