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The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy Paperback – June 28, 1996
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Dr. Sowell's thesis is that there are self-anointed people--liberals--who believe that it is their mission to run people's lives because they feel they know more about what is good for people than people know what is good for themselves. He further argues that they promote self-congratulatory social policies that are impervious to any objective scrutiny or critiques based on facts and logic, and are justified through sophistical language.
As the title indicates, I believe that the two most important things that this book does is provide an insight into the way liberals think as well as expose and destroy the common methodology of liberal argumentation.
The book begins with a rundown of the copious "problems" that liberals claim exist in society and that they want to fix. This always begins with a massive exaggeration of the initial problem, with whacky and manifestly unreasonable liberal solutions to that "problem," which then worsen the problem, which they claim without their intervention would have been much worse.
This section is prophetic as one could easily plug in the current Obama administration's attempt to fix problems in our health care system. They overrate the problem by inflating the number of uninsured people, they propose destroying the entire system for every American in order to insure those few, and then when the results of their wrongheaded policies come to fruition, they'll blame it on the problem being so large even with intervention it couldn't completely stave it.
The chapter I particularly enjoyed was "The Vocabulary of the Anointed," which exposes and demolishes the sophistical and tautological rhetoric that liberals invariably use to support their political arguments.
This is a must-read classic. If a liberal were to read this book with an open mind, I am certain that they'll begin questioning their philosophy.
So it's the anointed and the tragedians. The anointed believe in their own unlimited ability to change society, in "problems" that have "solutions", in categorical decision-making, and in their own absolution from any unforeseen consequences of their decisions on the basis of their good intentions. To the anointed, those who disagree are evil.
The tragedian believes that all human actors have limited power to change society and that specialization is therefore good, that causation is systemic, all outcomes being the result of hundreds or thousands or millions of discrete individual decisions, and that all change comes as the result of trade-offs and that cost and negative consequences must be considered in decisionmaking. To the tragedian, those who disagree are dumb or don't get it.
And the anointed have seized the cultural heights. Their place in universities, the media and the judiciary give them power all out of proportion to their numbers.
Sowell analyzes not only how the anointed think, but also how they act. He examines the rhetoric that the anointed use to cut short debate, their insistent unaccountability to fact, present or future, their use of "mascot" groups to advance their causes, their vocabulary, their use of an activist judiciary to undermine the rule of law, and ultimately the question of whether the anointed believe in anything that resembles an objective reality.
This is a great analytical primer on the thought of the anti-left. It's one of those books that articulates things you know to be true, but that never would have occurred to you to formulate as a conscious statement. "Of course!" You'll want to shout. "Hallelujah! Amen!"
It's true. It's revelatory. Buy it now.