Thomas Sowell on Truth and Proportionality

“Even the best things come to an end,” wrote Thomas Sowell in late 2016, as he shut down his newspaper column in order to “spend less time following politics and more time on my photography.” Four years later, when he turned 90, the economist and Hoover Institution fellow was back with Charter Schools and Their Enemies, from Basic Books. In early 2021, Sowell writes a Townhall column on familiar subjects such as truth and the proportionality doctrine. 

According to Sowell, “For too many people, especially in the media, what is right and wrong, true or false, depends on who it helps or hurts politically.” The scholar also finds that “facts don’t matter” when people claim “under-representation.”

According to proportionality dogma, every group in society must be equally represented at work or school according to their percentages in society. If not so represented, the cause must be discriminatory bias and the only remedy is government action in the form of quotas, now passed off as “diversity.” Those who argue this way, Sowell explains, “cannot show us any society—anywhere in the world, or at any time during thousands of years of recorded history—that had all groups represented proportionally in all endeavors.” For example, Sowell cites the National Hockey League. 

More NHL players are from Canada than the United States, and more players from Sweden than California, which has nearly four times the population. Therefore, Sowell says, “Californians are more ‘under-represented’ in the NHL than women are in Silicon Valley. But no one can claim that this is due to discriminatory bias by the NHL.” The discrepancies are “far more obviously due to people growing up in cold climates being more likely to have ice-skating experience.” 

In similar style, Sowell’s longtime friend Walter Williams heard complaints that African Americans were underrepresented among National Football League place-kickers. For Williams the answer was simple: African American players did not want to be kickers and instead preferred to play other positions.

Walter Williams passed away last December at the age of 86. Thomas Sowell is still going strong at 90. It’s long past time this man got the attention he deserves. 

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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