Thomas Sowell is a man of immense learning but with a common touch. His books reveal a dazzling mind that ranges freely and easily from history and sociology to economics to public policy. He conveys complex ideas in a simple way for a mass audience, a skill he learned as an academic who writes a syndicated newspaper column. This strength is on full view in The Quest for Cosmic Justice
, which is perhaps best described as a work of moral philosophy. That may sound off-putting, but it shouldn't. Again, Sowell writes for lay readers, and his clear thinking is on immediate display. His topic is justice, broadly understood. We constantly hear of "social justice," he says. But how is social justice different from other kinds of justice? The word social
, in fact, is redundant here: "All justice is inherently social. Can someone on a desert island be either just or unjust?" The book goes on to show how one person's sense of justice and equality can lead to their exact opposites: injustice and inequality. He holds no quarter for those who pursue "cosmic justice," the dangerous notion that people can right all wrongs, and favors "traditional justice," which emphasizes rules and procedures. The Quest for Cosmic Justice
ought to be required reading for all students in college-level political theory courses; Sowell's conservative politics and aversion to academic jargon probably guarantee it won't be. That's a shame, because he is the very definition of a public intellectual--and The Quest for Cosmic Justice
is another awesome achievement. --John J. Miller
From Library Journal
"Much of the world today and down through centuries of history has suffered the terrible consequences of unbridled government power, the prime evil that the writers of the American constitution sought to guard against." It is this "unbridled government power" that prolific political theorist Sowell (Affirmative Action Reconsidered) fears most as something that follows necessarily when societies try to achieve "cosmic justice" (as opposed to "social justice"). "Cosmic justice," he asserts, "is not about the rules of the game" but rather about "putting particular segments of society in the position that they would have been in but for some undeserved misfortune." Referring often to 20th-century world history, he argues persuasively that whatever benefits one might hope would result from trying to right the past wrongs of the world (instead of trying to repair the present world), they are not worth the almost inevitable risks of the loss of freedom and the rise of despotism. As Sowell does so well in his other booksAmany of which analyze the tradeoff between freedom and equalityAhe presents his case in clear, convincing, and accessible language. Strongly recommended for most public and academic libraries.AJack Forman, Mesa Coll. Lib., San Diego
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.