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Pop Media Review: The Myths of Economic Inequality

Oxford Prominent News Sources

We are starting a new series that will examine popular media such as movies, TV, news, and creator content such as found on YouTube.

Much of our culture is either influenced by, or formed by, popular media. Over the years television, news and magazines, and radio were the popular communications platforms. With the advent of the Internet, we are adding to the list the on-demand services such as social media and online streaming. We will be grouping all of these formats together in something we call popular media.

Our intent in reviewing popular media is to examine the ideas behind the content and how those may influence our day to day thinking about our world. This may include examination of culture and politics, and how those influence our financial decisions. In addition, we will cover the courageous attempts by independent authors to bring honesty to the discussion of economics and finance, often times at great cost for themselves for the benefit of us all.

Thomas Sowell – Myths of Economic Inequality

We start the series with an examination of a recent interview by the Hoover Institute with Thomas Sowell, who is a Senior Fellow within the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. Sowell grew up in Harlem and served in the US marines during the Korean War. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree, earning Magna Cum Laude honors, from Harvard University. He received a Master’s degree from Columbia, and then a Doctorate in Economics from the University of Chicago. He may be best described as a libertarian conservative thinker, and has been influenced by popular economic and philosophical writers such as Frederich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Adam Smith, Henry Hazlitt, John Maynard Keynes, and Edmund Burk.

Our Thoughts

The video shown is from an interview on Uncommon Knowledge, a series sponsored by Hoover Institute. The discussion is interesting because we have a person, self-described as an early follower of Marxism, who has transformed through education and experience into quite the opposite – a free market advocate. Mr. Sowell expressed many times his thoughts on the myth that income equality be the focus of economic policy.

Egalitarian philosophy has it that outcomes should be managed, rather than opportunity. However, most capitalist, free market thinkers believe only that opportunities should be attainable by all.  Sowell’s own experience as an early Marxist thinker, whose precepts were proven inadequate to him during his time serving in government at the US Department of Labor, influenced his transformation away from is early endeavors into collectivist ideology.

Sowell also commented on current minority thinkers who advocate reparations for American slavery as taking from A to pay for B. Meaning, what happened in the past has happened, and has no direct influence on today. Sowell comments quite a bit about making excuses versus taking opportunities for improvement and removing oneself from an impoverished state. Sowell’s own life began during a time of Jim Crow laws, but through his own dedication and hard work, transformed into an esteemed career of serving his community through government, as an educator, and as a leading socioeconomic analyst. He serves as an example of taking lemons and making lemonade, and not succumbing to the destructive psychology of incessant victim hood.

What stood out most to us regarding this interview is that hard work and perseverance, often cited as the hallmarks of early American civilization, are still alive today in this country. And regardless of any disadvantages one may start out with, a person can still expect to raise themselves up, if they dedicate their efforts on self improvement rather than self misery and doubt.

If we are to truly experience a resurgence in American exceptionalism, it will be via the ideals of sacrifice, hard work, perseverance, friendship, and hope. Further, the economic mechanisms most aligned with these ideals are emphasis on small business, free markets, free trade, and censorship-free education.