In his book Vision of the Anointed, Thomas Sowell offers key insights into how and why the American left has run wild in it’s attempts to change America.
As the subtitle suggests, “Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy,” Sowell posits that the American left’s policies are egocentric exercises meant to establish themselves as saviors and their opponents as villains. Sowell shows that historically the left has been far more willing to condemn their opponents as evil even though the people they’re condemning will be more likely to tag them as merely mistaken.
Sowell points out the history of the left’s willingness to move the goal posts for policy proposals. When the War on Poverty was passed, the stated goal was to reduce poverty federal welfare roles through “hand ups not hand outs”, when sex education was introduced the goal was to reduce teen pregnancy. However when the programs were enacted and had the opposite effect, the liberals invented new goals to justify the programs saying things would have been worse had these programs not been implemented despite the fact that both poverty and teen pregnancy were headed down prior to the introduction of liberal efforts to fix them.
Sowell also gives a great clinic on how liberals will often manipulate statistics. He shows how liberals manage to magnify and exaggerate concerns over “income inequality” by failing into consideration simple factors such as the fact that younger people tend to make less than older people and that poverty tends to be much more of a transient state in America.
Sowe’ll’s wide-ranging treatise covers such items as the number of the people who manage to be ridiculously wrong without losing one iota of credibility such as Paul Ehrlich who made the bold yet very wrong predictions of a population bomb. He also cites many of the falsehoods behind leftist crusades including how the car that served as the basis for Ralph Nader’s “unsafe at any speed” campaign wasn’t so unsafe after all.
Sowell contrasts the vision of the anointed with what he calls the tragic vision, which many Christians would equate to our life in a fallen world. Because we live in an imperfect world, Sowell posits “there are no solutions only trade offs.” One example he cites was a proposed regulation that was offered after a baby was sucked out of an airplane when a cabin depressurized. The regulation would have required parents to purchase a seat for children under two when flying on planes. A study found that to pass a regulation that would prevent the death of one baby on an airplane would actually lead to the deaths of nine others due to parents who would be unable to afford the extra seat and be forced to take less expensive and less safe transportation, in addition to high economic costs.
Because the left fails to recognize this and because they shut themselves off to the impact of reality through moving targets and ignoring inconvenient facts, Sowell argues that the unquestioned predominance of the vision of the anointed is a danger to America’s economic and political freedom. While the book written nearly twenty years ago, the book feels as if it could have been written today as we’ve seen much of the same phenomena in the debates over same sex marriage and Obamacare.
If the book can be faulted, it’s that Sowell is great at pointing out problems and the strategies of the Anointed must has no suggestions for overcoming them. He points that, in many cases, the very nature of media (even more than the bias of those who work in the media) works against conservatives. We saw this during the Obamacare debate. While most Americans were satisfied with their health care and receiving the care they needed, it’s very hard to make a dramatic emotional point about that.
Still, the book is great for those who want to understand the polemics of the left and how a small minority has succeeded in an aggressive culture war. The Vision of the Anointed is a solid read that offers keen insights into how we got where we are today.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0