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Intellectuals and Society
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An Absolute Tour de Force
What a fantastic book. Sowell details the
machinations of intellectuals (using the definition of
people for which the end product of their work is
ideas rather than anything intangible) in excellent
detail, and shows throughout history how the
intellectuals have more often than not reached
conclusions that have been catastrophically wrong -
even leading to war. He posits that, essentially, this
is because in order to convert their "special"
knowledge into practice, they must necessarily step
outside of their realm of true expertise. There's
really much more to it than that oversimplification,
but you need to read the book to see what I mean.
This is the first book by Sowell I have read, and I
will undoubtedly be reading more. It's occasionally
funny, often frightening, always brilliantly reasoned
and right on the mark. Reading this book is like
taking an entire semester's class with the smartest
professor you ever had in college, except this
professor is one of those rogue conservatives who
somehow got hired to teach young minds, defying
the usual views on campus. Fascinating, terrific, five
stars without hesitation. Just read it!

A Must Read that blasts through the conventional
wisdom of decades of thought. For anyone that takes
themselves seriously, this book is a must. It speaks
to all levels of education and all layers of society and
race. It certainly helps shake free the messages that
have become rooted in our brains from the
educational, political and media drumbeat of our
times. Decisions by intellectuals with no " real life"
understanding, have always and continue to, create
havoc in society. This book is a voice of reason in the
wilderness of modern times awash in conventional
wisdom. Well written and well researched **** *

If Mr. Sowell is angry at intellectuals, one reason is
for covering up the progress and prosperity of his
own country and the open-mindedness of its people.

"Data showing the poverty rate among black
married couples in America to have been in single
digits for every year since 1994 are unlikely to get
much, if any, attention in most of the media. Still less
is it likely to lead to any consideration of the
implications of such data for the view that the high
poverty rate among blacks reflects the larger
society's racism, even though married blacks are of
the same race as unmarried mothers living in the
ghetto on welfare, and would therefore be just as
subject to racism, if that was the main reason for
poverty," he writes.

Intellectuals and Society seems to have been written
by Mr. Sowell out of a belief, or a hope, that the
society will ultimately outsmart the intellectuals.
Armed with Mr. Sowell's book, readers will be in a
better position to help do that. *****__Ira E. Stoll
Educated at Cornell, UCLA, Amherst,
and other institutions of Economics,
Thomas Sowell has been translated
into six languages. He is currently a
scholar in residence at the Hoover
Institution, Stanford University. He
has published in both academic
journals and in such popular media as
Wall Street Journal, Forbes
magazine, and
Fortune, and he writes
a syndicated column that appears in
newspapers across the country.
About the Author
The influence of intellectuals is not only greater than
in previous eras but also takes a very different form
from that envisioned by those like Machiavelli and
others who have wanted to directly influence rulers.
It has not been by shaping the opinions or directing
the actions of the holders of power that modern
intellectuals have most influenced the course of
events, but by shaping public opinion in ways that
affect the actions of power holders in democratic
societies, whether or not those power holders accept
the general vision or the particular policies favored
by intellectuals. Even government leaders with
disdain or contempt for intellectuals have had to
bend to the climate of opinion shaped by those.

Intellectuals and Society not only examines the
track record of intellectuals in the things they have
advocated but also analyzes the incentives and
constraints under which their views and visions have
emerged. One of the most surprising aspects of this
study is how often intellectuals have been proved
not only wrong, but grossly and disastrously wrong
in their prescriptions for the ills of society—and how
little their views have changed in response to
empirical evidence of the disasters entailed by those
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