The Vision of the Anointed
Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy(amazon)
Thomas Sowell (View Bio)
Hardcover: Basic Books, 1995; Paperback: 1996.
"In this broadside against the received wisdom of America’s elite liberal intelligentsia, noted conservative Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, offers some strenuous arguments.... Thus, his attacks on the war on poverty, sex education and criminal justice policies forged in the 1960s counter some slippery rhetoric by their defenders…. Sowell deconstructs how statistics can be distorted to prove assumptions (that lack of prenatal care is the cause of black infant mortality) and gleefully skewers ‘Teflon prophets’ such as John Kenneth Galbraith (who said that big companies are immune from the market) and Paul Ehrlich (who said starvation loomed). While ‘the anointed’ favor explanations that exempt individuals from personal responsibility and seek painless solutions, those with the ‘tragic vision’ see policies as trade-offs." — Publishers Weekly
"Ever the contrarian, this time Sowell targets the rhetorical methods liberals use to support their views of social issues. Usually, they frame a crisis to which the well-educated, articulate liberal, ruthlessly disparaged by Sowell as the ‘anointed,’ offers a categorical solution. To reach the solution, the liberal resorts to argumentative means that Sowell regards as fallacious. Examples he cites are the ‘Aha!’ statistic in which condition A (say, infant mortality) is claimed to have cause B (inadequate budgets for prenatal care); or the assertion of a policy preference as a right, which is how a federal judge ordered a public library to allow an odoriferous, boisterous vagrant to roam the stacks-—so that he could exercise his ‘right to receive ideas.’ These means defend a worldview of perfectible man that Sowell contrasts with the ‘tragic’ view, stemming from human fallibility. Sowell’s targets will find his criticisms irksome, if even worthy of their notice, but avid conservatives, for whom Sowell is a true-blue intellectual force, will certainly seize upon his analysis for succor." — Booklist