The fundamental problem of the political left seems to be that the real
world does not fit their preconceptions. Therefore they see the real world
as what is wrong, and what needs to be changed, since apparently their
preconceptions cannot be wrong.

A never-ending source of grievances for the left is the fact that some
groups are “over-represented” in desirable occupations, institutions and
income brackets, while other groups are “under-represented.”

From all the indignation and outrage about this expressed on the left, you
might think that it was impossible that different groups are simply better
at different things.

Yet runners from Kenya continue to win a disproportionate share of marathons
in the United States, and children whose parents or grandparents came from
India have won most of the American spelling bees in the past 15 years. And
has anyone failed to notice that the leading professional basketball players
have for years been black, in a country where most of the population is

Most of the leading photographic lenses in the world have – for generations
– been designed by people who were either Japanese or German. Most of the
leading diamond-cutters in the world have been either India’s Jains or Jews
from Israel or elsewhere.

Not only people but things have been grossly unequal. More than two-thirds
of all the tornadoes in the entire world occur in the middle of the United
States. Asia has more than 70 mountain peaks that are higher than 20,000
feet and Africa has none. Is it news that a disproportionate share of all
the oil in the world is in the Middle East?

Whole books could be filled with the unequal behavior or performances of
people, or the unequal geographic settings in which whole races, nations and
civilizations have developed. Yet the preconceptions of the political left
march on undaunted, loudly proclaiming sinister reasons why outcomes are not
equal within nations or between nations.

All this moral melodrama has served as a background for the political agenda
of the left, which has claimed to be able to lift the poor out of poverty
and in general make the world a better place. This claim has been made for
centuries, and in countries around the world. And it has failed for
centuries in countries around the world.

Some of the most sweeping and spectacular rhetoric of the left occurred in
18th century France, where the very concept of the left originated in the
fact that people with certain views sat on the left side of the National

The French Revolution was their chance to show what they could do when they
got the power they sought. In contrast to what they promised – “liberty,
equality, fraternity” – what they actually produced were food shortages, mob
violence and dictatorial powers that included arbitrary executions,
extending even to their own leaders, such as Robespierre, who died under the

In the 20th century, the most sweeping vision of the left – Communism –
spread over vast regions of the world and encompassed well over a billion
human beings. Of these, millions died of starvation in the Soviet Union
under Stalin and tens of millions in China under Mao.

Milder versions of socialism, with central planning of national economies,
took root in India and in various European democracies.

If the preconceptions of the left were correct, central planning by educated
elites with vast amounts of statistical data at their fingertips, expertise
readily available, and backed by the power of government, should have been
more successful than market economies where millions of individuals pursued
their own individual interests willy-nilly.

But, by the end of the 20th century, even socialist and communist
governments began abandoning central planning and allowing more market
competition. Yet this quiet capitulation to inescapable realities did not
end the noisy claims of the left.

In the United States, those claims and policies reached new heights,
epitomized by government takeovers of whole sectors of the economy and
unprecedented intrusions into the lives of Americans, of which ObamaCare has
been only the most obvious example.

 By Thomas Sowell
Friday, July 05, 2013

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford
University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: