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The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy [Kindle Edition]

Thomas Sowell
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The nationally bestselling author of Race and Culture and Inside America presents a devastating examination of the mind-set behind the failed social policies of the past 30 years, whose defects have led to crises on education, crime, and family dynamics, "An important and incisive book."--New York Times Book Review.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this broadside against the received wisdom of America's elite liberal intelligentsia, noted conservative Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, offers some strenuous arguments as well as fuzzy generalizations. Thus, his attacks on the war on poverty, sex education and criminal justice policies forged in the 1960s counter some slippery rhetoric by their defenders, yet his suggestion that these policies exacerbated things is questionable. Sowell deconstructs how statistics can be distorted to prove assumptions (that lack of prenatal care is the cause of black infant mortality) and gleefully skewers "Teflon prophets" such as John Kenneth Galbraith (who said that big companies are immune from the market) and Paul Ehrlich (who said starvation loomed). While "the anointed" favor explanations that exempt individuals from personal responsibility and seek painless solutions, those with the "tragic vision" see policies as trade-offs. Sowell scores his targets for disdaining their opponents, but this book also invokes caricature-these days, many of "the anointed" are less unreconstructed than he assumes. Conservative Book Club and Laissez-Faire Book Club selections.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Ever the contrarian, this time Sowell targets the rhetorical methods liberals use to support their views of social issues. Usually, they frame a crisis to which the well-educated, articulate liberal, ruthlessly disparaged by Sowell as the "anointed," offers a categorical solution. To reach the solution, the liberal resorts to argumentative means that Sowell regards as fallacious. Examples he cites are the "Aha!" statistic in which condition A (say, infant mortality) is claimed to have cause B (inadequate budgets for prenatal care); or the assertion of a policy preference as a right, which is how a federal judge ordered a public library to allow an odoriferous, boisterous vagrant to roam the stacks--so that he could exercise his "right to receive ideas." These means defend a worldview of perfectible man that Sowell contrasts with the "tragic" view, stemming from human fallibility. Sowell's targets will find his criticisms irksome, if even worthy of their notice, but avid conservatives, for whom Sowell is a true-blue intellectual force, will certainly seize upon his analysis for succor. Gilbert Taylor

Product Details

  • File Size: 765 KB
  • Print Length: 324 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 046508995X
  • Publisher: Basic Books (June 27, 1996)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002TZ3D1M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,325 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
312 of 330 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are people missing the books bigger message? February 22, 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is very rare that I will write more than one review for a book. I wrote one for "Vision of the Annointed" a few years ago, and is by now burried in the heap of 5 star reviews below. In it, I praised Sowell for walking us through some of the rhetorical tricks used predominantly by the left wing (though since reading the book, I've become sensitive to the 'right' using similar arguments). I stand by that review. So why am I writing a new one?

I've recently picked up the book again after 2 or so years and have read through some - not all - of the chapters again and...it really hit me. The most important thing about this book is not simply the 'expose of the left'; rather, the predominant message seems to be about how the left (and I would argue, the right) ignore why 'tradeoffs' have to be made.

To put it more philosophically, the politicians dream is the policy that has no downsides. Sowell realizes that in a nation of many millions, every policy has negatives and that politicians should, instead of being focused on perfection, should be focused on taking the most gain for the least loss. This, Sowell says, is capitalism and markets. Yes, there are some losers. But there will be more winners and less losers through markets than there will through a regulatory state.

Now, let's put Sowells argument into modern context (the issue that made me pick the book up again). Lately, companies have been moving overseas and this, says the dems (and to a lesser degree the reps) is a problem. The solution being proposed? Let's pass laws to keep them here. The problem with that is that it ignores the real problem (by refusing to look at tradeoffs).
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107 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dr. Sowell incisively analyzes left wing group think November 6, 1997
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Thomas Sowell demonstrates how anti-intellectual the current intelligensia are and how closed minded. When good intentions are more important than outcomes, a closed belief system results, insulated from real world feedback, with catastrophic results.
Modern political discourse has degenerated into name-calling ("mean-spirited," "reactionary," "racist") without reference to actual merits of a proposed course of action. Until I read Dr. Sowell's discussion of "mascots" and the "benighted," I never understood why organizations like the ACLU display the most passion of the behalf on those who exhibit the most anti-social behavor (Nazis marching in Skokie, drunks yelling obscenities at ballball games): Now I do.
Dr. Sowell's description of the genesis of government "solutions" (a phony crisis, a proposed program whose critics are shouted down and a retroactive redefinition of the program's goals when the critics prove correct) was also a revelation. Read this section and then turn to any N.Y. Times article discussing either global warming or the gender "wage gap" to see this cycle in action today.
If you read the book (and I highly recommend it), look at the Kirkus Review of it for an example of what Dr. Sowell is talking about. Isn't funny how articulate liberal writers are "passionate" and articulate conservative writers are "venomous?"
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303 of 345 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Won't be read by those who need it most July 12, 2001
Format:Paperback
Ever wonder why liberals are so emotionally in favor of gun control even though it's a conclusive fact that gun control doesn't reduce gun violence? Or why they support the bilingual education programs that do so much damage to immigrant children? Or why they favor rent controls that make housing unavailable to the poor people for whom they supposedly have so much sympathy? Or why they want to make it illegal for a person to be employed if (s)he lacks the skills to do more than $7 worth of work every hour?
If the motives of liberals were truly what they say they are, then these positions would never gather the support that they now enjoy from the liberal community. Liberals are not uninformed; they read the same books, newspapers and academic journals as conservatives or libertarians. So why do they so consistently advocate policies whose results are demonstrably contrary to the results they claim to want?
Sowell explains the answer in this wonderful book. The reason, he says, is that the real motives of liberals have nothing to do with the welfare of other people. Instead, they have two related goals: first, to establish themselves as morally and intellectually superior to the rather distasteful population of common people, and second, to gather as much power as possible to tell those distasteful common people how they must live their lives. If a policy moves them closer to those two goals, they will find a reason to advocate it, regardless of how harmful the consequences of that policy may be.
Once you read this book, the dishonest posturing of liberals becomes far more understandable. They engage in a preposterous circular argument: They are wiser and more moral than others because they "understand" the need for the policies they advocate.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good platform for debate March 20, 2003
By Kolby
Format:Paperback
This book's main emphasis is the need for "results oriented" social policy.
Sowell's fundamental argument is:
1. Social policy is often built based on a perceived, "crisis."
2. That a "crisis," even exists, usually goes unchallenged, or ignored.
3. When said social policy fails to accomplish its stated objective, attempts are made to change the initial objective, or simply ignore the outcome.
"The Anointed," as Sowell calls them, are those who identify the crisis, put forth the policies, and then, if they fail, obfuscate the results. They live in a self justifying world, where what they "envision" is correct and moral *a priori.* Those who disagree are demonized as simpleminded and mean-spirited.
Sowell offers a lot of examples that support his theory at varying degrees of success. From Sex Ed programs, Low Income Housing, to environment policy. It is certainly a fascinating read.
Whether you agree with him or not (I mostly agree with him), what this book accomplishes is that it forces you to refocus on facts and data to make decisions, as opposed to your own moral vision.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth in visions
As only Thomas Sowell can write it. In just reading the first chapter I was captivated by mr. So wells command of our beautiful language and understanding of our societal woes. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Carol Gandolfo
5.0 out of 5 stars Dangerous! It can turn a life-long liberal into a ...
Dangerous! It can turn a life-long liberal into a wide-awake constitutionalist.The first part, a primer in logic, can be hard but enlightening. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Richard Chapin
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing cultural insight.
In one of his most important books, Thomas Sowell describes how a class of anointed elites (educators, journalists, politicians, judges etc... Read more
Published 18 days ago by Bernoulli
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking read
I know this book is now considered dated, but it is right on target (only more so)! It should be required reading in high school. Too bad we no longer have civics classes. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Happy retiree
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Overview From the Challenge...Bring Your Own Strategy
In his book Vision of the Anointed, Thomas Sowell offers key insights into how and why the American left has run wild in it’s attempts to change America. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Adam
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent look at the left.
Vision of the Anointed gives full proof formulas when applied, destroy any arguments the Left can come up with to justify their agendas.
Published 3 months ago by JAMES WOMACK
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading for every college student
Sowell does it again, getting beyond mere Left and Right labels to the core differences that divide us, and exposing the inner workings of the self-convinced, unteachable elitist... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Fredric I. McCormick
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear and concise
One of my experiences with how the issues of our day are being addressed is through an irrational miasma; Sowell cuts through this with clarity and insight like a man who's been in... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Dean Vance
4.0 out of 5 stars Can't be said enough
Familiar ground for many are these observations - often very funny - about how the elites eg media, government, academics etc bully coerce, shame, tax and legislate us benighted... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Tania Raisin
5.0 out of 5 stars a must read and a must-reread!
Long ago in my urban sociology class we read the author's spellbinding Race and Economics, so the possibility of reading another book by Thomas Sowell book interested me. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Leah Chang
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More About the Author

Thomas Sowell has taught economics at Cornell, UCLA, Amherst and other academic institutions, and his Basic Economics has been translated into six languages. He is currently a scholar in residence at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has published in both academic journals in such popular media as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes magazine and Fortune, and writes a syndicated column that appears in newspapers across the country.

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