More Big Government, Please

Thomas Sowell on “The Real Public Service”

Every year about this time, big-government liberals stand up in front of college-commencement crowds across the country and urge the graduates to do the noblest thing possible — become big-government liberals.

That isn’t how they phrase it, of course. Commencement speakers express great reverence for “public service,” as distinguished from narrow private “greed.”

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  • Tom

    NOTE: I have tried at least to send this directly to Mr. Sowell, but that proves more difficult than it should. So, I post it here as well, for others as well as for him.

    Wow. Honestly don’t know where to begin with an article like this. But, I shall try my best to debunk parts of this at least.

    While I can see the merit in having commencement speakers talk about more than just providing public service, I fail to see how that means that they, as public officials who have all had private lives/careers, are only advocating that path for every individual. That’s as ludicrous a statement as the opposite, whereby we would have no public officials and total anarchy. On top that, the argument equally applies to Republicans and conservatives, such as George Bush, who in 2005 stated at a commencement speech “We’ll do our part, but, ultimately, service is up to you. It is your choice to make. As your generation takes its place in the world, all of you must make this decision: Will you be a spectator or a citizen?” (link:

    Second, you seriously want to have a go at “public service” as being something that is a bad thing? You do understand that there are tons of private organizations that the private and public sectors support and applaud? I’m pretty sure you’re on the wrong side of the argument if you’re trying to claim that Americans should stop organizations like the Peace Corps, Teach for America, The Red Cross, various Church ministries, soup kitchens, etc., etc. And, MOREOVER, that there is not a black and white choice between doing public service and being innovative. That people can in fact do both, and do so not only on a regular basis, but as the norm.

    Third, I have to say that you’re explanation of why we went from backwoods to urbanized in a century is paper thin. Your tying economic progress through newly discovered technologies to pure capitalism leaves out huge government expenditures for said technology, least of which coming from World War II, not to mention support services the government also pays for and provides, such as roads, shipping lanes, mail services, etc.

    Finally, kudos on the smarmy poke at college students who spend their time in school for “the last four – or is it six? – years.” However, looking up your educational background, I discerned that you not only have a bachelors in economics, but also a masters and a PhD, AS WELL AS being a professor of economics for a substantial chunk of your career. Which means, good sir, you must also fall under this category of people “sheltered from the brutal test of reality,” and probably more so than most. So, in essence, I applaud your ability to jest at yourself. Big egos and people who can’t laugh at their own situations are so much of a turn off.

    And just in case you are thinking I’m “just another liberal elite”, please understand that I do see innovation as a key part of America and the world, and that many solutions can be found and improvements made through it. But I’m not trying to push a very ignorant view of the world.

  • Stephen Shields

    One of the best defenses of capitalism I have ever heard. Capitalism is not about greed. It is about enginuity. Wealth is a result of enginuity. To hell with the unions and special interest groups. If you have enough time and effort to spend whining, protesting, and trying to change the way business is done, then you surely have enough time and effort to change the market by creating a product or enhancing production means.