Thomas Sowell is one of the smartest, most influential economists and philosophers of our time. Here he redirects two common lines of inquiry and asserts that we often ask the wrong questions.

Wrong Question No. 1: What is the cause, explanation, or origin of poverty?
It's not the origins of poverty that need to be explained. What requires explaining are the things that created and sustained higher standards of living [illustrated in the chart above]. There's no explanation needed for poverty. The species began in poverty. So what you really need to know is what are the things that enable some countries, and some groups within countries, to become prosperous."
Wrong Question #2: What's the reason for slavery and why did it exist in the US and elsewhere?
Of all the tragic facts about the history of slavery, the most astonishing to an American today is that, although slavery was a worldwide institution for thousands of years, nowhere in the world was slavery a controversial issue prior to the 18th century. People of every race and color were enslaved - and enslaved others. White people were still being bought and sold as slaves in the Ottoman Empire, decades after American blacks were freed. ...

Deciding that slavery was wrong was much easier than deciding what to do with millions of people from another continent, of another race, and without any historical preparation for living as free citizens in a society like that of the United States, where they were 20 percent of the population.

It is clear from the private correspondence of Washington, Jefferson, and many others that their moral rejection of slavery was unambiguous, but the practical question of what to do now had them baffled. That would remain so for more than half a century.

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