cover image Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective[em] [/em]

Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective[em] [/em]

Thomas Sowell. Basic, $28.99 (312p) ISBN 978-0-465-08293-3

Hoover Institution economist Sowell (Intellectuals and Race) minces no words in his hard-hitting survey of global wealth and poverty. He first considers the effects of geography on economic history before moving on to culture, comparing trust, human capital, and attitudes toward education and work in different societies. Dwelling on race, a familiar Sowell theme, he looks skeptically at liberal explanations for lingering black poverty, which he attributes to fatherless families and welfare. The latter, in Sowell’s view, creates dependent populations managed by self-interested bureaucrats. A prominent figure among African-American conservatives, he criticizes black community leaders for fomenting hostility toward other racial groups, and multiculturalism for enshrining “ghetto culture.” To what extent are “external barriers” significant, he asks, when questions about “internal deficiencies in knowledge, discipline, values” are “kept off the agenda?” For cures, Sowell disputes the rich-getting-richer, redistributionist themes pitched by Thomas Picketty, Paul Krugman, and others, noting fluxes in incomes and turnover of wealth over time. His compelling survey of what generates success and failure worldwide will challenge committed progressives. Sowell concludes, “If there is any common thread in these varying outcomes, it seems to be human capital.” Open-minded readers will find Sowell’s directness, honesty, and common sense refreshing and often wise. [em](Sept.) [/em]