Thomas Sowell is an enigma to me. For the most part, his books decent. All things considered, Basic Economic was an ok book. Sure, it put way too much emphasis on Econ 101 and the I didn’t like ideological flavor to it, but it’s a good book for beginners. And looking back, I enjoyed reading it. He has also written some books on applied economics that are shallow, but again, I wouldn’t call them bad books.
However, whenever he writes an internet post or newspaper article, it makes me cringe. The errors he makes are just astounding. Take this post where he attempts to critique Keynes, Keynesian economics, and government intervention. He seems to:
- Misunderstand basic Keynesian economic theory
- Seem to assert that it was government intervention (and by that I assume he means fiscal policy and the government programs of FDR) that caused the rise in unemployment when he well knows a much more plausible reason. Again, this can easily be interpreted as a failure of government and the central bank, but Sowell gives no mention of the Feds role in the crisis. The hilarious part about this is that Sowell invokes Friedman, then later ignores his monetary explanation for the Great Depression!
- Conflate the recession of 1921 with the Great Depression when in fact these two events had some very important differences.
I can’t believe this guy is a “prominent” economist by any standard. I don’t care if you agree with his politics, when he isn’t writing a book, his analysis on economic, political, and historical matters is terrible. When you consider the books he writes, they are far too shallow, with rare exceptions, for him to be put on the same level as other prominent economists. When you consider his status as a public intellectual, his articles are awful when compared to other economists that write for public consumption. It’s almost as if he’s some sort of intellectual that makes sweeping pronouncements and bold claims in areas where he is woefully ignorant.