17 December 2014

Through the Looking Glass: A Journey into the Fantasy World of Thomas Sowell (7/Final)


It would never occur to the busybodies that multinational corporations are expanding the options of the poor in third world countries, while busybody policies are contracting their options.

Wages paid by multinational corporations in poor countries are typically much higher than wages paid by local employers. Moreover, the experience that employees get working in modern companies make them more valuable workers and have led in China, for example, to wages rising by double-digit percentages annually.

Nothing is easier for people with degrees to imagine that they know better than the poor and uneducated. But, as someone once said, "A fool can put on his coat better than a wise man can put it on for him."


Multinationals are often destroying societies and uprooting people akin to what was happening during the English Enclosures and the beginnings of the Industrial Era. Some would argue they're doing some good, but Sowell's not going to find a lot of people who will argue the people in the Third World are gaining options by their presence.

Better wages? In many situations the people have little choice. Sowell might visit some smaller cities and towns and learn about local economic monopolies. While no one puts a gun to the person's head and forces them to work at the multinational facility, often the people feel as if they have no other option. The presence of the multinational often has destabilized their society and in many cases created different economic situations, created polarity etc...

This also happened during Colonialism. Sowell's friend Walter Williams thinks Colonialism has nothing to do with problems today in places like Africa. He cites Canada, New Zealand and America as examples of this. Of course this is apples and oranges. The whites of Canada, New Zealand and America were the colonizers who stayed. The analogous situation to Africa is the natives and indigenous people who were destroyed and subjugated. Apart from South Africa, the whites never settled in Africa to the same extent, nor did they stay when Colonialism ended. Even the very successful white South Africa depended on the subjugation of the blacks and the exploitation of their labour.

After Colonialism, the multinationals did however move in and have generated no small amount of problems. Williams' arguments are just as irrelevant as Sowell's. Unbelievable.

While sometimes the wages are higher while working for a multi-national, you won't find too many people able to escape the economic realities, let alone the social upheaval.

I don't agree that skills gained by working in multinational manufacturing facilities have led to China's growth in wages. Actually for an economist to make such a statement is pretty telling.

Closing with a folksy proverb is appropriate. Sowell's vision of the world reminds me very much of a provincial small-town commentator. His level of insight is about what I find listening to the old guys sitting around drinking coffee outside the country store. His 'aw shucks' good old common sense approach isn't always wrong but it's myopic and inadequate. It fails to grasp the scope of modern society. Truth is timeless and human nature doesn't change, but our society continues to grow more complex. Economics while simple on paper continue to grow complex. There are so many factors at work that have created such a dynamic situation that economists struggle to come up with models to even analyze it, let alone explain it.

Sowell brags that you won't find any charts in his economics books. I'm sure you won't. His views are based on ideology, not reality. If economics is a science based on evidence, then we have a problem. Even if economics is a mix of science and applied ethics, we have a problem, because in Sowell's world the economics create their own ethics. Thus we have an ideology that interprets the science as it sees fit and the ethics were already predetermined.

As a Christian I might hold to something similar... in terms of a personal economic ethic, but in no way am I going to suggest this is something that should be applied to nations and societies. My ethics are redemptive and are rooted in otherworldliness and antithesis. Sowell's views are very worldly, rooted in selfishness and power and the affirmation of the values that surround these goals. When applied to social and geopolitics, the results are devastating.

The growing complexity of our world is fascinating. But if I lived in Sowell's world it would be quite dull. He sees economics on a theoretical level and miserably fails to understand how it does not operate in a vacuum. Economics is tied in with philosophy, geography, history, sociology, science, politics and a host of other considerations.

Sowell grasps one economic model which I'll admit often looks good on paper. But he's ignorant of the wider world. He's an academic provincial that can't see beyond his little village. His understanding of the wider world is laughable, a complete fantasy. When he attempts to integrate his economic ideas with the wider reality he makes a fool of himself.

Unfortunately most Christians I know have embraced a similar way of thinking and to their harm. I can't tell you how often I've been over at someone's house, a fellow Christian, and while we're talking my eyes keep gravitating toward the Thomas Sowell book or books sitting over on the bookshelf.

The people of God are perishing for lack of knowledge. They have drunk the wine of strong delusion and have placed fools on a pedestal.

Finally why have Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and others like Clarence Thomas traveled down this road? I don't know. I'll leave the psychoanalysis to someone else. Not being an African-American I can't explain the mental and emotional process which leads someone down this road.

It's a complicated issue and as I've mentioned in other interactions I'm not going to pretend that the black community in America doesn't have deep moral problems. They do bear some responsibility for their present plight. To briefly revisit a comment I made elsewhere, I am reminded of a relative who was sexually molested. This relative was abused and exploited and didn't get much of a chance. There were many other hard knocks experienced while growing up and at times I surprised this person didn't end up committing suicide.

Entering adult life this person had been set up to fail and yes, a lot of bad decisions and even wicked ones were made in early adulthood. This person set out (it seemed) to self-destruct. At some point this person has to bear responsibility for their actions. She made the destructive decisions and is still reaping the consequences. Yet, is it all her fault? Can nothing be said about the past? Is empathy forbidden? Longsuffering? It's complicated. She's at fault for the disaster of her adult life, but someone who had life handed to them has no moral authority to judge her. Someone else who has overcome hardship and been successful might have more to say to her, but still has no right to condemn.

It's complicated and there aren't easy answers.

As a Christian I believe we have to approach economic questions in an entirely different manner. I hear many Christian leaders say very foolish things. Some suggest we need to work longer hours, six days a week, etc...

Often they're speaking as fools. While they decry the poor for thinking they need to live at a certain standard, they themselves feel the need to work endlessly to maintain a middle class lifestyle and look down on those who don't have the right house or car. Their understandings of society and our place in it are just as perverse. Having money means you're a moral person. What would they think of the Apostles or the early Church?

Some have failed to realize that life and work in an industrial society is different than in agrarian world. The farmer works very long hours but he's home. He eats his meals with his family. He can sit down in his own house and actually relax for a short time, something the commuter cannot do. If he's ill he has his own bathroom and comforts of home, something the commuter only dreams of. Even the modern farmer can take time out to run to the store, post office, bank, or run to an appointment. The modern worker is a slave to the clock and to the commute and struggles to find the time to take care of other 'life' issues outside of work.

The dynamics are different. As Christians we need to re-prioritize and re-calibrate our lives. It may mean that we end up poor. For me I will not slave away for a company that completely removes me from my home 60 hours a week. I have other obligations to my wife and children. I have other priorities in life. While I'm not going to sit around and live off subsidies, I'm not going to kill myself in order to maintain a certain standard of living and I'm certainly not going to turn slave in order to pay criminals and extortionists who profit off my hardship and the suffering of others. There are complicated ethical tangles involving things like medical bills that place people in impossible situations. They are manipulated and made to feel guilty because they have unpaid bills for services rendered to them.

It's more complicated than that. I don't feel guilty about being late in my payments to Mafioso corporations. In some cases I am so outraged that in principle I refuse to pay them at all. If you understand the way modern investing works and what this does to pricing it's even more outrageous and criminal.

We've been duped and fooled into worrying about credit ratings, financial statements and status. We've abandoned the Kingdom ethics concerning economics which contrary to some responses don't demand a Left-wing Constantinianism either, but they are still the antithesis of Sowell's vision or economic morality.

We live in Babylon. We live in a fallen world. All these systems fail and implode. Every system is corrupted by the curse of sin. The best we can hope for is to live at peace, lead quiet lives and work with our hands.

So why spend all this time critiquing Sowell? Because as I said, I continually encounter Christians that have baptized his ideas and employ his arguments and reasoning. If they rejected Sowell and embraced Marx we would be having a different discussion and the criticism would be very different.

Sowell is a mouthpiece for his paymasters and nothing more. His economics are not rooted in ethical standards or even sound theory. He merely advances the cause of empire represented by the financial interests of companies like ADM, Boeing, Exxon, Ford, GM, JP Morgan, Big Pharma, and the weapons industry.

He is a propagandist and nothing more. And there are dozens of others just like him. Some are worse. Some are blatantly claiming to represent the Christian position and rather than work for an institute they have non-profit ministries. Funded by the same cadre of interests they 'minister' to the people of God, make a nice living and promote empire while they spread lies, misrepresentations and misconceptions about law, environment, economics, geopolitics and a host of other issues.

With their connections they run the conference circuit, appear on FOX news, and are frequent guests on Christian radio and television programmes which pretend to interview and inform.

The Bible calls this... the World and worldliness. It's about pride and power, lust for money, and the building of Babel. This is the Imperial Church wedded to the Beast. I don't know what Sowell's religious affiliations are or aren't, but the deluded false Church of the American Empire loves the fantasy world he's created.