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Section A: General News


Editorial: Some random thoughts on the passing scene




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Thomas Sowell
January 2, 2013 | 1,040 views | Post a comment

When I was growing up, an older member of the family used to say, “What you don’t know would make a big book.” Now that I am an older member of the family, I would say to anyone, “What you don’t know would fill more books than the Encyclopedia Britannica.” At least half of our society’s troubles come from know-it-alls, in a world where nobody knows even 10 percent of all.

Some people seem to think that, if life is not fair, then the answer is to turn more of the nation’s resources over to politicians -- who will, of course, then spend these resources in ways that increase the politicians’ chances of getting re-elected.

The annual outbursts of intolerance toward any display of traditional Christmas scenes, or even daring to call a Christmas tree by its name, show that today’s liberals are by no means liberal. Behind the mist of their lofty words, the totalitarian mindset shows through.

If you don’t want to have a gun in your home or in your school, that’s your choice. But don’t be such a damn fool as to advertise to the whole world that you are in “a gun-free environment” where you are a helpless target for any homicidal fiend who is armed. Is it worth a human life to be a politically correct moral exhibitionist?

The more I study the history of intellectuals, the more they seem like a wrecking crew, dismantling civilization bit by bit -- replacing what works with what sounds good.

Some people are wondering what takes so long for the negotiations about the “fiscal cliff.” Maybe both sides are waiting for supplies. Democrats may be waiting for more cans to kick down the road. Republicans may be waiting for more white flags to hold up in surrender.

If I were rich, I would have a plaque made up, and sent to every judge in America, bearing a statement made by Adam Smith more than two and a half centuries ago: “Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.”

If someone wrote a novel about a man who was raised from childhood to resent the successful and despise the basic values of America -- and who then went on to become president of the United States -- that novel would be considered too unbelievable, even for a work of fiction. Yet that is what has happened in real life.

Many people say, “War should be a last resort.” Of course it should be a last resort. So should heart surgery, divorce, and many other things. But that does not mean that we should just continue to hope against hope indefinitely that things will work out, somehow, until catastrophe suddenly overtakes us.

Everybody is talking about how we are going to pay for the huge national debt, but nobody seems to be talking about the runaway spending which created that record-breaking debt. In other words, the big spenders get political benefits from handing out goodies, while those who resist giving them more money to spend will be blamed for sending the country off the “fiscal cliff.”

When Barack Obama refused to agree to a requested meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- the leader of a country publicly and repeatedly threatened with annihilation by Iran’s leaders, as the Iranians move toward creating nuclear bombs -- I thought of a line from the old movie classic “Citizen Kane”: “Charlie wasn’t cruel. He just did cruel things.”

There must be something liberating about ignorance. Back when most members of Congress had served in the military, there was a reluctance of politicians to try to tell military leaders how to run the military services. But, now that few members of Congress have ever served in the military, they are ready to impose all sorts of fashionable notions on the military.

After watching a documentary about the tragic story of Jonestown, I was struck by the utterly unthinking way that so many people put themselves completely at the mercy of a glib and warped man, who led them to degradation and destruction. And I could not help thinking of the parallel with the way we put a glib and warped man in the White House.

There are people calling for the banning of assault weapons who could not define an “assault weapon” if their life depended on it. Yet the ignorant expect others to take them seriously.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His website is http://www.tsowell.com.

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