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Sowell's Done Better
on February 13, 2013
I need to preface this by saying that I am a big fan of Sowell's works. But at this point I believe he has been over-published, and much of his work is now repetitive. Intellectuals and Society bears too much similarity to previous works of his such as A Conflict of Visions, and those works are shorter, which means that much of this work will be a waste of time.
Most of the content is superb. Some of his examples of where intellectuals attempt to make pretentious and dubious claims to the right to impose their vision on others best be noted; Sowell is no doubt right in much of what he says. There are a few places where what is written is questionable, however, as in Sowell's chapters on intellectuals and the law. One almost senses that he would do away with the concept of judicial review altogether, arguing that it is unconstitutional (in theory this is true, since there is no mention in the constitution of this as the role of the courts, but few people really question john Marshall's assertion of judicial review as the court's prerogative starting with Marbury v. Madison). While there is good value in rejecting judicial activism, I feel that Sowell does not make a careful distinction between the two, which may have provided this book with a fresher approach than some of his previous work. Additionally, Sowell repeats himself over and over again, so the book at 540-some-odd pages appears as though it could have been written with more impact at no more than and possibly substantially less than 400 pages. There is nothing so insulting to a reader--or which wastes so much of a reader's time, which is his greatest asset--as redundancy. Ultimately that is my biggest problem with this work.
Better to read Knowledge and Decisions, A Conflict of Visions, The Housing Boom and Bust, A Personal Odyssey, and much of Sowell's other work.