After a quarter of a century spent contributing pieces to the Creators Syndicate, famed Black economist and author Thomas Sowell has announced his retirement at age 86.
In his final column, titled “Farewell,” the conservative writer bid adieu to loyal readers as he recounted learning experiences from his past, while also looking ahead to the changes — good and bad — yet to come.
“It was very fulfilling to be able to share my thoughts on the events unfolding around us, and to receive feedback from readers across the country, even if it was impossible to answer them all,” Sowell wrote. “Looking back over the years, as old-timers are apt to do, I see huge changes, both for the better and for the worse.”
The accomplished columnist went on to describe the numerous economic and technological advances he’s witnessed throughout the years, comparing his harsh reality of growing up poor in the South with no electricity or hot running water to today’s average American’s access to everyday luxuries such as air conditioning, television, refrigerators and air travel.
“Most people living in officially defined poverty in the 21st century have things like cable television, microwave ovens and air-conditioning,” he wrote. “Most Americans did not have such things, as late as the 1980s. People whom the intelligentsia continue to call the ‘have-nots’ today have things that the ‘haves’ did not have, just a generation ago.”
While Sowell praised major progress made in the 21st century, he shook a wagging finger at the slow decline of American politics. He noted that citizen trust in the U.S. government had ultimately gone downhill, especially after years of “lying” presidents like Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson and Republican Richard Nixon, who he said diminished the credibility of the highest office in the land and of those who occupied it afterward.
He contrasted the shortcomings of those aforementioned presidents to the likes of John F. Kennedy, who he praised for getting the American people to back him after announcing that the U.S. was on the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union in October 1962, which later became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.
“Most of us did not question what he did,” Sowell wrote. “He was President of the United States, and he knew things that the rest of us couldn’t know — and that was good enough for us. Fortunately, the Soviets backed down. But could any President today do anything like that and have the American people behind him?”
The conservative economist briefly touched on the decline of his old Harlem neighborhood as well, which he described as the “social degeneration [of] Black ghettos.” He recalled playing in a nearby park that had, over the years, evolved into a danger zone that no child dare enter and having the luxury of being able to sleep on his fire escape, as there wasn’t a threat of being hit by bullets shot in the middle of the night.
“We cannot return to the past, even if we wanted to, but let us hope that we can learn something from the past to make for a better present and future,” Sowell wrote.
News of the writer’s retirement sparked various reactions from social media users, with some conservatives, white and Black, praising Sowell for his years of excellent work …
I love Thomas sowell, we need more thinkers like him and I really need to read his books https://t.co/7ABsgrRyJf
— Jesus shuttlesworth (@Lil_aaron24) December 28, 2016
Thomas Sowell is one who time should not apply to the way it does the rest of us. He's too valuable to retire. https://t.co/pYYJzhoUnn
— Milton Friedman 🇺🇸 (@MiltonFriedman) December 27, 2016
… while others labeled him an Uncle Tom for his conservative views.
Amid conservatives declaring their well wishes for Sowell and liberals bidding him good riddance, the accomplished economist said during his retirement, he plans to spend less time following politics and more time focusing on his photography.
“Even the best things come to an end,” he wrote.