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Wealth, Poverty and Politics

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  801 ratings  ·  119 reviews
In Wealth, Poverty, and Politics, Thomas Sowell, one of the foremost conservative public intellectuals in this country, argues that political and ideological struggles have led to dangerous confusion about income inequality in America. Pundits and politically motivated economists trumpet ambiguous statistics and sensational theories while ignoring the true determinant of i ...more
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published September 6th 2016 by Basic Books (first published September 1st 2015)
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4.40  · 
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 ·  801 ratings  ·  119 reviews


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L.A. Starks
Oct 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Sowell cuts through hype with bracing and all-too-rarely-heard observations about the importance of human capital and productivity--that is, making something that saves thousands or millions of lives, or relieves the toil of living vs. the over-discussed (and unproven) hypothesis about victimhood and equality of outcomes.

Great examples about ageism, the perils of isolation, and the fluctuations of cultures across time.
Jeanette
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Common sense revisited. The bigger picture on wealth that does not contain redefined terms for closed agenda whole piece world views.

I was especially interested in the chapters upon geographic determination for production and transport. And the many facts and world wide research details upon isolated mountain poverty. The story of a 12 year old who never saw an orange OR an olive in the countries that produce them, really ran home true for my ancestry.

But the crux is held here, although it isn'
...more
Charles
Sep 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Sowell’s latest book is the usual tour-de-force. It’s not so much that there’s anything startlingly new (although there are some interesting new statistics and several new lines of thought), but that Sowell has a unique ability to clearly and concisely bring together an analysis. In this case, that analysis is of “why are outcomes different for different people?” Sowell writes in opposition to the current vogue for equating differential outcomes with differential justice resulting from “m ...more
Todd
Sep 18, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Apart from the fact that this book is basically apologist for the status quo, it lacks any real strengths. The basic claim is that the development of an economy precedes down a path identical to, and unwavering from the path our economy took historically in its development. for some reason this justifies the way things are, and can be used to explain away the giant disparity in wealth.

if you want to read one book that goes deep into the development of an economy, let me recommend a book by Jare
...more
Elisa J
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Originally when I started this book, I was hoping it was going to have great analysis of non-anecdotal or surveyed data. But, for weeks, I'd stop, look at the source of the 'data' he used and looked at the papers that only a few actually refer to. Luckily my lab has access to those resources because like a lot of Harvard Business Review and The Economist papers, you have to pay for access....moving along..

Here's where I really had problems, even some of his own graduate economics papers contradi
...more
Chad
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think my problem with Sowell's book is that it's so transparently ideological. He starts with the premise that the only way to create widespread and sustained prosperity is by offering incentives for people and business concerns to 'create wealth.' And, then he seeks out examples that seem to prove his point, without seriously considering any counter-points.

If he weren't so consumed with his own confirmation bias, Sowell might also consider the merits of targeted 'wealth redistribution' progr
...more
George Slade
Oct 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
If you've read Sowell before, then this one will not be anything strikingly new to you; however, it is still a current and relevant look into the grossly backward logic of the welfare state enthusiasts.

Extreme partisans from either side need not read this, as their opinions will not be swayed either way, but if you are a middle ground moderate open to reason and logical arguments, then this book will be very interesting, enlightening, and entertaining for you.

This story is full of useful histor
...more
Diego
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I knew I would love this book and Dr. Thomas Sowell. In basic, this is an incredible logical sweep of demographic, political and cultural impacts on economics and income in-equality. Also incorporates personal stories of hardship as a child that makes for some great memoirs that are applicable to his message. So many books you read about economics are very quantitative with statistics galore, but Dr. Sowell discusses the fragile human psyche and the many cultures on what impacts human wealth and ...more
Dean
A very current answer on some causes and misperceptions on income inequality. There are 536 American billionaires. That is a good thing that our economy has help them achieve such wealth. Their wealth did not come to the disadvantage of others less fortunate. The creation of wealth is not a zero sum game. Some of these billionaires are Democrats and philanthropists. To blame the ills of the U.S. body politic on this "billionaire class" is a false narrative. At least Bernie has broadened his atta ...more
Tosin Adeoti
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This evening, I finished Thomas Sowell's "Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective".

This well-researched book deals with the subject of factors responsible for the progress of some groups and why others lag. As usual, Sowell's main accomplishment in the book is ruthlessly reasoning to a conclusion, peeling back extraneous layers and illogical reasoning to bring out a clear, defensible, and essentially irrefutable conclusion.

It broke down factors responsible for the success (or
...more
bartosz
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective is yet another book by Thomas Sowell which I can add to my personal hoard of great books.

The most important lesson I took from the book is that wealth, equality or other measures of prosperity of a nation should never be considered the default. Assuming that poverty or inequality are something sinister and something that should be explained goes against the fact they were the natural state for most of humanity's history. Demanding an exp
...more
Laila Kanon
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-non-fiction
* I will reread this book.

I heard of Thomas Sowell somewhere and watched some of his interviews on the telly and quite impressed by what he got to say and this book is the first book I ever read written by him and this is also the first economics book I've ever read. It's not as daunting and dense as I imagined it would be. What I admired about him is he made his conclusion based on facts and truth. I'm particularly impressed by the support he received from his research assistants, Na Liu and El
...more
Xavier Shay
There was enough interesting stuff in here for a 3, and the general thrust of "we need to actually look at data" and "different geographies/politics/cultures have different productivity" I agree with. Some stuff about affirmative action not being effective that I want to look into more.

But he seemed to ignore his own charter to suit his main points. Apparently black crime/single parent familes/etc started increasing in the 60s, which he blames on the "welfare state". This read like bad sociology
...more
Tony
Nov 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't think I can give a proper review of this book. Suffice to say it was incredible. As always, Thomas Sowell tackles complex ideas in a way that laymen can easily understand. He is a must read for anyone with interest in economics, and even more so a must read for anyone who thinks Bernie Sanders has some good ideas. If you read Thomas Pichetty's "Capital in the Twenty-First Century", this is a clear rebuttal.
Carolyn
Nov 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This brilliant tour de force could and should be the primary text for Economics 101. It examines in detail the factors that produce invention and wealth, and the factors that deter them. It looks at the political tenets and myths of our time, and checks out the facts behind them. There are 58 pages of notes that back up the author's statements. If I had the power, I'd require citizens to pass a test on the contents of this book before being allowed to vote.
Kent
Sep 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly outstanding rebuttal to the political rhetoric of the other side. Dense with facts and the microeconomic view of the world. A debater's best reference.
Charles
Aug 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Sowell’s latest book, published in 2015 and now revised a year later, is the usual tour-de-force. It’s not so much that there’s anything startlingly new (although there are some interesting new statistics and several new lines of thought), but that Sowell has a unique ability to clearly and concisely bring together an analysis. In this case, that analysis is of “why are outcomes different for different people?” Sowell writes in opposition to the current vogue for equating differential out ...more
Drtaxsacto
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the things which brought me to Economics was a clear division among practitioners. In my junior year as an undergraduate, I took a course in developmental economic which in my opinion vacillated between technical jargon - which when one spent time trying to discern what the concept was trying to explain; and statistical manipulations - which often were conditioned on odd assumptions. In the end I dropped the course because it made no sense to me. Then I encountered Adam Smith and Frederic ...more
Pieter
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economie
Is the American Dream still alive? Extremist Black Lives Matter blame racism in US Society, while left-wing authors like Pikketty focus on the growing inequality. Professor Sowell states that none reveil the true reason of amongst others long term black poverty.

The author selects four parameters that determine a nation's wealth: geographical, cultural, social and political factors. Like Harvard academic Landes, Sowell shows that wealth might be temporary and is highly correlated to the respectiv
...more
Martynas Petkevičius
I have mixed feelings about the book – it seems to support most of my preconceptions, but at the same time I'm unconvinced by Sowell's arguments for them. The book has numerous references, but some of them are just opinions of other social "scientists", other ones are statistics of 20 or so samples, yet another ones can be interpreted in different ways. However, Sowell takes a very strong and not intellectually honest stance on the culture being the most important, if not the sole factor determi ...more
Szymon
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At least a half of this book might be considered an appendix to the 'Basic Economics' by Sowell. Nevertheless, you will find here topics and points only briefly mentioned in 'Basic Economics' to be analyzed and described in a beautifully rational way, so peculiar to T.Sowell - some of them (sadly) can be seen as controversial nowadays.

I found the socio-political topics most interesting, pointing out how widely shared beliefs are nothing more but crooked facts, misleading interpretations used by
...more
Josh Broccolo
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sowell makes a strong case by looking at history and economics from a global perspective. Although the book is dry, he carefully builds his argument through most of the book so that the last couple of (superb!) chapters hit with impact.
Niko Khan
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Immediately ranks up there as one of my favourite books of all time. Brilliant work by Sowell. By the end of the book you'll have half of the book highlighted. Many interesting takeaways and all simplified for pretty much anyone to understand
Mit Sandru
This book is informative, to the point, backed by ample statistics/data, and without PC truth distortion. In my opinion this book should be mandatory reading in every college, if not the senior year in High Schools. After reading this book any person will understand why certain countries are wealthy or poor, why certain people in a country, like USA, are wealthy or poor, and how politics and the governments screw everything up. You’ll be able to see clearly the demagoguery of politicians and how ...more
Jay
Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"...there is no reason to expect even or random patterns of success." That line pretty much sums up the thrust of Sowell's new book. In his mid 80s, I'm happy to see him still putting out good work. He directly goes after many popular theories and writers today, including Jared Diamond, Joseph Stieglitz, and Thomas Piketty, and he does so with clear arguments and often funny writing. Sowell argues at length that geography, demography, and culture *and how they interact* all contribute to, but do ...more
Henry
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book, the table of contents aside, amounts to a roughly one hundred and fifty page prologue about the importance of various of geographic, cultural and social factors to the formation and outcome of various societies, followed by what I perceive to be the author's true purpose in writing the book in the first place. This being an attack on the welfare state as he perceives it, coupled with an attack on African American culture and progress, as well as the assertion that lasting poverty in b ...more
Dylan Stephenson
This book does a great job illustrating a host of factors leading up to economic disparities between countries. Thomas Sowell is clear, easy to understand and challenges common status quos of wealth and dynamics of groups trapped in poverty. However, near the end of the book particularly, he reveals a relatively strong bias without strong evidence to back it. He just sites several relatively seemingly random examples. Overall, a great book for those wanting to get into economic theory without di ...more
Malin Friess
Jan 26, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't finish this high-end academic book...maybe if I had the discipline and it was required reading in college. But on my own I failed.
Nathan Albright
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: challenge-2019
There is a great deal in this book that is familiar if you have read some of the author's other books.  Like many authors (myself included), Sowell has a consistent worldview and manages to be a prolific writer in large part by including that which is already in his working memory and that which he has already written and researched with a slightly different focus.  That is not to say that this book is a bad thing, as the author manages to make a strong and persuasive case for the importance of ...more
Mark Geise
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Wealth, Poverty, and Politics: An International Perspective” is another engrossing work by Thomas Sowell. Sowell’s main goal with this book is to dispel the accepted premise that inequalities between and among various groups are due to discrimination or other negative actions on the parts of others. He makes it clear that inequalities have been the norm throughout all of human history, and many times backward groups elevated themselves above groups that previously were far superior. Also, he un ...more
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Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social commentator, and author of dozens of books. He often writes from an economically laissez-faire perspective. He is currently a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In 1990, he won the Francis Boyer Award, presented by the American Enterprise Institute. In 2002 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal for prolific scholars ...more
“Slippery use of the word “privilege” is part of a vogue of calling achievements “privileges”—a vogue which extends far beyond educational issues, spreading a toxic confusion in many other aspects of life.” 9 likes
“isolation is a recurring factor in poverty and backwardness around the world, whether that is physical isolation or cultural isolation, for any number of particular reasons” 3 likes
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