Social Justice Fallacies by Thomas Sowell Reviewed

Social Justice Fallacies by Thomas Sowell Reviewed

Thomas Sowell agrees that Everything The Woke Believe Is Wrong. And the reason they are wrong is that they rely on fallacies to justify themselves.

Lots and lots of fallacies. Some are based on bad data, some on lazy thinking, but most are because the woke hold false premises which they cherish but refuse, under all circumstances, to reconsider.

Sowell does his energetic best to get them too, though. He hacks and saws and pummels, and loads fifty eight—58!—pages of footnotes and citations onto a slim 130 pages of text. He documents everything.

Speaking as somebody who has written a similar book (and with the second edition getting there), Sowell won’t do a bit of good with his book. Not among the woke, not in our corrupt rulers, not with Experts. Here’s proof:

[M]any social justice advocates have shown little or no interesting remarkable examples of progress by the poor—when that progress was not based on the kinds of policies not promoted in the name of social justice. The striking progress made by black Americans in the decades before the 1960s has been widely ignored. So has the demonstrable harm suffered by black Americans after the social justice policies of the 1960s.

He says why: woke social-justice (WSJ) theory. He proves why, for this and for every other colossal social failure, with so many stats, points of logic, known harms, and rational arguments that it’s dizzying.

We do not, therefore, lack for evidence for WSJ failures—repeated continuous serial gigantic failures. Evidence is not our problem, nor is logic, which is also on our side. So why are we losing? We have lost the emotional war.

In the social justice literature, unmerited advantages [i.e. Reality] tend to be treated as if they are deductions from the well-being of the rest of the population.

Egalitarianism is an unshakable premise in WSJs. Yet even they are not so stupid as to believe Equity is found in practice. Equity must be “restored” by force, to reveal the Equality they believe is there, but is now hidden.

We cannot win until people cherish Reality over their egalitarian Fantasies. With egalitarianism purged, the irrational desire for Equity will diminish—though envy will ever be with us. And with the fading of Equity, the need to search for “disparities” that can be blamed on “racism” et cetera will sink into the mud.

Sowell does his best. He explains climatic, geographic, temporal (age), and, yes, genetic differences account nicely for observed differences. And that charges like “racism” are now ridiculous. And he has done so not only in this book, but across many books. He has proved his point. His point is still disbelieved.

Genetic differences? Dare he? Well, yes, sort of.

In twenty three—-23!— school districts in Baltimore, not one— 0!-1 —student is proficient in math. Not one. Zero.

If these same kids were to be given an IQ test, they would surely score dismally. And the persistent Asian-Black “IQ gap” we’ve all seen, we’d see here again, but magnified. It is logically possible these largely black students are retarded, or worse. But I don’t believe it, and neither would Sowell, who documents many other similar situations (though not this one).

These poor kids suffer from WSJ pandering. Bad news for them, and worse news for us. As the current crime wave proves. Crime is now so bad even WSJ propagandists cannot hide it.

The larger point is this: do not be too enamored of IQ scores—not without knowing their limitations (such as this, and this).

That being said, and Sowell puts it all well, there are still consistent and sustaining differences in intellectual achievement across races. Putting these differences all down to “racism” is ignorant—are Asians “racist” against blacks? Putting all differences down to genes is likewise false. But some of it surely is due to biology, which is an inescapable conclusion. Refusing to believe it is yet another mind-ravage caused by egalitarianism.

How about Experts and their mandated theories?

The exaltation of desirability and the neglect of feasibility…is today still a major ingredient in the fundamental fallacies of the social justice vision.

Experts, though Sowell doesn’t call them that, are “impervious to factual evidence”. They see people as static “chess pieces” which can be moved in accord with their cherished theories. This explains their heartlessness.

And their monumental self regard. Good joke: “John Stuart Mill’s vision of the indispensable role of intellectuals in human progress has been one shared by many intellectuals over the centuries.” Which leads to Experts like—a now ancient example, but with a contemporary analogs—Ralph Nader saying people “must be protected at times from his own indiscretion and vanity.” Protected by Experts.

Experts, a.k.a. “surrogate decisions-makers simply assumed that their own knowledge and understanding were [and are] superior to those” over whom they rule. Their refusal to learn from their subjects, or from experience, is what makes them Experts.

There are many examples of the dismal influence of Expert theory and Enlightenment values on society, most of which you know. The worst has to be sacrificing merit, quality, and Reality to Fantasy.

A country fighting for its life, on the battlefield, cannot afford the luxury of choosing its generals on the basis of demographic representation—“looking like America”—rather than on the basis of military skills, regardless of how those skills were acquired. Not if it wants to survive.

We do not want to survive.

Even though his book won’t convince a single woke to change her mind, it might do some good among the normies. That is who needs this book. Especially younger ones. See that they read it.

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  1. Wm Arthurs

    The London School of Economics reviewer of “Intellectuals & Society” was too lazy to examine the author photo on the dustjacket. He commented: “To [Sowell], slavery’s cultural legacy means that it shouldn’t be considered a moral problem, nor should amelioration be attempted: easy for a rich white man to say.”

  2. Briggs


    You have to be kidding.

  3. Briggs


  4. McChuck

    “are Asians “racist” against blacks?”
    Yes. Yes, they most definitely are. Because they’re not stupid.

  5. JerryR

    Both Sowell and Briggs miss what is happening. Both are smart though Briggs can at best sit at the foot of Thomas Sowell.

    The modern world would not exist if it weren’t for two conditions. The first is Christianity and the second is freedom. Consequently, there would be no discussions of social justice without an extremely beneficial modern world to bring forth incredible improvements and highlight differences.

    Freedom first appeared gradually in 16th century England due to the ouster of Catholicism and the growth of multiple Protestant religions that grew there and in its North American colonies especially Pennsylvania. This led to the Industrial Revolution and the modern world. Without these two necessary but neither sufficient conditions, we would still be mainly an agrarian world.

    Both of these necessary conditions for a stable world are now under attack in the name of a world of justice and rationality. One side sees a need for a totalitarian rule to achieve Justice and uses emotional arguments in any way they can to achieve this totalitarian rule. They don’t care about social justice or fairness. It’s just a tactic in a war for supremacy.

    The other if fighting for some leader to install sense into the people. Their rationale is both reason and emotional but their emotional arguments are not as effective.

    Neither understands what made the modern world but one is destroying both pillars of it. They believe they are winning.

    Interesting that Briggs uses WSJ for woke social Justice when this abbreviation usually means Wall Street Journal.

    Also, there is nothing inherently inclined toward freedom in Protestantism. One has only to read about the Puritans in New England and their lack of tolerance.

  6. Johnno


    After the Canadian government and one Zekensky gave many fawning standing ovations to a SS officer before the cameras, after years and years of brandishing their sensible opponents and critics and heterosexually-inclined as far right bigot goosestepping Nazis, something had to be done to save the woke from being held responsible for their own Heil Hunka-ing!

    And that something is….


    Behold Politico!

    Yes, the woke can NEVER be wrong! Perceptions must now be changed! Outrage reeducated! We must factor in that NAZISM is not always bad, so long as it is aimed at the right cause! Like killing Russians!

    This is wonderful news! Be sure to use the Politico Talking Points the next time some person of hair color confronts you for being a fascist Nazi for not wanting 6 year olds to consent to puberty blockers under teacher’s supervision without heil/herr’s Christian parents knowing!

    Justin Trudeau has opened the way! Wokedom is rewriting the scripts! It is ours to gain!

  7. Rob


    I don’t disagree with your premise, but an industrial revolution first requires an agrarian revolution to provide a well-fed but under-employed workforce – something which has been demonstrated throughout global history (Britain, Europe, Central then Eastern Asia and currently India). There is a case to be made that the plough was the critical human invention that led to modern civilization, but no society can develop until its people don’t have to spend all their time collecting today’s dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast. Improving agricultural productivity is the bedrock for human development.

    This is the battle actively being played out in Africa where development organizations are removing improving agricultural productivity as a goal and replacing it with – often non-quantifiable – environmental measures. It can even be seen in the anti-agriculture measures being pushed by western organizations masquerading as climate crusaders. The fundamental goal IS de-development – something which the more honest (if equally misguided) members of these groups not only admit to, but even celebrate. In any sane society this would be seen as immoral.

  8. I have not read the book you’re commenting on but have read his work on basic economics. He’s a brilliant writer and pretty good thinker, but in what little of his I’ve read (and apparently, according to your review, here) he misses the obvious – specifically it should be obvious that if a belief leads to policies that always fail to produce the promised results and that belief persists across more than one leadership generation then that belief is a false front for something else.

    In the left’s case that something else is now known as Multhusian resource economics – and if you think I’m wrong, ask yourself whether people like John kerry, or nancy pelosi really believe in equality. Since they, like all fascist leaders everywhere and everywhen, clearly do not; you need to see that the whole DEI etc nonsense is a sales pitch for what they genuinely do believe: that they are the nobles, we’re the peasants, and malthus (as they misunderstand him) rules economics.

    The consequence to this, of course, is that it is pointless for people like Sowell to debunk the sales pitch because believers are innoculated against reason, and the fascists in charge already know it’s nonsense. Had he gone after them, and their beliefs, the book would be a world beater – but unpublishable..

  9. JerryR

    “ I don’t disagree with your premise, but an industrial revolution first requires an agrarian revolution‘

    That is not what happened. England was not more advanced than other European countries agriculturally. Nearly 98% of the world (probably higher) were serfs or slaves at the time. What happened was that freedom was slowly granted to the average person in England due to religious wars. It accelerated after the English Civi War in the 1640s. The price of cotton dropped 95% due to innovations in weaving in the 1700s. (Before the Cotton gin was invented.)

    (It never would have happened if Henry VIII had three sons and many great grandsons. Remember Catherine of Aragon’s nephew, Charles V, was most powerful man in world at time. He was a natural ally for Henry.)

    My point for current discussions is that the freedom that arose in 16th and 17th century England is under attack and trying to be eliminated by the EU and Democrats. Christianity, which provides a common moral direction, is also declining in large numbers. There will be nothing left to ensure the modern world except technology which is being used to control and not allow freedom or promote a common moral framework.

    The social justice distractions are nothing more than that, distractions. It is a plan to hide what is actually happening, the dismantling of the foundations for the modern world. They don’t care about the problems of average people except as a tool for controlling.

  10. Hello, Statistician to the Stars. It is I, your Twitter friend Ellie. I watched a Hoover Institute interview of Sowell a few weeks ago, to talk about his most recent book. He is 91 years old and still sharp. I pray to remain as physically and cognitively intact as Sowell, Chuck Grassley, and Strom Thurmond!

    I have many thoughts after reading your post, but will limit myself to sharing just one. You’re correct, that well-reasoned arguments fall on deaf ears of the WSJ, regardless of their intelligence or abilities. THIS captures it perfectly: “Their refusal to learn from their subjects, or from experience, is what makes them Experts.”

    Sadly this applies to midwit grifters (e.g. the Kagan family, Obama health czar Ben Rhodes, RadioFreeTom) as well as those who should know better, be better, yet aren’t. Statistician Andrew Gelman is the first who comes to mind. He sees fascists everywhere except in the mirror.

    P.S. Speaking of the 1960s and Great Society programs: Have you ever read Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s influential 1965 research about the negative effect on black children (boys in particular) of absent fathers? He is likely correct, but the article itself is appallingly poor scholarship. I found it hosted on some .gov website. So much money was spent on initiatives to help black people since the 1960s, easily trillions of dollars, with no apparent impact. Neoliberals and GOP of the woke conservative variety (Brian Caplan, Cato, most National Review writers) believe that charter schools and vouchers are the answer. Ha ha! I suspect that Roman Catholic parochial schools for boys result in better outcomes. That’s due to the tireless efforts of instructors who cannot be bought for any price…and are near to vanishing in the U.S.

    P.P.S. They don’t want to survive. It isn’t limited to the military. The same malaise (i.e. sacrificing merit and quality in favor of ‘equity’) is ravaging our medical schools, federal government, large corporations, sciences, engineering, fine arts, music, and religious institutions. It is v grim.

  11. Briggs

    Thanks, Ellie. Nice to see you here.

  12. JH

    Thomas Sowell – Chapter 1 (free sample)

    At the heart of the social justice vision is the assumption that, because economic and other disparities among human beings greatly exceed any differences in their innate capacities, these disparities are evidence or proof of the effects of such human vices as exploitation and discrimination.

    Thomas Sowell sets out to debunk the above. His main point is:

    The point here is that, in what might seem likely very similar circumstances, there can be very different histories, cultures, and outcomes in particular endeavors. Particular groups having particular skills in particular kinds of endeavors have been a common facto of life over the centuries and in countries around the world.

    He provides examples that histories, cultures and endeavors can be causes of the disparities. (I agree with him). However, he has not shown me that discrimination cannot be one of the causes.

  13. JH

    If it’s not racist to be afraid of going into certain trailer parks or black neighborhoods, then Asians are not racist, in general. An Asian can be racist, defined as prejudice or discrimination directed at people of a different race based on the belief their race is superior. However, the Asians I know, who mostly have graduate degrees in STEM, don’t believe they are of a superior race.

  14. JH

    McChuck, are you stupid? If no, then you admit that you are racist. If yes, I’d take your word for it.

  15. john b()


    You’ve never “read” McChuck’s comments before?

    That was a rather mild innocuous comment

  16. JerryR

    This is one of the problems for our society. The woman being questioned is now a federal judge.

    How likely is it that she will be honest in her decisions on any issue of social justice? She has lied about a major social justice issue, got caught and then would not admit to lying.

  17. Johnno

    Woke Religion: A Taxonomy

    Excellent chart displaying the beliefs and structure of the Marxist Woke ideology that shows it really is a religion.

    Covered in the categories of racism, climate change, transgender, crime, mental illness, drugs and homelessness are:

    Original Sin
    Guilty Devils
    Myths, Creation Story
    Sacred Victims
    The Elect
    Supernatural Beliefs
    Taboo Facts
    Taboo Speech
    Purifying Rituals
    Purifying Speech

    Chart by by Michael Shellenberger and Peter Boghossian

    Followed by Woke Psychopathology

  18. Ragnarok

    Jerry R,

    Freedom hasn’t existed on this planet since the advent of Civilisation. Less of your waffle.

  19. So long as women are allowed to vote and hold public office this nonsense will continue. Bring back Trial By Combat.

  20. Milton Hathaway

    “Sowell … loads fifty eight – 58! – pages of footnotes and citations onto a slim 130 pages of text. He documents everything.”

    Read much Thomas Sowell, or listen to him a few times, and it’s easy to come to believe that he doesn’t have opinions like all your standard humans, he has conclusions. When asked to comment on a dissenting opinion, he will respond “I know of no evidence to support that statement”, or “I would be very interested in seeing the supporting evidence”. When he makes a claim, you can bet that it is backed up by extensive supporting evidence. While he certainly tries to reach a current audience, to me it is unmistakable that he is also writing for an audience 100 years in the future. Unsupported opinions are a dime a dozen, are unconvincing beyond the choir, and have a short shelf life. I should know.

    I just watched a recent interview with Thomas Sowell (YouTube video qg3GTVlwjoE0), and, as has always been the case, I learned new things.

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