Jan 5, 2008
Efficiency, Thinking Beyond Stage 1

New Sowell Book: Economic Facts and Fallacies

As some of you know, I am a huge fan of the venerable economist Thomas Sowell and his writings. Thomas Sowell has a gift for eloquently preaching economic fact and collapsing faulty arguments like a house of cards.

I was pleased to discover this weekend that Dr. Sowell has a new book out called “Economic Facts and Fallacies” which continues in his long writing tradition of presenting economic and social arguments which challenge widely-held beliefs to average citizens. While I find the greatests of his intellectual works “The Vision of the Annointed”, the most knowledge-packed book for everyday people regarding economic issues is by far “Basic Economics”, which recently was updated to a new edition.

Economic Facts and Fallacies contains six chapters, each dedicated towards meticulously exploring social and economic issues in an economic, super-rational manner:

Urban Facts & Fallacies

Here Sowell explores overpopulation theories of urbanization and most importantly “affordable housing” issues and price controls in the housing market.

Male-Female Facts & Fallacies

Drawing upon his vast experience researching racial and group differences, this chapter presents a critique on “unequal pay for equal work”. Sowell’s arguments are particuarly strong in here as he exposes most conclusion-jumping shallowly-analyzed statistics on this as hogwash. A more reasoned approach to the statistics indeed shows that differences in pay between men and women are quite low and even when they are are almost always described by different personal choices and home responsibilities between the sexes.

Academic Facts & Fallacies

This was probably my favorite chapters, since I feel that the subject is so rarely touched upon elsewhere. Here Sowell discusses several issues on the inefficiencies of colleges and universities. He has quite a bit to say about college professors as well – an interesting read for students!

Income Facts & Fallacies

This is the best chapter at taking widely-publicized statistics and turning the conventional dire conclusions on their head. Sowell shows that conventional analysis of income statistics contains some glaring fallacies. As close to an empirical analysis as it gets, since in here is presenting fallacies in statistic analysis rather than “fallacies” directly related to opinion-soaked issues.

Racial Facts & Fallacies

This chapter is similar in style of reasoning to “Male-Female Facts & Fallacies” as Sowell attacks widely held beliefs. This subject is persued much more in-depth by writers such as John McWhorter, who approaches racial issues similarly to Sowell. Sowell also has several books on race and affirmative action. Unfortunately, Sowell only lightly touches on affirmative action, despite having written devastating arguments against it in other writings.

Third World Facts & Fallacies

Probably the least interesting chapter to me but still essential for debunking common myths about developmental economics and the role of “rich” and “poor” countries. Correctly focuses on corruption and “economic infrastructure” barriers as explanations to the underdevelopment of nations and exposes crackpot causes like “overpopulation”.

Although I would still recommend “Basic Economics” to anyone looking to get an overall better understanding of Economics, “Economic Facts and Fallacies” goes further in touching on social issues and common misconceptions in a devastating blow to unreasoned thinking. Pick it up today!

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