Glenn Beck talks with Thomas Sowell


Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One

By Thomas Sowell


GLENN: Thomas Sowell, he is the scholar in residence at the Hoover Institution. He has also written a book, Applied Economics: Thinking About Beyond Stage One. He's probably one of the great economic minds of our time and he is on the phone with me to try to explain some of these things to me, Thomas. Tell me that I'm wrong that we're not really seeing a course change as much as we're seeing somebody step on the gas and make things much, much worse?

SOWELL: Oh, I'd feel so much better if I could tell you you were wrong, but I'm afraid you're right. It is truly amazing what we've talked ourselves into. You are right, first of all, about the government itself being the major factor behind this whole mess. They got in there by politicians deciding that they knew how housing markets ought to operate better than people who had operated housing markets all their lives and so they put pressure in various sorts but very strong pressure on all kinds of lending institutions to lend money to people they would never have lent money to otherwise. And now that both the lenders and the borrowers have been ruined by this transaction, the politicians are looking everywhere except in Washington to find a scapegoat.

GLENN: Let me -- you know, I just asked, I just asked this question because I went back and I read. Thomas, so you know, I'm a complete and total loser and I don't have a life. I went back and I read all the inaugural speeches up until 1937, and I read them and I noticed that there was a change around 1880 to 1900 where they started talking about globalism and they started talking about banking and everything else. And when you get to Wilson and then you get to FDR, they're saying exactly the same thing. They are talking about the same exact problem that we have during this inauguration. And it caused me to think to myself, "Well, wait a minute. What are the things that are consistent from then to now?" And all I can come up with is the gigantic banking system, the Fed, the government, all of these things that we never pay attention to, nor change. Am I off and the wrong track?

SOWELL: No, I'm afraid that my reading of the Great Depression's the same way. I'm just amazed at all the things that are put forth under the label of change, are things that have been tried before, they were tried throughout the 1930s. They failed throughout the 1930s and now they are going to do it all over again so we can have them fail again.

If you look at the -- you know, the other thing that's very much the same is the blaming of what's happened on the market rather than on the politicians.

GLENN: Yeah.

SOWELL: Now, for more than a year after the great stock market crash of 1929, the unemployment rate never reached 10%. Once the politicians got into it starting with the Hawley-Smoot Tariff, the country went through nearly three consecutive years in which unemployment never fell below 20% for any month.

GLENN: Thomas, help me out on this because a lot of people won't know what the Hawley-Smoot thing is and basically what that was, correct me if I'm wrong, is protectionism saying we've got to protect American jobs, we're going to put some tariffs on people that are importing stuff, et cetera, et cetera. If we're saying we won't do that now but the rest of the world is in trouble, too, and if one starts to go into protectionism, we all have to and that just changes the dynamics entirely, doesn't it?

SOWELL: Oh, absolutely. You know, I would sense futility in saying this. More than 1,000 economists from leading universities across the country urged the President and the congress not to put these tariffs in which were higher than tariffs had been in over a century. But their argument was that we're going to stop the imports, we're going to produce these things at home and therefore there will be more American jobs and, you know, no thought of what you just said. Others will then retaliate and then we'll be not only back where we were, we'll be worse off than where we were because all international trade will shrink, which it did.

GLENN: In 1987 Ronald Reagan was run through the mud because he did nothing to curb things and they said he was out of touch. The New York Times I believe said that he was -- that he had missed a great opportunity to change the way things were done. A lot of people are also telling us that this is just 1987. Clear up the differences between now and 1987.

SOWELL: The biggest difference, of course, is that Reagan understood that the government could make things worse, and he did nothing and he paid a high price in terms of the media and so on. But the fact is it was from that date to 2007 that we enjoyed 20 years of the greatest prosperity and low unemployment, low inflation than we've seen perhaps in the whole history of the country, whereas now Obama is taking us back to Hoover and FDR, both of whom thought that the government should intervene.

You know, prior to the Great Depression of the 1930s, nobody thought it was the federal government's business to try to get us out of our depression and no other depression was ever as deep or as long-lasting as this one where the government intervened.



GLENN: Well, let me ask you this: It's my understanding that the Depression is called, in all other textbooks all around the world, it is just known as the Depression. In France it's the Depression. But here in America it's the Great Depression. Why?

SOWELL: Because here in America there was this massive intervention which made the depression far worse, far more long-lasting and we took longer to get out of it than other countries did. So it left a major scar on the national psyche. Worst of all, it left us with the wrong message, namely that FDR had come to the rescue and saved us when the marketplace failed, when it was just the opposite.

GLENN: So Thomas, I hear from people all the time: Well, we've got to do something. Well, no, not necessarily. But what should, what should we be pulling for? What should we be demanding?

SOWELL: Well, first of all, there's no such thing as doing something. You have to do something specific. And so the merits, the demerits of what specifically they are going to do or what ought to be discussed. However, looking at it historically, where the government has done nothing, the result has usually been far better than when they've done something.

GLENN: Unbelievably. So we should be, as a people we should be saying, do nothing. Do you believe, Thomas, that we were headed for a global crash if we wouldn't have done the bailouts?

SOWELL: That was one of the things that made me hesitate to criticize it but in retrospect it's clear that the bailouts, first of all, have not been what they were advertised to be and so how effective they would have been if they had been what they were advertised to be is a moot point because they weren't. We're now bailing out everybody. And I start to wonder why aren't they bailing out economists.

GLENN: Is it too much of a -- is it an overstatement to say that America has become or is significantly down the road of becoming France and we just don't know it yet?

SOWELL: I'm afraid we're down the road to becoming France not only economically but worse, much more dangerously, France in terms of international relations. I'm always amazed at people who think we are going it alone if we don't have France with us. I can't think of a country in the past 100 years that has made more catastrophic foreign policy mistakes than France. Let's not forget that France collapsed in just six weeks of fighting in 1940. And what isn't as widely known is that both the French generals and the German generals thought the French had the better chance of winning that war than Germany did.

GLENN: Thomas Sowell from the -- he is a scholar in residence at the Hoover institute at Stanford University, one of probably the best economic minds in the country right now.

May I just go down a conspiracy theorist road here with you for a second?

SOWELL: Oh, yeah.

GLENN: Because you are a smart guy and you are not into the conspiracy theory. So you can debunk this. Here's what I fear, Thomas, and that is that there seems to be, like with the G20 there seems to be, what was it, a couple of weeks ago over in Paris the leadership of Germany and France and England getting together and saying there needs to be a new controlled kind, globally controlled capitalism. Merkel was calling for an economic board that would be like the security council at the UN where all laws would have to be passed through this so no country would truly be free economically anymore. You've got China and France calling for a new currency, et cetera, et cetera, and you have Barack Obama who is this global figure, goes over and gives the first speech ever on a campaign over in Germany. It seems to me like there is a framework being laid if there was ever a gigantic global economic meltdown, that there would be a rapid and sudden push toward some sort of a global framework on the economy. Do you buy into any of that or am I just seeing things incorrectly?

SOWELL: You don't need a conspiracy for that to happen. All you need is a lot of like minded people all reinforcing one another's views and you get the same effect as if there had been a conspiracy.

GLENN: But that's what it seems like we have.

SOWELL: Yes.

GLENN: So you think this is a possibility?

SOWELL: Oh, absolutely. It's going to be trying on the international stage the same kinds of policies that have failed repeatedly in individual nations all around the world. This is international central planning.

Now, national central planning has been such a disaster that even communists and socialist countries have gotten rid of it. I mean, China is a classic example where they decide it's such a disaster, we're going to go for the market. Well, now we're going to move back in the other direction. We're going to try it, since it failed in innumerable countries individually, now we're going to try it collectively so they can fail throughout the world.

GLENN: Isn't that the way socialism always works, though? It always fails small and they say, well, it's because it wasn't big enough.

SOWELL: That's right.

GLENN: I mean, it's insane.

SOWELL: Well, yeah. You know, I suppose we're having interplanetary exploration. If it fails all over the Earth, they say it must be good somewhere in the other galaxies.

GLENN: Today is Martin Luther King Day. We are inaugurating our first black President. You are an African-American. What does this time period mean to you?

SOWELL: Oh, heavens. I must tell you in all frankness I can't bear to watch the television except for sports because of all the hoopla. I suppose those people who thought that all the problems that we have as blacks are due to the wrong policies, the wrong people in power and that changing that's going to matter. I don't. I don't even think that this is a breakthrough in the sense of which some people are saying it. I don't doubt for a minute that Colin Powell could have been elected, you know, eight years ago had he been so inclined. So that it doesn't come as nearly as big a surprise to me as it does to some people.

GLENN: Have you ever been called a sellout of your race for saying something like that? I mean, that's pretty significant.

SOWELL: Oh, yeah, that's one of the milder things I've been called. You know, you don't -- you have to choose between whether you are going to call them as you see them or whether you are going to seek to be popular. Since I'm not running for office, there's no reason for me to pull my punches.

GLENN: Do the moves of Barack Obama, which are so like those moves of FDR, do they frighten you for our future at all or make you more hopeful or neither?

SOWELL: Oh, they make me enormously concerned because we know, or at least those of us who bother to read history know what a disaster the FDR policies were and unfortunately I have a terrible feeling that Obama and certainly his supporters haven't the slightest interest in finding out what happened when this was done the last time because I don't think we can stand a 10-year depression. I mean, you realize that for ten consecutive years unemployment never fell below 10%.

GLENN: Thomas Sowell, it is a pleasure to have you on. I'd love to have you on and pick your brain some more if you don't mind, you know, reappearing on the program.

SOWELL: I look forward to it.

GLENN: Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. We'll talk to you again.

SOWELL: Bye-bye.

GLENN: Let me tell you, our sponsor this half hour is Goldline. That doesn't make you feel good. Does that make you feel good, Stu?

STU: He's one of the best, yeah.

GLENN: You are not on mic.

STU: It's just a setting problem. Don't worry about it.

GLENN: Does that make you feel good? You know, that's just the kind of guy -- I want to talk to these people so they can say, "No, you got it wrong." Unfortunately just make me want to go buy more gold.

 

Stop trying to be right and think of the children

Mario Tama/Getty Images

All the outrage this week has mainly focused on one thing: the evil Trump administration and its minions who delight in taking children from their illegal immigrant parents and throwing them all in dungeons. Separate dungeons, mind you.

That makes for a nice, easy storyline, but the reality is less convenient. Most Americans seem to agree that separating children from their parents — even if their parents entered the US illegally — is a bad thing. But what if that mom and dad you're trying to keep the kids with aren't really the kids' parents? Believe it or not, fraud happens.

RELATED: Where were Rachel Maddow's tears for immigrant children in 2014?

While there are plenty of heartbreaking stories of parents simply seeking a chance for a better life for their children in the US, there are also corrupt, abusive human traffickers who profit from the illegal immigration trade. And sorting all of this out is no easy task.

This week, the Department of Homeland Security said that since October 2017, more than 300 children have arrived at the border with adults claiming to be their parents who turned out not to be relatives. 90 of these fraud cases came from the Rio Grande Valley sector alone.

In 2017, DHS reported 46 causes of fraudulent family claims. But there have already been 191 fraud cases in 2018.

Shouldn't we be concerned about any child that is smuggled by a human trafficker?

When Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen pointed out this 315 percent increase, the New York Times was quick to give these family fraud cases "context" by noting they make up less than one percent of the total number of illegal immigrant families apprehended at the southern border. Their implication was that Nielsen was exaggerating the numbers. Even if the number of fraud cases at the border was only 0.001 percent, shouldn't we be concerned about any child that is smuggled by a human trafficker?

This is the most infuriating part of this whole conversation this week (if you can call it a "conversation") — that both sides have an angle to defend. And while everyone's busy yelling and making their case, children are being abused.

What if we just tried, for two seconds, to love having mercy more than we love having to be right all the time?

Remember when cartoons were happy things? Each panel took you on a tiny journey, carrying you to an unexplored place. In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud writes:

The comics creator asks us to join in a silent dance of the seen and the unseen. The visible and the invisible. This dance is unique to comics. No other artform gives so much to its audience while asking so much from them as well. This is why I think it's a mistake to see comics as a mere hybrid of the graphic arts and prose fiction. What happens between . . . panels is a kind of magic only comics can create.

When that magic is manipulated or politicized, it often devolves the artform into a baseless thing. Yesterday, Occupy Wall Street published the perfect example of low-brow deviation of the artform: A six-panel approach at satire, which imitates the instructions-panel found in the netted cubbyhole behind seats on airplanes. The cartoon is a critique of the recent news about immigrant children being separated from their parents after crossing the border. It is a step-by-step guide to murdering US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents.

RELATED: Cultural appropriation has jumped the shark, and everyone is noticing

The first panel shows a man shoving an infant into a cage meant for Pomeranians. The following five panels feature instructions, and include pictures of a cartoonish murder.

The panels read as follows:

  1. If an ICE agent tries to take your child at the border, don't panic.
  2. Pull your child away as quickly as possibly by force.
  3. Gently tell your child to close his/her eyes and ears so they won't witness what you are about to do.
  4. Grab the ICE agent from behind and push your knife into his chest with an upward thrust, causing the agent's sternum to break.
  5. Reach into his chest and pull out his still beating heart.
  6. Hold his bloody heart out for all other agents to see, and tell them that the same fate awaits them if they f--- with your child again.

Violent comics are nothing new. But most of the time, they remain in the realms of invented worlds — in other words, not in our own, with reference to actual people, let alone federal agents.

The mainstream media made a game of crying racism with every cartoon depiction of Obama during his presidency, as well as during his tenure as Senator, when the New Yorker, of all things, faced scrutiny for depicting him in "Muslim clothing." Life was a minefield for political cartoonists during the Obama era.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

This year, we saw the leftist outrage regarding The Simpsons character Apu — a cartoon representation of a highly-respected, though cartoonishly-depicted, character on a cartoon show composed of cartoonishly-depicted characters.

We all remember Charlie Hebdo, which, like many outlets that have used cartoon satire to criticize Islam, faced the wrath and ire of people unable to see even the tamest representation of the prophet, Muhammad.

Interesting, isn't it? Occupy Wall Street publishes a cartoon that advocates murdering federal agents, and critics are told to lighten up. Meanwhile, the merest depiction of Muhammad has resulted in riots throughout the world, murder and terror on an unprecedented scale.

The intersection of Islam and comics is complex enough to have its own three-hour show, so we'll leave it at that, for now. Although, it is worth mentioning the commentary by satirical website The Onion, which featured a highly offensive cartoon of all the major religious figures except Muhammad. It noted:

Following the publication of the image above, in which the most cherished figures from multiple religious faiths were depicted engaging in a lascivious sex act of considerable depravity, no one was murdered, beaten, or had their lives threatened.

Of course, Occupy Wall Street is free to publish any cartoon they like. Freedom of speech, and so on—although there have been several instances in which violent cartoons were ruled to have violated the "yelling fire in a crowded theater" limitation of the First Amendment.

Posting it to Twitter is another issue — this is surely in violation of Twitter's violent content policy, but something tells me nothing will come of it. It's a funny world, isn't it? A screenshot of a receipt from Chick-fil-A causes outrage but a cartoon advocating murder gets crickets.

RELATED: Twitter mob goes ballistic over Father's Day photo of Caitlyn Jenner. Who cares?

In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud concludes that, "Today the possibilities for comics are — as they've always been — endless. Comics offers . . . range and versatility, with all the potential imagery of film and painting plus the intimacy of the written word. And all that's needed is the desire to be heard, the will to learn, and the ability to see."

Smile, and keep moving forward.

Crude and awful as the Occupy Wall Street comic is, the best thing we can do is nod and look elsewhere for the art that will open our eyes. Let the lunatics draw what they want, let them stew in their own flawed double standards. Otherwise, we're as shallow and empty as they are, and nothing good comes of that. Smile, and keep moving forward.

Things are getting better. Show the world how to hear, how to learn, how to see.

People should start listening to Nikki Haley

ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

Okay. Let's take a vote. You know, an objective, quantifiable count. How many resolutions has the UN Human Rights Council adopted condemning dictatorships? Easy. Well. How do you define "dictatorship"?

Well, one metric is the UN Human Rights Council Condemnation. How many have the United Nations issued to China, with a body count higher than a professional Call of Duty player?

Zero.

How about Venezuela, where socialism is devouring its own in the cruelest, most unsettling ways imaginable?

Zero.

And Russia, home of unsettling cruelty and rampant censorship, murder and (actual) homophobia?

Zero.

Iraq? Zero. Turkey? Iraq? Zero. Cuba? Zero. Pakistan? Zero.

RELATED: Nikki Haley just dropped some serious verbal bombs on Russia at the UN

According to UN Human Rights Council Condemnations, 2006-2016, none of these nations is as dangerous as we'd imagined. Or, rather, none of them faced a single condemnation. Meanwhile, one country in particular has faced unbelievable scrutiny and fury — you'll never guess which country.

No, it's not Somalia. It's Israel. With 68 UN Human Rights Council Condemnations! In fact, the number of total United Nations condemnations against Israel outnumbers the total of condemnations against all other countries combined. The only country that comes close is Syria, with 15.

The Trump administration withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday in protest of what it perceives as an entrenched bias against Israel and a willingness to allow notorious human rights abusers as members.

In an address to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Nikki Haley said:

Let's remember that the Hamas terrorist organization has been inciting violence for years, long before the United States decided to move our embassy. This is what is endangering the people of Gaza. Make no mistake, Hamas is pleased with the results from yesterday... No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.

Maybe people should start listening to Haley. Hopefully, they will. Not likely, but there's no crime in remaining hopeful.

Here's a question unique to our times: "Should I tell my father 'Happy Father's Day,' even though he (she?) is now one of my mothers?"

Father's Day was four days ago, yes, but this story is just weird enough to report on. One enjoyable line to read was this gem from Hollywood Gossip: "Cait is a woman and a transgender icon, but she is also and will always be the father of her six children."

RELATED: If Bruce was never a he and always a she, who won the men's Olympic gold in 1976?

Imagine reading that to someone ten — even five — years ago. And, honestly, there's something nice about it. But the strangeness of its having ever been written overpowers any emotional impact it might bring.

"So lucky to have you," wrote Kylie Jenner, in the Instagram caption under pre-transition pictures of Bruce Jenner.

Look. I risk sounding like a tabloid by mere dint of having even mentioned this story, but the important element is the cultural sway that's occurring. The original story was that a band of disgruntled Twitter users got outraged about the supposed "transphobic" remarks by Jenner's daughter.

But, what we should be saying is, "who the hell cares?" Who cares what one Jenner says to another — and more importantly and on a far deeper level — who cares what some anonymous Twitter user has to say?

When are we going to stop playing into the hands of the Twitter mob?

When are we going to stop playing into the hands of the Twitter mob? Because, at the moment, they've got it pretty good. They have a nifty relationship with the mainstream media: One or two Twitter users get outraged by any given thing — in this case Jenner and supposed transphobia. In return, the mainstream media use the Twitter comment as a source.

Then, a larger Twitter audience points to the article itself as proof that there's some kind of systemic justice at play. It's a closed-market currency, where the negative feedback loop of proof and evidence is composed of faulty accusations. Isn't it a hell of a time to be alive?