Another GEM from Thomas Sowell: The Astounding Ignorance of Barack Obama in History and Economics
By Thomas Sowell
After reading Barack Obama's book "Dreams from My
Father," it became painfully clear that he has not been searching for
the truth, because he assumed from an early age that he had already
found the truth -- and now it was just a question of filling in the
details and deciding how to change things.
Obama did not simply
happen to encounter a lot of people on the far left fringe during his
life. As he spells out in his book, he actively sought out such people.
There is no hint of the slightest curiosity on his part about other
visions of the world that might be weighed against the vision he had
As Professor Richard Epstein of the University of
Chicago Law School has pointed out, Obama made no effort to take part in
the marketplace of ideas with other faculty members when he was
teaching a law course there. What would be the point, if he already knew
the truth and knew that they were wrong?
This would be a
remarkable position to take, even for a learned scholar who had already
spent decades canvassing a vast amount of information and views on many
subjects. But Obama was already doctrinaire at a very early age -- and
ill-informed or misinformed on both history and economics.
statement in "Dreams from My Father" about how white men went to Africa
to "drag away the conquered in chains" betrays his ignorance of African
The era of the Atlantic slave trade and the era of
European conquests across the continent of Africa were different eras.
During the era of the Atlantic slave trade, most of Africa was ruled by
Africans, who sold some of their slaves to white men.
conquests in Africa had to wait until Europeans found some way to
survive lethal African diseases, to which they lacked resistance. Only
after medical science learned to deal with these diseases could the era
of European conquests spread across sub-Saharan Africa. But the Atlantic
slave trade was over by then.
There was no reason why Barack
Obama had to know this. But there was also no reason for him to be
shooting off his mouth without knowing what he was talking about.
with Obama's characterization of the Nile as "the world's greatest
river." The Nile is less than 10 percent longer than the Amazon, but the
Amazon delivers more than 50 times as much water into the Atlantic as
the Nile delivers into the Mediterranean. The Nile could not accommodate
the largest ships, even back in Roman times, much less the aircraft
carriers of today that can sail up the Hudson River and dock in midtown
When Obama wrote that many people "had been enslaved
only because of the color of their skin," he was repeating a common
piece of gross misinformation. For thousands of years, people enslaved
other people of the same race as themselves, whether in Europe, Asia,
Africa or the Western Hemisphere. [This
is only one area where Obama has revealed an astounding ignorance of
world and U.S. history, especially for a man who allegedly has an Ivy
League education - believing there is an "Austrian" language, and
mispronouncing corpsman as "corpse-man" are two other examples that come
readily to mind.]
Europeans enslaved other
Europeans for centuries before the first African was brought in bondage
to the Western Hemisphere. The very word "slave" is derived from the
name of a European people once widely held in bondage, the Slavs.
for economics, Obama thought that Indonesians would be worse off after
Europeans came in, used up their natural resources and then left them
too poor to continue the modern way of life to which they had become
accustomed, or to resume their previous way of life, after their
previous skills had atrophied.
This fear of European
"exploitation" prevailed widely in the Third World in the middle of the
20th century. But, by the late 20th century, the falseness of that view
had been demonstrated so plainly and so often, in countries around the
world, that even socialist and communist governments began opening their
economies to foreign investments. This often led to rising economic
growth rates that lifted millions of people out of poverty. [Yet Barack Obama still condemns his own nation, the United States, as "neo-colonialist" and believes the nation became wealthy by stealing from third-world countries!]
Obama is one of those people who are often wrong but never in doubt.
When he burst upon the national political scene as a presidential
candidate in 2008, even some conservatives were impressed by his
But confident ignorance is one of the most dangerous
qualities in a leader of a nation. [I would add arrogance to that list of dangerous qualities in a leader of a nation, and Obama has that in over-abundance!] If he has the rhetorical skills to
inspire the same confidence in himself by others, then you have the
ingredients for national disaster.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.
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