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The Quest for Cosmic Justice Paperback – February 5, 2002
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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 --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
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. --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
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I. The Quest for Cosmic Justice
Perceived inequality and other social injustice motivates many self appointed voices of conscience. Though we recognize painful inequalities, it doesn't justify putting inequality ahead of freedom. The injustice of slavery is often used as a casual explanation of social phenomena to justify policy aimed at redistributing wealth. Social injustice too often promotes an entitlement mentality with “rights” to what others have earned. Visions of cosmic justice enhances the power of government with the taxpayer financing moral adventures of self anointed social philosophy
'II. The Mirage of Equality
Our politician leaders fail to differentiate between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. Sowell catalogs the high cost of envy by individuals, nations and groups. Welfare lavishes resources on those who violate rules of ethical conduct. There is consideration of freedom versus equality. [equality is not equity]
'III The Tyranny of Vision
We see the fallacy that the poor are poor because the rich are rich. History is replete with grandiose schemes that have created hunger in countries that used to export food.
The only exception I take to Sowell's analysis is his attempt to refute the equity of equality in the ethical theory of John Rawls. It's useless to argue with the ethical basis of equality on economic grounds. It's the misapplication of ethical principles, not the theory that has led us astray. In fact Rawls never promoted blind absolute equality. His analysis of the ideas of Bertrand Russel and John Dewey are similar. My take is that the most intelligent intellectual theorists develop the most mindless disciples to apply their theories.
'IV. The Quiet Repeal of the American Revolution
This could be considered repeal of the Constitution centering on the Tenth Amendment which has been effectively abrogated in progressive judicial drive to increase power of the federal government. I don't know why the Ninth is overlooked. Sowell cites O.W. Holmes' view that the Constitution didn't empower us to debate justice, which is not the same as application of law.
Starting with the Warren Court, progressive interpretations of justice related to the Constitution have greatly weakened the rule of law in the USA.
The dearth of specific historical examples is well compensated in 'Applied Economics,' 'Economic Facts and Fallacies' and other works by the same author.
I read the entire Intellectuals and Society, and thought maybe this would just be an addendum. This book stands on its own. It delves into the psyche of the Leftist and their position in society.