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Quest for Cosmic Justice, the


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Thomas Sowell is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute and the author of A Personal Odyssey, The Vision of the Anointed, Ethnic America, and several other books. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, Forbes, and Fortune and are syndicated in 150 newspapers. He lives in Stanford, Californi


"Much of the world today and down through centuries of history has suffered the terrible consequences of unbridled government power, the prime evil that the writers of the American constitution sought to guard against." It is this "unbridled government power" that prolific political theorist Sowell (Affirmative Action Reconsidered) fears most as something that follows necessarily when societies try to achieve "cosmic justice" (as opposed to "social justice"). "Cosmic justice," he asserts, "is not about the rules of the game" but rather about "putting particular segments of society in the position that they would have been in but for some undeserved misfortune." Referring often to 20th-century world history, he argues persuasively that whatever benefits one might hope would result from trying to right the past wrongs of the world (instead of trying to repair the present world), they are not worth the almost inevitable risks of the loss of freedom and the rise of despotism. As Sowell does so well in his other booksÄmany of which analyze the tradeoff between freedom and equalityÄhe presents his case in clear, convincing, and accessible language. Strongly recommended for most public and academic libraries.ÄJack Forman, Mesa Coll. Lib., San Diego Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

David Boaz author of Libertarianism: A Primer and editor of The Libertarian Reader No one should pronounce on justice or equality again without grappling with Thomas Sowell's powerful argument. In this book, reflecting a lifetime of wide-ranging research and careful reflection, Sowell makes us understand the difference between results and processes, between cosmic justice and traditional justice, between the rule of law and the power to do good. The ratio of insights to words in this book is remarkably high.
Jay Nordlinger National Review The burnished product of a lifetime of thinking, arguing, refining, and -- in essence -- getting it straight.
Judge Robert H. Bork In The Quest for Cosmic Justice Thomas Sowell once again displays his distinctive combination of erudition, analytical power, and uncommon sense.

One of the country's most respected conservative intellectuals, Sowell (Race and Culture, etc.) proclaims a need to clarify the notion of justice. He then hurriedly decrees an absolute dichotomy between "traditional justice"Äpurely procedural equal treatmentÄand "cosmic justice." Unfortunately, Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, never satisfactorily defines what he means by cosmic justice, using it as an elastic term. Sowell easily tears apart handpicked examples of ill-conceived cosmic justice while steering clear of serious engagement with opposing positions. Thus he attacks Supreme Court rulings such as Miranda as "attempts to seek cosmic justice in the courtroom," but it requires a much better argument than Sowell provides to see how Miranda is anything but procedural. He equates redistributive state policies with "Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot," as if Western European welfare states simply didn't exist. Sowell makes some very good points in these four essays (touching on the difficulty of defining equal performance, the necessity of considering costs in pursuing abstract ideals and the corrosive political effects of envy), but he overplays his hand. The essay called "The Tyranny of Visions" asserts that conservatives "acquire no sense of moral superiority" from their positions, a point that anyone familiar with Pat Buchanan or with Sowell himself will find hard to swallow. Certainly, a good case can be made that people use the term "justice" loosely and that many conflate procedural justice with metaphysical justice. Beyond that, however, Sowell offers a catechism for true conservative believers. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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