opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell
9 Feb 2016
Toxic Words

During this election year, we are destined to hear many words that are toxic in the way they misrepresent … Read More.

2 Feb 2016
Random Thoughts

Random thoughts on the passing scene: Will this November's presidential election come down to a choice … Read More.

2 Feb 2016
After Iowa

Senator Ted Cruz's upset victory against Donald Trump has robbed "The Donald" of his stock answer to any … Read More.

Too Many Apologies


Tiger Woods doesn't owe me an apology. Nothing that he has ever done has cost me a dime nor an hour of sleep.

This is not a plea to be "non-judgmental." I am very judgmental about all sorts of things, including Tiger Woods' bad behavior. But that is very different from saying that he somehow owes me an apology.

For all I know, my neighbors may be judgmental when I drive out of my driveway in a 15-year-old car. But they have never said anything to me about it, and I have never offered them an apology. This is not equating driving a 15-year-old car with what Tiger Woods did. But the point is that any apology he might make should be made to his family, who were hurt, not to the public, who might be disappointed in him, but not really hurt.

Public apologies to people who are not owed any apology have become one of the many signs of the mushy thinking of our times. So are apologies for things that somebody else did.

Among the most absurd apologies have been apologies for slavery by politicians. For one thing, slavery is not something you can apologize for, any more than you can apologize for murder.

If someone says to you that he murdered someone near and dear to you, what are you supposed to say? "No problem, we all make mistakes"? Not bloody likely!

Slavery is too serious for an apology and somebody else being a slaveowner is not something for you to apologize for. When somebody who has never owned a slave apologizes for slavery to somebody who has never been a slave, then what began as mushy thinking has degenerated into theatrical absurdity— or, worse yet, politics.

Slavery has existed all over the planet for thousands of years, with black, white, yellow and other races being both slaves and enslavers. Does that mean that everybody ought to apologize to everybody else for what their ancestors did? Or are the only people who are supposed to feel guilty the ones who have money that others want to talk them out of?

This craze for aimless apologies is part of a general loss of a sense of personal responsibility in our time.

We are supposed to feel guilty for what other people did but there are a thousand cop-outs for what we ourselves did to those we did it to.

Back in the 1960s, when so many foolish ideas flourished simply because they were new, a New York Times columnist tried to make the case that we were all somehow responsible for the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

That was considered to be Deep Stuff. It made you one of the special folks when you believed that, instead of one of the rest of us poor dumb slobs who believed that the man who shot him was responsible.

For more than a century, the intelligentsia have been trying to get us to focus on the "root causes" of crime— supposedly created by "society"— instead of locking up thieves or executing murderers.

If some people don't have the money or the achievements of others, that too is society's fault, in the eyes of those for whom personal responsibility is an outmoded idea.

Personal responsibility is a real problem for those who want to collectivize society and take away our power to make our own decisions, transferring that power to third parties like themselves, who imagine themselves to be so much wiser and nobler than the rest of us.

Aimless apologies are just one of the incidental symptoms of an increasing loss of a sense of personal responsibility— without which a whole society is in jeopardy.

The police cannot possibly maintain law and order by themselves. Millions of people can monitor their own behavior better than any third parties can. Cops can cope with that segment of society who have no sense of personal responsibility, but not if that segment becomes a large part of the whole population.

Yet increasing numbers of educators and the intelligentsia seem to have devoted themselves to undermining or destroying a sense of personal responsibility and making "society" responsible instead. Aimless apologies are just one small symptom of this larger and more dangerous attitude.

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



4 Comments | Post Comment
Dear Mr. Sowell,
It really made my day to see your article, "Public apologies show our mushy thinking", in my paper, The Birmingham News, Friday 26th.
I have been thinking the same thing, and agree 100 percent.
Thank you for having the courage to say what needed to be said.
Lorene B Randolph
Birmingham, Alabama
Comment: #1
Posted by: Lorene B Randolph
Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:50 AM
Dear Mr. Sowell, thanks for your excellent article. People are finding out that everyone that works and pays taxes are the 'REAL SLAVES'. Do you think the politicians will ever apologize to Taxpayers for bankrupting America, borrowing trillions that's unaccounted for, selling off America - one job at a time - and politicians continue to 'sit around' and 'discuss' the same old rhetoric, year after year, thinking Taxpayers will continue to believe they're earning these high dollar salaries and retirement packages they've been getting for over five (5) decades! These incompetent, corrupt, and greedy, blood-sucking tics are the"" laughing stock"" all around the world and have committed treason against America, taking money from insurance, drug, and other companies, thus making the Taxpayers pay ten-fold, is enough to send them away - no trial necessary!
"Insurance Outrage!" This brought me back to writing about
incompetent, corrupt and greedy politicians, instead of working on my
novels. I've written several articles about how to 'Stop the Trillions from
flowing into politicians' pockets from insurance and drug companies!'
take a rocket scientist to figure this out how these 'donations' created
such deterioration to America.

What happened to honesty, integrity, principles and respect when people had
to pay their own way, their own doctors and hospitals? Let's see, this was
before decades of the incompetent, corrupt, and greedy blood-sucking ticks
and their very deep pockets!

Taxpayers do you remember the 'Heartbeat of America' - American textile and
furniture manufacturing businesses making and selling their goods;
therefore, being able to buy homes, cars, and food for their families.
Politicians took this away from hard-working Taxpayers with their 'Free
Trade', stating America would become a service country. Really, the only
servicing being done now is unemployment, social and welfare offices! Fair
Tax' must be put into law, making everyone a paying participant!

When are Taxpayers going to hear the words "We, the politicians, are going
to stop taking donations from insurance, drug companies or any company,
or person. We intend to cut our salaries and retirements to $12,000.00
yearly, in order to reduce the trillion dollars we've borrowed without
Taxpayers consent!"

I'm quoting from latest articles "AIG reports losses as insurance business
lags - the insurer reports a drop in new premiums as it struggles to repay
government aid! Fannie Mae seeks $15 billion in aid, which would bring total
to more than $75 billion (plus) and the Tax and Spend incompetent, corrupt,
blood-sucking ticks continue to spend America into an oblivion. Taxpayers
knew when the 'bailouts' (handouts) started there would be no end to these
endless money pits created by politicians. While I'm on a roll, for over
five (5) decades Taxpayers have heard politicians talking about government
reform, ethics, housing, education, healthcare, crime, drugs, insurance and
the list goes on. Point is, all they've done is create bigger government,
more spending, and absolutely has been done nor will be done. Can't think of
a better paying career with no thinking or labor involved, can you?

America is now an enslaved nation with trillions of dollars in debt, and
counting, and all
because of incompetent, corrupt, and greedy politicians. I'm quoting John
Adams - "There are two ways to
conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword, the other is by debt."
Surely, you remember history and the Dictator that said "We'll destroy
America and never lift a finger!" If this doesn't wake you up, nothing will!

Comment: #2
Posted by: Shirley deLong
Sun Feb 28, 2010 10:09 AM
A very refreshing article to read. As a Senior in College, I have finally come to appreciate ideas such as this that have been instilled in me since I was young, by my parents.
Comment: #3
Posted by: John Allen
Mon Mar 1, 2010 11:01 AM
Mr. Sowell -

I have a ten year old son who is passionate about the game of golf. My husband and I support his love for the sport. We especially appreciate the code of conduct that is expected on the course in dress, action and attitude. Golf is a gentleman's game. Tiger Woods is always someone he has looked up to.

It was very difficult for me to have to explain Tiger's infidelities to my boy. He absolutely could not understand how someone who displayed such professionalism and perfection in public, failed so miserably in his private life. Tiger Woods has a responsibility to young people everywhere who look up to him and strive to become what he projected to be. His apology was essential to young people around the world who have held him up as a role model.

My oldest daughter was 10 years old when the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky affair became public. She came home from school one day asking me what a 'blow job' was. I am the mother of 5. I've had to directly answer a lot of difficult questions. Learning that she heard this term connected to the President of the United States angered me more than I can express. To this day, the level of disrespect I have for Bill Clinton is palpable because he never admitted to or apologized for his transgressions. We have always raised our children to listen to and respect those in authority. His actions mattered.

We use the actions of others to help shape the value systems we want to see in our families. It is an enormous let down when high profile individuals behave in a manner that goes against that value system. They do have a standard to uphold.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Liz Fleissner
Tue Mar 2, 2010 8:32 AM
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
Thomas Sowell
Feb. `16
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 1 2 3 4 5
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Authorís Podcast
Star ParkerUpdated 10 Feb 2016
Michelle Malkin
Michelle MalkinUpdated 10 Feb 2016
Walter Williams
Walter E. WilliamsUpdated 10 Feb 2016

1 Feb 2011 Spilled Milk

13 Jan 2009 Pretty Talk and Ugly Realities

21 Apr 2015 Chaos in the Primaries