As a kid I remember trying to catch a Firing Line debate on my local PBS. I hadn't realized that what I was watching were the latter and last few episodes before the series ended. When they ended, my early afternoon Saturdays (when they usually aired) felt empty for many years. I also hadn't realized that there were also these Firing Line "interviews," I guess you would call them. These interviews predate the debate series and are actually the more famous of the family of Firing Line media from what I am finding out. So I'm glad that Amazon has them or at least the most famous ones. They are cheap too. I rent them out for a dollar a pop. Being that they are usually an hour long, it is quite a bargain for such an intellectually rich video.
For me, this episode is interesting for two reasons. One, Sowell is still a prominent member of what we would now call Paleo-Conservatives vis a vis modern Conservatism dominated by Neocons. I don't know if that is a good or bad thing. His ideas expressed in this video (and he has another one too) are essentially coterminous with his current views. Does this mean that he hasn't evolved or that the mark of a truly intelligent person is an evolved consistency which denotes depth and integrity/sincerity for the ideas he espouses? I guess we all have to think that one through. The second reason is that Pilpel, another guest towards the end of the episode, seems to represent a lost, failed line of American liberal thinking and so it is instructive to see how these people thought during this time period, irrespective of whether you are Right or Left of the spectrum. I've watched a few more of these episodes and it seems that the Liberal reasoning of the 70's and early 80's and their proponents embraced a dead end line of thinking. This is no critique of the Left, I am not a partisan here, only that the Left back then which had strong support from the American people would now be considered fringe because of the shift in thinking. So anyone who is interested in the history of American ideas, especially how they worked their way into the politics of the time, would find it enlightening.
I have always admired both Bill Buckley and Thomas Sowell for both their intellect and their courage. This whole episode was a delight to watch and listen to. The best part of the program was when they were cross examined by a women liberal lawyer about their views and they both easily parried the questions. I am going to watch this program again before the short rental period is up to try to absorb some of the intelligence of these two giants of intellect.
So Prof. Sowell only gets five stars. But he'd get six were six available. You know the feeling at a cocktail party when you're talking with someone for a moment before realizing that he's a bit drunk? When I hear Prof. Sowell speak, I have the opposite impression: maybe he is the only one who is that lucid and the rest of us are all somehow a bit less so. I wish there were anyone with Buckley's interviewing skills still working today on such shows.