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County Hall Corner: The Sages Speak to Today

The leak from the Supreme Court revealed that the justices are leaning toward reversing the Roe vs. Wade decision of 1973. According to Vice President Harris, “What is clear is that opponents of Roe want to punish women and take away their rights to make decisions about their own bodies.” Speaker of the House Nancy

The leak from the Supreme Court revealed that the justices are leaning toward reversing the Roe vs. Wade decision of 1973. According to Vice President Harris, “What is clear is that opponents of Roe want to punish women and take away their rights to make decisions about their own bodies.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi calls this a “slap in the face to all women.” Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA) wins the panic alarm prize by stating that the reversal of Roe vs. Wade “may lead to states banning birth control or same-sex and interracial marriage.”

These quotes could be multiplied a thousand times over on both sides of the aisle by the supposed leaders of our day. It seems that hyperbole is the only way that today’s public figures can express themselves. Because raising the volume does not improve the music, I prefer the melodic messages that speak to our situation today that come from the great sages of the past.

Winston Churchill’s wisdom is timeless. The renewed debate over abortion has pushed off the public conscience other hot topics. As noted in this column last week, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has the potential to draw the United States into yet another foreign war. Rather than empty soundbites, our leaders need to define where they are going clearly. The great difficulty is in understanding Russia’s objective, however, reminds me of Winston Churchill’s quote that trying to understand their intentions is so vexing because “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

And while these controversies rage, our everyday life is assailed by escalating costs for everything we buy. The Nobel Prize economist Milton Friedman noted, “The combination of economic and political power in the same hands is a sure recipe for tyranny.”

The greatest unappreciated voice of our time is Dr. Thomas Sowell. As a young black man growing up in Harlem, Sowell could have joined a gang, but rather he chose education to direct his life. He became a Marxist as he believed it had the answers he was looking for. However, he eventually became disillusioned as Marxism had a high intellectual standard; behind the attractive vision, he realized it just did not work. As he stated, he was mugged by facts. Sowell discovered conservative philosophers and theorists and became a renewed professor and one of the leading thinkers in our country.

In his book, A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, Sowell provides a blueprint for us to understand the times we are living in and, hopefully, find a pathway through them. He compares the left to those who are motivated by the 18th-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s quote that “man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.” Liberals see the problems with the world in our institutions, and if they were made right, man would be happy. Sowell challenges that thought with conservative thinkers who recognize that man is flawed from day one, and thus there are no solutions, only trade-offs.

In other words, it is not our institutions that are the problem; it is us. Whatever we do with our problems, it will inevitably create another problem. So rather than seek a “perfect” program, policy, solution, etc., the right approach is to get the best trade-off possible, which is all that can be hoped for.

This concept has been utilized in the business world as a “win/win” scenario as the best pathway to conflict resolution. If I seek to win, which causes another to lose, it harbors resentment that will later bring trouble down the road. And if I lose and another wins, I am looking for payback. But if we both “win” to some degree, we both can move forward together, albeit not with everything we wanted, but at least we are moving forward.

Thomas Sowell’s trade-offs theory could be applied by both pro-life/pro-choice advocates. If we propose abortion, how do we define life? If we claim that a child is not a human being until it exits the womb, how can we justify fetal surgery for those still in the womb that is not threatening the mother’s life? It is either a child, or it isn’t. And if we reject abortion completely, how can we address the horror of carrying a child that is a threat to the mother or was a result of an atrocity of some sort?

There is middle ground that can be found in this debate, which is where it was in 1973 before Roe vs. Wade when each state sought to find the best medium for their constituents. The ‘solution’ that the Supreme Court thought it enacted five decades ago has only led to more and more problems than it solved. Sowell said it best, “There are no solutions, only trade-offs.”