Whether you agree with him or not, Alan Wolfe writes entertaining book reviews. While I am not sure that I know any more about Thomas Sowell’s book Intellectuals and Society than I did before I started reading Wolfe’s review, I did enjoy the experience.
Here are a couple of snippets:
Writing, in short, is a form of risk-taking. You say what you believe and hope that you are proven right. Oddly for such a passionate defender of the market, Sowell never takes a risk. “Not only have intellectuals been insulated from material consequences,” this secure inhabitant of the right-wing think tank world writes, “they have often enjoyed immunity from even a loss of reputation after having been demonstrably wrong.” This is meant to apply to others, but the description works well also as autobiography. If Sowell were an investment fund, he would be hedged against failure. You can make a bet about what you are likely to find on any page he has ever written and be sure of being right.
Sowell is in desperate need of some cheer. Look Tom, I want to tell him, you write books just like the people who write the ones you attack. We think our ideas are correct, and so do you. Sure, we may get things wrong from time to time but hey, the free market did have something to do with the Great Depression even if you tell me otherwise. There is a reason we do this knowledge-and-thought stuff, you know. We understand that history is not pre-determined, that ideas matter, that experience holds surprises, and that anyone who dabbles in the life of the mind is privileged beyond belief. It is a great club and one should be proud to be a member. So come join me; there is room for us both. Once you get used to the idea that ideas are good things, and sometimes unexpected things, I am sure you will love it. You might even find yourself writing a book worth reading.