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Michael Cromartie

Equality Is an Illusion, part 2

"History," writes Thomas Sowell in Migrations and Cultures, "is an anchor in reality against the rhetorical winds of the zeitgeist." Perhaps the single unifying theme in Sowell's large and varied body of work is an unfashionable emphasis on evidence, a word he uses frequently, and without apology, in the midst of high-toned moral conversations. Thus, for example, in The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy (1995), he considers the widely publicized "scandal" of racial disparities in mortgage loan approval rates-and finds that there is no evidence of discrimination. Such chutzpah-here is a man who claims simply to be laying out the facts!-has earned for him routine vilification from his ideological foes. He is, after all, a black conservative. Need any more be said?

A senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and a nationally syndicated columnist, Sowell is the author of many books. His latest, Migrations and Cultures, had its genesis in 1982. Research for this project eventually took him to 15 countries on four continents, and what began as one book turned into three: Race and Culture, published in 1994, Migrations and Cultures, and Conquests and Cultures, scheduled for publication in 1997.

In Migrations and Cultures, Sowell surveys the worldwide experience of immigrants from six groups: Germans, Japanese, Italians, Chinese, Jews, and Indians. These six case studies are framed by discussion of historical migration patterns and the persistence of cultural traits among immigrants who bring a common set of skills and values to very different host countries. Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center met recently with Sowell in Washington, D.C., and talked with him about his findings.

What led you to write Migrations and Cultures?

I wrote the book-despite the fact that we already have a huge number of very good books on immigration-because the approach I take is comparative, looking at particular groups in various ...

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