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Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell
19 May 2015
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In a recent panel discussion on poverty at Georgetown University, President Barack Obama gave another … Read More.

5 May 2015
Race, Politics and Lies

Among the many painful ironies in the current racial turmoil is that communities scattered across the country … Read More.

28 Apr 2015
Anti-Trust Law and Lawlessness

We all make mistakes and some of us learn from them. What is even better is to learn from other people's mistakes,… Read More.

Graduation Gifts


This is the season of college graduations, and many people may be wondering what kinds of gifts would be most appropriate for young people leaving the world of academia and heading out to face the challenges and opportunities of adulthood in the real world.

Given the narrow range of left to far left views of the world on most college campuses, and the vast ignorance of other views, even among graduates of elite academic institutions, one valuable gift might be a book giving a different perspective on the world.

The recent publication of "American Contempt for Liberty" a hefty, 417-page collection of columns by economist Walter E. Williams, would be an excellent choice. For many college graduates, this book would be virtually an education in itself, covering many issues and presenting many perspectives they have never encountered before, in this era of academic lockstep thinking on social issues.

How often will most college students have seen Social Security exposed as "The National Ponzi scheme," as one of Professor Williams' columns does in plain, hard-hitting English? Or see minimum wage laws examined in terms of their actual results, rather than their pious rhetoric?

Another book that would open the eyes of most of today's graduates to a world they have never encountered or conceived is "Life at the Bottom" by Theodore Dalrymple. It shows the actual effects of the welfare state on the way people live their lives. It is not a pretty picture, but inexperienced young people need to become acquainted with realities, after years of hearing high-sounding theories.

The fact that "Life at the Bottom" is about low-income whites in England, living lives remarkably similar to the lives of blacks in American ghettos, means that it cannot be dismissed as racism, the way American promoters of the welfare state evade responsibility for the social disasters they have created.

Any of a number of blockbuster best sellers by Ann Coulter can provide eye-opening revelations about the economic madness and moral dry rot originating on the political left. Her recently published book, "Adios, America!" is about the heedless rush to solve our immigration problems by simply declaring millions of illegal immigrants to be legal.

Like other Ann Coulter books, its cutting wit and take-no-prisoners style is backed up by thoroughly researched facts, including facts that most of the media refuse to report.

Books are not the only graduation gifts that could let young people, who are leaving the world of campus groupthink, know that there is another world called reality.

Subscriptions to high quality publications with a different viewpoint are another possibility. The quarterly publications "City Journal" and "Hoover Digest" are gems of this genre.

My own favorite approach to controversial issues, going back to my teaching days, is to confront students with the strongest arguments available on opposite sides of these issues. The point of this approach is not to feed the students prepackaged conclusions, but to force them to seek facts and apply logic, in their own attempts to resolve complex and important controversies.

Nor should they be allowed to cop out with some vague pieties about how "the truth lies somewhere in between." The truth is wherever you find it — and the process of trying to find it is what education should be about, regardless of what conclusions they reach.

For those who share this conception of education, one of the best gifts to graduates — or to undergraduates still going through lockstep academia — would be a subscription to publications with opposite viewpoints, to make up for the narrow range of views in our educational institutions today.

My suggestion would be to give young people a subscription to both the "New York Times" and "Investor's Business Daily." Seeing how the editorial pages of these newspapers clash, day after day on issue after issue, should build up some mental muscles that students seldom get from being mental couch potatoes on politically correct campuses, where one viewpoint fits all.

Since both newspapers have electronic versions available for iPads and other devices, that should fit the current lifestyle of the young, while they move beyond the current groupthink.

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



5 Comments | Post Comment
Ann Coulter has the facts huh? Like "women are too stupid to be allowed to vote", she must be talking about herself!
Comment: #1
Mon May 25, 2015 8:03 PM
These summer suggestions about gifts as well as their Christmas counterparts are always wonderful for finding new books that are worth reading. Thank you Dr. Sowell for the excellent recommendations in literature, as well as a lifetime of outstanding expression of economic thought and social truth in your own many high-quality books. Just like Friedman, Hayek, and Mises, we are in great debt to you sir. You are one of the few intellectuals worth listen to these days.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Alfred Maynard
Tue May 26, 2015 5:28 AM
While Ann Coulter chooses sarcasm and a more frontal attack method (not my favorite approach)- it's obvious you (William) like to take things out of context to smear. Please don't bother with that here. As for the suggestions, I'm on board. Even if young people (anyone, actually) eventually arrive at an opinion I don't agree with, I can certainly feel better about it if I know they have weighed MANY perspectives and have an educated opinion - one they UNDERSTAND and is consistent with their values. I'm sick of the laziness and unwillingness of so many to look beyond the MSM for explanations and analysis. Alas, we've had it so good for so long. It will take something horrific - I fear - to awaken people in this country to real problem-solving efforts that go beyond lofty ideological platitudes.
Comment: #3
Posted by: L Lawliss
Wed May 27, 2015 10:11 AM
Indeed. We gifted a close relative just entering university with a book I highly recommend to as author Thomas says, "open the eyes". Book titled Global Capitalism and The Crisis of Humanity, author William I Robinson and is available on Kindle.
Comment: #4
Posted by: steveM
Thu May 28, 2015 6:57 AM

LOL, there's no way anyone could "smear" that nasty piece of work. She's just another fame hag with a privileged upbringing she tries to keep hidden because it would compromise the tough-talking, take no prisoners, anti-elitist image she cultivates so lucratively. "While the Coulters were not then among the most affluent in New Canaan, a more elitist social environment does not exist. Ann Coulter is just another lost soul who found her voice and hasn't shut up since. And she won't until our culture finds the strength to stop rewarding those who feel entitled to enrich themselves at the expense of others."

Anyone who supports or approves of Ann Coulter has lost all their credibility. Someone say she the third Limbaugh brother.
Comment: #5
Posted by: steveM
Thu May 28, 2015 7:19 AM
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