In anticipation of the new documentary, Thomas Sowell: Common Sense in a Senseless World, The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley, who hosted the film, paused for a moment to answer a few questions for FTCN:
Sowell is one of the country's leading social theorists. The range and depth of his scholarship far surpasses most public intellectuals. Yet, I don't believe he's been given his due, largely because some of his views on racial inequality are politically incorrect. I thought the documentary might help correct that injustice. I also wanted to bring him to the attention of younger people who may be unfamiliar with his work.
I was unaware of his friendship with psychologist Steven Pinker and that he had influenced some of Pinker's own work.
I want viewers to appreciate Sowell's honesty and integrity, his commitment to empiricism, and his willingness to follow the facts and logic where they lead, even when they lead to unpopular conclusions.
We shot a few scenes in front of Sowell's childhood home in Harlem, where he grew up in the 1940s. And I began thinking not only how much that neighborhood has improved but also how many more opportunities low-income minorities in America have today. Black Harlemites of Sowell's generation didn't have half the opportunities that exist today. The irony is that blacks today are being taught to dwell on racism – think of the 1619 project – instead of being taught to take advantage of all the opportunities that now exist.
My book is not a deep dive into Sowell's personal life. Instead, the focus is on Sowell's scholarship, his ideas, and how he's distinguished himself as an intellectual over the past 50 years. I also take on Sowell's critics and explain why the black intellectual left, in particular, finds him so threatening.
I don't remember my first trip to the library, but it would have occurred well before I was eight. Sowell was the first person in his family to reach the seventh grade. My father had a master's degree.