Figuring Out the Political Magician’s Trick


Going through links that I’d put aside pointing to content on which I never got around to commenting, I came across an October essay by Thomas Sowell that fits nicely with my first post of the year, this morning.  For the new year, I hope we can begin to change the balance of responsibility to persuade, such that the politicians and activists who’ve done so much damage to our state, country, and world will be required to justify themselves, rather than forcing us to prove to them we’ve been hurt — a fool’s task, inasmuch as progressives interact with others in demonstrably bad faith.

Sowell’s essay provides a framework — an analogy — whereby to accomplish our turning of the tide:

One of the secrets of successful magicians on stage is directing the audience’s attention to something that is attractive or distracting, but irrelevant to what is actually being done. That is also the secret of successful political charlatans.

Consider the message directed at business owners by Senator Elizabeth Warren and President Barack Obama — “You didn’t build that!” …

The conclusion is insinuated, rather than spelled out, so it is less likely to be scrutinized. Moreover, attention is directed toward the undeserved good fortune of the heir, and away from the crucial question as to whether society will in fact be better off if politicians take over more of either the management or the earnings of the business.

The question of politicians’ track record in managing economic activities vanishes into thin air, just as other things vanish into thin air by a magician’s sleight of hand on stage.

He goes on to apply this reasoning to his central topic — namely, the same trick used to distract us from the fact that progressive policies have harmed black Americans for the better part of a century — and it applies in a great many ways.  As active citizens, we need to get better at spotting such tricks, exposing them, and (most importantly) bringing the public eye back to what’s important: the theft of our resources and destruction of our freedom.