Monday, May 12, 2008

Reading, reading, reading. . .

I am reading way above my head. . . again.  Fortunately my sense is that if one does this often enough and sticks to a given topic, one can learn to swim. 

Reading Anthony Bradley's blog has challenged me to take seriously the viewpoints of Thomas Sowell, a highly regarded, and to some, highly controversial African American author.  Sowell is unusual in that he is a very conservative public figure in the AA community.  

While he is viewed as a conservative republican, he is more of a self described libertarian.  Thus far I find his analysis of economics sort of a heavy duty common sense approach -- thus pretty much an accurate subtitle.  

As an example of the importance of the subject, however, is his description of how rent controls end up depleting the presence of affordable housing.   As prices are kept artificially low those with the most money still benefit most and the quality of the cheapest housing, being in such high demand, no longer compells owners to care for it.  Sowell uses specific examples from New York, San Francisco, Sweden, Russia and other places.  

As someone who is interested in seeing justice within a given community addressed, and wrestling with the place of both government and Christian ministry here, this is a tough pill to swallow, yet bears marks of common sense so strong that at this stage I can't respond with anything more than. . . ok, that makes sense.  

I am already learning a lot from Sowell but I also hope to read Sowell's critics.  I hope to be able to consider ways in which injustice, descrimination and uneven playing fields tilt the market in favor of some.  I hope to be able to better understand what it means to encourage the market to become healthy in our community.  I hope to keep my head above water as I read this!  

6 comments:

Kyle said...

Your desire to really try to understand the viewpoints of others continually encourages me to do the same. As a graduate with a business degree, this is a book that I'm excited to look at because maybe I can use some of my training in areas such as this...as I try to understand more.

Tim said...

I don't know if I would ever have the guts to read what you read... But just wondering - have you read much of what Walter E. Williams writes (I'm not sure if He writes books as much as articles)? If you have read him, what do you think (I love math and have found what he says to make tons of sense).

E. Peevie said...

Thomas Sowell makes me nervous, only because my cousin, who is a lovable but conservative crazy nut, loves him. I guess I should give him a chance anyway, and judge his work on its own merits.

hammerdad said...

Never heard of Williams but will keep an eye out. . .

e.peevie~ yeah, he makes me nervous too. . . but that's part of what keeps me going. Malcom X makes me nervous too. . . but I got a lot out of his autobiography.

One other thing about Sowell: I am told that his great antagonism for democrats (and pompous arrogance that could stand in for Sean Hannity any day) doesn't show up in his books they way it does with his columns. We'll see. His logic is overwhelming thus far but I still like Jeffrey Sachs A LOT (The end of poverty).

Len said...

Hey man! Paula really encouraged me to reach out to you this way. I have missed our discussions. I need them more now than ever since we both have very different influences and experiences. I haven't read this book but from your comments he would be coming way too much from a perspective I am already comfortable with as I am closer to libertarian than anything else. I will try to power read to catch up on your journey but maybe you could tip me to some economists that would be coming from different perspectives.

hammerdad said...

Hey Len, great to hear from you!! Yeah, I miss our conversations too. . . it has been a long time.

I am looking forward to reading others that are specific to economics as I am able. But 2 guys that have influenced me are Jeffrey Sachs (The End of Poverty) on global macro economics. Sachs is one of the minds behind the one campaign to end global poverty (Bono wrote the opening to his book). That book was hard to put down which is a tall order for any book on economics.

The other is not really an economist but as I read about globalization it definitely is shaping my thoughts: The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman.

Anyway the biggest thing to me is how unequal access to resources creates unlevel playing fields. I know that this cannot be eliminated but there are so many ways that the "system" traps people and is driven by those that take advantage of the poor (predatory lending, broken education, the residue of neighborhoods broken by segregation. etc. . . )

Another good read that you might enjoy would be "A Framework for Understanding Poverty" Very very insightful about the cycle and culture of poverty. . .