Book Review: “Intellectuals and Society” by Thomas Sowell

ThomasSowellThumbby Brad Nelson
This is a terrific book and not anywhere near as dull as the title would suggest. This is a fascinating history of the intelligentsia’s growing hegemony over our society and the harmful effects this is having. Much like Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism,” instead of a polemic we get a careful and detailed history of certain aspects of these United States. And for various reasons, this is a history you will not likely be taught in school at any level. A shame.

But you can <a href=”″>get it here</a> and I suggest that all concerned Americans do. This is amongst Sowell’s most readable books. He may be the smartest man in America, but even so, his writing continues to improve. Along with Goldberg’s book, I highly recommend this one for a better perspective on the problems we are facing…and why.

As is typical with one of Sowell’s books, I’ve not been able to make it through it without highlighting paragraph after paragraph until it looks like some child scribbled in it with a Crayon. At some point it becomes pointless as entire chapters would need to be gone over with a yellow marker. Here’s a sample of a yet another profound observation by Sowell from “Intellectuals and Society”:

As early as elementary school, students have been encouraged or recruited to take stands on complex policy issues ranging up to and including policies concerning nuclear weapons, on which whole classes have been assigned to write to members of Congress or to the President of the United States. College admissions committees may give weight to various forms of environmentalism or other activism in considering which applicants to admit, and it is common for colleges to require “community service” as a prerequisite for applicants to be considered at all – with the admissions committee arbitrarily defining what is to be considered a “community service,” as if, for example, it is unambiguously clear that aiding and abetting vagrancy (“the homeless”) is a service rather than a disservice to a community.

In these and other ways, intellectual prerequisites for reaching serious policy conclusions are, ironically, undermined by the intelligentsia themselves. By encouraging or even requiring students to take stands when they have neither the knowledge nor the intellectual training to seriously examine complex issues, teachers promote the expression of unsubstantiated opinions, the venting of uniformed emotions, and the habit of acting on those opinions and emotions while ignoring or dismissing opposing views, without having either the intellectual equipment or the personal experience to weigh one view against another in any serious way.

In other words, if you will forgive me Thomas, we teach kids how to drink kool-aid and how to be superficial thinkers.

You will read this book and you will understand exactly why the Founders implemented a limited government with plenty of checks and balances. It’s because all men (particularly the pointy-headed intellectual types) flatter themselves as kings — or enough do so that it makes it necessary to guard against their over-inflated opinions of their own worth and infallibility.

In this book, Sowell thoroughly skewers the intellectual class and their inflated sense of importance and omniscience that has them trying to run all our lives because they think we are too stupid to do so ourselves. And yet, time after time, this supposedly brilliant and self-anointed class of people are repeatedly making the grandest and stupidest mistakes in society and with the most devastating consequences. It’s an interesting story to understand how they escape being held responsible for their failures from everything from the hysteria of global cooling, global warming, the banning of DDT, their failed “war on poverty,” and the devastating effects from their conception of crime being the fault of “society,” not the criminal.

Like Jonah Goldberg’s book “Liberal Fascism,” this book is a corrective to the mal-education most of us have received. This is the best time and money you could ever spend. Another brilliant effort by Sowell. • (855 views)

Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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2 Responses to Book Review: “Intellectuals and Society” by Thomas Sowell

  1. pst4usa says:

    I have started listening to this one again, it may read well, but it is difficult to follow in audio format, maybe just a bad reader?

    • Brad Nelson bradnelson says:

      Pat, I’ve never done more than listen to the first minute or so of an audio book. But it certainly could be the reader. I found this book to be very well written. It flowed much better than some of his previous books.

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