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Random Thoughts

A Commentary By Thomas Sowell

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Random thoughts on the passing scene:

One of the problems with being a pessimist is that you can never celebrate when you are proven right.

If what you want from politicians are quick and easy answers, someone is sure to supply them, regardless of which party you follow. History can tell you where quick and easy answers lead. But, if you don't want to bother reading history, you can just wait and relive its catastrophes.

What is "economic power"? What can Bill Gates stop you from doing?

I don't understand how people who cannot predict the weather five days in advance can predict the climate decades from now.

One of history's painful ironies is how often people on the brink of disaster have been preoccupied with trivialities. With a nuclear Iran with intercontinental missiles looming on the horizon, our intelligentsia are preoccupied with calling achievements "privilege" and playing other word games.

Of life's many surprises, encountering an old flame, years later, is in a class by itself.

Some people seem to think that Donald Trump has great abilities because he is a billionaire. But being born rich and getter richer is not exactly a Horatio Alger miracle.

Of all the disheartening signs of the utter ignorance of so many American college students, nothing so completely disheartened me as seeing on television a black college student who did not know what the Civil War was about. Fifty years ago, it would have been virtually impossible to find a black adult, with even an elementary school education, who did not know what the Civil War was about.

Global warming, due to greenhouse gasses, is the latest in a long series of one-factor theories about a multi-factor world. Such theories have often enjoyed great popularity, despite how often they have turned out to be wrong.

One of the most richly rewarded skills in politics is the ability to make self-interest sound like idealism. Nowhere is this tactic more successful than in so-called "campaign finance reform" laws -- spending restrictions that prevent challenger candidates from buying enough publicity to offset the free publicity that incumbents get from the media.

At one time, it seemed as if the free world had defeated the world of totalitarian dictatorships twice -- first the Nazis and then the Communists. But, with the slow but steady expansion of government control over our lives and the spread of the idea that people who deny "climate change" should be punished as criminals, it seems as if totalitarianism may be winning, after all.

People who want to redistribute wealth often misunderstand the nature and causes of wealth. Tangible wealth can be confiscated, but you cannot confiscate the knowledge which produced that wealth. Countries that confiscated the wealth of some groups and expelled them, destitute, have often seen the economy collapse, while the expelled people became prosperous again elsewhere.

Some people think that Ted Cruz would not have as good a chance against Hillary Clinton as would Donald Trump. They say that Cruz does not have a sparkling style of speaking. But, after months of hearing childish insults from Trump, the public may be ready for some serious adult talk by someone with substance, who can cut right through Hillary's shallow evasions.

To me, beautiful music is whatever music makes you glad to be a human being, whether it is "Musetta's Waltz" from "La Boheme" or "Muskrat Ramble" from New Orleans. Much of what passes for music today makes me wish that, if there is such a thing as reincarnation, I can come back as a dolphin.

Republican leaders seem to be worried that Donald Trump will get the nomination and lose the election. Those of us who are not Republicans should worry that Trump will get the nomination and win the election. After all, the fate of the country is a lot more important than the fate of a political party -- and in far greater danger.

As this country continues to degenerate, we hope that it never reaches the desperate stage where only a military coup can rescue it from catastrophes created by feckless politicians. But, if that day ever arrives, we can only hope that the military will do their duty and step in. It is one of the few institutions dedicated to something besides individual self-interest.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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