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Economic Facts and Fallacies
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243 of 261 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I got this book to check out Sowell's take on the "Vanishing Middle Class." In just a few paragraphs he is able to completely turn that notion on its head... and show why the oft repeated claim is jibberish. I now know this book will be an excellent resource for fighting commonly held economic fallacies. Yesterday I read the chapter on Men vs. Women pay. The commonly held belief is that women don't make as much as a man because of discrimination. While keeping an open minded view that discrimination could come in to play, Sowell delivers an extremely convincing alternative argument for the discrepancy in pay. This book really is an eye opener.
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283 of 314 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Economic Fallacies is the third book by Thomas Sowell I've read this year and it continues to illustrate why he is one of the most important conservatives in America today. His writing beams with scholarship and clarity. There are no wasted words and the work is an arsenal of information. These chapters should be read and reread as they thoroughly refute the positions of those who irrationally regard America as being a racist, sexist and corrupt state.

Sowell debunks the myth of female oppression by highlighting the way that statistics are jiggled in the hopes of morphing the USA into a patriarchy. Indeed, in my opinion, our nation is closer to being a matriarchy than it is anything else. The old 74 cent to the dollar feminist canard is refuted after he teases out the example of unmarried, childless women. They oftentimes are anything but oppressed. Indeed, in many cases they make even more money than their male age-mate peers. Much of the difference between the sexes, in terms of wage, is a result of personal choice. Women work fewer hours and are more likely to choose stability over cash when deciding on a career. Women also select less dangerous jobs than do men as indicated by the statistic he cites showing that 92 percent of those who die in job-related accidents are male.

In terms of class, all of us who ever have tried to debate the left comprehend the error in their perceptions--as does Sowell who eliminates their positions with ease. Unfortunately, it's a serious challenge to ever get them to come around as they would feel contaminated should they ever try to examine world events through the eyes of a conservative. Rife among our opposition is the belief that only a finite amount of money exists in the world, and, if you have lots of it, that automatically means that thousands have none of it. While pseudo-liberals appear to have heard of "economic growth" they have yet to internalize its meaning. This is why they are so enamored with redistributing the rest of population's wealth. They dub this larceny "social justice" despite real social justice embodying the practice of letting people keep what they earn. Tragically, without a basic understanding of economics the left will continue to hike taxes until...the welfare state collapses along with the nation as a whole. Once they eradicate the rich there will be no one left to fund the dole.

With race, Sowell tears apart [yet again] the notion that blacks make less due to discrimination. He refers to an argument here I never heard elsewhere--but greatly appreciate--which is that when a particular group's mean age is lower, as is the case with blacks, they generally have lower incomes than do groups with higher mean ages. This makes perfect sense as a group of 20-year-olds never make as much as those nearing the end of that particular decade; although, his insight matters little as the mainstream media has no use for nuance. They crusade against injustice even though, most often, they are ones who perpetuate it.
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103 of 116 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
There is no end to the exposure of crackpot left-wing theorists in the media. Happening upon an appearance of a conservative economist like Thomas Sowell in the media, however, is extraordinary, which is the nation's loss.

Sowell is a prolific writer, but I doubt he reaches a fraction of the audience of a crank like Paul Krugman.

In this slim volume, Sowell exposes, refutes and debunks six of the major economic fallacies of our time:

1. Urban Facts and Fallacies
2. Male-Female Facts and Fallacies
3. Academic Facts and Fallacies
4. Income Facts and Fallacies
5. Racial Facts and Fallacies
6. Third World Facts and Fallacies

As you've probably noticed, these are six of the major flashpoint issues of our times - and Sowell knocks down the myths and lies the left-wing has worked so hard to spread.

For example, Sowell shows how elitists have made the most desirable areas of California unaffordable for all but the very rich through restrictive policies. This results in various hypocrisies, such as driving out poor blacks from places like San Francisco and also contributes to the fallacy of a lack of "affordable housing". The latter is not the fault of evil conservatives, but of very selfish left-wingers.

Sowell applies his truly formidable knowledge and scalpel-like logic to each of these six fallacies, slicing away the untruths and revealing that the United States is not a nation of massive inequalities, but is in fact still the land of opportunity.

As Sowell puts it so well, "[s]ome things are believed because they are demonstrably true. But many things are believed because they are consistent with a widely held vision of the world - and this vision is accepted as a substitute for facts." For those willing to learn, Sowell demolishes six major myths here. Would that there were more like Sowell - and those willing to learn from him.

Jerry
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Thomas Sowell sees people's world views as coming from some conceptual constructs which are often based on faulty premises and faulty thinking. He not only smashes lots of common notions, but tries to expose the ideas which lead people to accept those false ideas.

He does this in a fair and to a large part objective manner. So, for example, if he is looking at how discrimination factors into earnings differences between men and women, or blacks and whites he will examine many factors which contribute to those differences. Reasoning that if we can identify 3 or 4 other causes of earnings differences, and those factors account for some of the difference, then discrimination and other unidentified factors could only account for what is left.

He also exposes factors which make some the the statistics we normally see misleading. So, for example, if the average age of one group of people is 30 and another is 35 and a third is 43, then we would expect that their incomes would also be different, with the older groups making more money. This is what we see with Blacks (30), all Americans (35) and Japanese Americans (43). So at least some of the income differences are explained by age.

The book examines:
- Urban Facts and Fallacies where interesting facts about city planning come to light
- Male-Female Facts and Fallacies
- Academic
- Income
- Race
- Third World poverty

The book is jam packed with information, and insights. You are bound to have ideas you held to be true shown clearly to have overlooked important variables.

After reading this book, you will have a better understanding of the reality of these topics and the statistics used to support various views.
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311 of 420 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I preface my review of Thomas Sowell's Economic Facts and Fallacies with two semi-personal accounts. First, many years ago my young wife and I took the subway to Boston Common to a Fair Play for Cuba demonstration (this was before we drove Castro into the USSR's arms with a trade embargo and other hostilities). Pete Seeger sang a Spanish Civil War freedom song, and when he was done, he said "We might have lost the war, but we had all the good songs." The crowd laughed, but I was dumb-struck. I swore that I would never be satisfied having good songs, especially if this got in the way of winning the battle for human rights and dignity. The point is not to be a Good Person with High Ideals. The point is to contribute to making a better society.

Second, all my life I have been a strong admirer of John Stuart Mill (I wrote a chapter of my Ph.D. dissertation on his model of individual utility). One of his most courageous acts was to be arrested for distributing birth control information in the poor neighborhoods of London. Why did he do this? Well, at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in England, numerous "utopian socialists" had devised plans for human betterment, especially for the elimination of poverty through intentional communities. The great economist Thomas Malthus' Essay on Population purported to show the futility of poverty relief, arguing that increasing the consumption of the masses would simply lead to a higher birth rate, hence more pressure on food sources, leading to a return to poverty, only with a larger population. We know now that Malthus was wrong (Google "demographic transition" and "agricultural productivity"), but his argument seemed cogent at the time. Indeed, economics was called the "dismal science" because economists like Malthus and Ricardo continually developed ingenious arguments as to why social betterment was impossible. However, John Stuart Mill saw the fallacy in Malthus's argument: if increased consumption were accompanied by a means for birth control, then the masses could enjoy a higher standard of living. I admire Mill because he accepted a dismal economic analysis because he thought it correct, and then tried to solve the social problem involved (poverty) even given the veracity of the economic argument.
Thomas Sowell is a serious economist and a fine writer. There is not a single argument in this book that I think is either incorrect or even disingenuous. Everyone interested in economic and social policy should read this, and his other writings. Sowell is best as showing how statistics can mislead. For instance, he says "It is an undisputed fact that the average real income...of American households rose by only 6 percent over the entire period from 1969 to 1996...But it is an equally undisputed fact that the average real income per person in the United States rose by 51 percent over that very same period." (p. 125) Both are true because average household size decreased dramatically over the period, with more elderly couples and fewer children per married couple in the later period.

Nota bene: commentators who give the household change while ignoring the individual change are slimebags. You may say that they are well-intentioned, but that does not change the fact that they are liars out to mislead the uninformed. Sowell often manages to reveal the liars and slimebags for what they are. Moreover, this is a service to us all, for how are we to identify and solve social problems if we do not know what they are?

My only serious criticism of Sowell is that he is rather more like Thomas Malthus than like John Stuart Mill in temperament. He repeatedly attempts to say that a social problem is less serious than liberals believe, or that a problem cannot be solved by a social intervention. Sowell's deep understanding of the capitalist system is not deployed to generate novel, effective, solutions to problems. In this, he differs from his mentor, Milton Friedman, whose Capitalism and Freedom contained numerous creative interventions, including the negative income tax and school vouchers.

To whet the reader's appetite, here are a few of Sowell's positions. (1) Rent control is a stupid way to help the poor, because it drives down the supply of affordable housing; (2) Racial discrimination is not the cause of income differences between blacks and whites, which are virtually equal when correcting for IQ, education, experience, and other demographic variables; (3) the same is true for the role of gender discrimination in accounting for the lower incomes of women as opposed to men; (4) Slavery, racism, and discrimination are not the cause of the social pathologies associated with poor black inner-city neighborhoods; rather the causes lie in a variant of black culture inherited from traditional southern poor white culture; (5) Poverty in the third world is not caused by imperialism or wealth in the rich countries.

In each of these, and several other areas, I think Sowell's arguments are correct, and should be take serious when proposing vigorous social policies for creating a more equal and fair distribution of the world's resources and produced wealth.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is the first book by Thomas Sowell that I read, and overall, I wasn't disappointed. However, although a decent read, I found a few of Sowell's facts to be dubious. In Chapter 5, Sowell discusses the common fallacy that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. And that, in general, the middle class in the U.S. is getting smaller and smaller. Most of Sowell's arguments in this chapter are rather compelling, however, some arguments are very questionable. For example, Sowell states that, "Another inflationary bias to the consumer price index is that it counts only those things that most people are likely to buy. Reasonable as that might seem, what people will buy obviously depends on the price...". In other words, Sowell argues that the CPI overstates inflation, and therefore, real income should be higher. There are a few flaws with his reasoning. First, the most common inflation price index is core inflation, which excludes food and energy. Thus, since energy and food are a vital part of everyone's daily life, price increases (such as is happening these days) can greatly reduce the quality of life of people since a larger part of their income will be spent on food and energy.

Second, since the government changed the CPI's methodology during the years, it's highly problematic to compare the current CPI to the CPI that was used before the 1980's. Moreover, if applying the older method of the CPI to measure current inflation, inflation would be much higher. Therefore, one can argue that real income should be lower than what Sowell claims it is.

Lastly, and more relevant to the quote above, Sowell argues that if there is an increase in prices due to inflation, consumers will switch to other items, and therefore, price increases of those specific items will not affect them. Well, if someone stops buying a product, let's say beef, which he usually buys and enjoys, due to higher prices and instead buys chicken, his quality of life has declined because he cannot buy the product he prefers due to inflation.

In closing, even though not without flaws this book is still a interesting read, packed with plenty of insights.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
My knowledge of economics is admittedly limited, but this book was written so well that even a rookie like me could understand the concepts. Though I'm not sure I agree with every conclusion Sowell draws, the book was incredibly informative and really got me thinking. I know I will listen to reports on economic data in a whole new way! I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking to gain a better understanding of the meaning (or lack of meaning) in the statistics so often thrown our way.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 13, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I decided that as a responsible citizen I should try to learn a few things about economics. I found that this book is a great aid in that endeavor. Dr. Sowell is a master in making the complex principles of economics easy for the layman. Although my favorite is his book, "Basic Economics," this book is an excellent further examination into some of the principles he brought up in that one. My favorites here were the chapters on college education, income disparity, and the third world. For those that wonder about some of the economic statistics that are so easily thrown around by the media--Dr. Sowell takes some of them on and clearly shows where they are wrong. Every informed citizen should read this book!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
"Economic Facts and Fallacies" successfully debunks most of the fallacies used to justify the tyranny perpetrated by the fourth branch of government - the bureaucracy. Reading Mr. Sowell's book was part of the research done to write "21ST Century Common Sense" and the time was well spent. However, Mr. Sowell is too charitable towards those who would usurp our freedom and who use many of the fallacies listed in "Economic Facts and Fallacies" to that end.
These CHARLATANS routinely use such misinformation for political gain and most are much too intelligent to believe the validity of these fallacies. No wonder that those who support suppression of individual liberty and freedom hysterically denounce "Economic Facts and Fallacies".

Felton Williamson, Jr.
Author of "Common Sense - The Way Back"
[...]
Common Sense - The Way Back
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
This is a book that everyone who believes himself or herself to be a rational, objective person should read. Thomas Sowell, in crisp, crystal clear writing, exposes the false beliefs, and conclusions drawn from them, which have become "revealed truths" in the most sacrosanct areas. These "truths" have formed the rationale for large-scale government programs of social redemption and reclamation, for planning commissions exerting increasing control over private lands, for average people attempting to understand important basis issues in their lives. Each chapter is self-contained enabling the book to be savored at separate readings without losing the continuity. Reading this book should help to sharpen our ability to more carefully evaluate the important issues which play major roles in our lives.

Leonti H. Thompson, M.D.
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