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The 10 Best Conservative Columnists of 2013 -- Who are the most valuable pieces on the chessboard?
PJ Media ^ | December 26, 2013 | David Swindle

Posted on 12/26/2013 12:00:48 PM PST by jazusamo


This is Week 12 of Season 3 in my 13 Weeks of Wild Man Writing and Radical Reading Series . Every week day I try to blog about compelling writers, their ideas, and the news cycle’s most interesting headlines. This Top 10 list is the series’ climax for this year, a project I’ve been planning since first asking the question December 5, 2012 .

What is the future of conservatism? Which voices should define the priorities of the movement in the coming decades? Who are its most skilled proponents today? How should the movement evolve to face the threats most endangering America?

This list is my effort to advocate for both my favorite writers contributing to answering these questions and the ideas they champion.

5 quick ground rules first:

- I’m being strict with the “columnist” title – no bloggers, journalists, or feature writers. A “columnist” is one who writes a 700-1400+ word polemical article on a regular basis for an established publication or syndication.

- I’m likewise being strict with the “conservative” title – other various right-of-center ideologies (neoconservatism, libertarianism, Christian theocrats, and paleo-con conspiracists) warrant their own lists. (Which perhaps they might get next year as I continue mapping out today’s most important ideological advocates in the contests of politics, ideas, and culture…)

- In selecting these individuals, I am including them and the ideas they champion in what I’m calling Conservatism 3.0 . This isn’t just a stand-alone list, it’s part of the bigger, ongoing project of my attempt to encourage ideological debate and dialogue. The columnists on this list each write books too and I’m adding their titles to my reading lists at the Freedom Academy Book Club . In next year’s installment of my “radical reading regimen” I’ll blog through their titles too.

- I’m excluding writers that I edit. All of PJM’s columnists and freelancers have been going on a separate list of my favorite writers, which I’ve been accumulating over the last six months and you can read on the last page of this post. And as an extra mention I have to go out of my way to recommend Instapundit Glenn Reynolds’s USA Today columns too. Blogging isn’t the only medium that Glenn’s mastered.

- I’m including excerpts from some of my favorite columns. Fair warning: this article today is over 13,000 words, highlighting some of the year’s best op/eds. (UPDATE: And apparently that means it’s too big for the view-as-single-page or print-this-post feature to work. I’m sorry. I assure you that was not intentional.) It’s really more of a free online e-book — a late Christmas present to all the readers, writers, activists, and patriots who have inspired and encouraged me in my own journey across the political spectrum…


10. Ross Douthat
9. Frank Gaffney
8. Daniel Pipes
7. Rich Lowry
6. Jonah Goldberg
5. Mark Steyn
4. Dennis Prager
3. Ben Shapiro
2. Thomas Sowell
1. Ann Coulter

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Philosophy; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: books; columnists; commentators; conservatism; conservatives; coulter; sowell; thomassowell
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Excerpt: 2. Thomas Sowell

The life journey of Thomas Sowell is evidence for all the philosophical, economic, and
cultural concepts he’s spent the last 45 years publishing mindblowing books revealing.

2. Thomas Sowell

What is the difference between the libertarian-conservatism of Buckley, National Review, and the Reagan mainstream and the libertarian-anarchism of the Ron/Rand Paul, Reason magazine, John Stossel, Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party crowd? Where does the breakdown occur? The latter do not make the connection between culture and economics.

Just promoting freedom and liberty in the political realm is not enough. In order for an individual to take advantage of it, they need to embrace cultural values which push them to take responsibility for themselves and create value for their fellow man. Not all cultures do this. And the American system was not designed for a people who did not have religion and morality to temper their self-destructive tendencies.

Looking back on all the books that contributed to my ideological shift from Left to Right, I think probably the most important one is Thomas Sowell’s Black Rednecks and White Liberals. As soon as I began to make the connection that strong cultural values drove economic prosperity then it was game over on so many ideological issues. All my life I’d been raised to believe that “poor people” all over the country needed the help of federal government programs to improve the unlucky hand they’ve been dealt through no fault of their own. But after reading Sowell and actually experiencing first-hand the culture he describes — I lived amongst rednecks black and white after graduating college — I now know a lesson that should have been obvious: a whole lot of people cause their own poverty by embracing destructive, irresponsible cultural ideas. Redneck, cracker culture that originated in the Scottish highlands migrated to the South and then emigrated up into the northern city ghettoes after the Civil War. The vulgar, rap, thug, ghetto culture so many academics and activists label “authentic black culture” is anything but. And in fact, calling it such is monstrously offensive and racist and only contributes further to the failures of minority youth today.


Sowell’s columns are like sampler platters for his books and reminders of how effective his best arguments can be at provoking realignments in values. Here are excerpts from three great Sowell columns this year and also two of his regular “Random Thoughts” columns — collections of wise one liners he’s been doing since long before the Age of Twitter:

March 6, “Economic Mobility“:

Most working Americans who were initially in the bottom 20 percent of income-earners, rise out of that bottom 20 percent. More of them end up in the top 20 percent than remain in the bottom 20 percent.

People who were initially in the bottom 20 percent in income have had the highest rate of increase in their incomes, while those who were initially in the top 20 percent have had the lowest. This is the direct opposite of the pattern found when following income brackets over time, rather than following individual people.

Most of the media publicize what is happening to the statistical brackets — especially that “top one percent” — rather than what is happening to individual people.

We should be concerned with the economic fate of flesh-and-blood human beings, not waxing indignant over the fate of abstract statistical brackets. Unless, of course, we are hustling for an expansion of the welfare state.

May 14, “Lies about Libya”:

What we were told repeatedly last year by the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, and the American ambassador to the U.N., was that there was a protest demonstration in Benghazi against an anti-Islamic video produced by an American, and that this protest demonstration simply escalated out of control.

This “spontaneous protest” story did not originate in Libya but in Washington. Neither the Americans on duty in Libya during the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, nor officials of the Libyan government, said anything about a protest demonstration.

The highest American diplomat on the scene in Libya spoke directly with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by phone, and told her that it was a terrorist attack. The president of Libya announced that it was a terrorist attack. The C.I.A. told the Obama administration that it was a terrorist attack.

With lies, as with potato chips, it is hard to stop with just one.

June 25, “Random Thoughts“:
Edmund Burke said, “There is no safety for honest men, but by believing all possible evil of evil men.” Evil men do not always snarl. Some smile charmingly. Those are the most dangerous.

I cannot see why even a single American, a single Israeli or a single Syrian civilian should be killed as a result of a token U.S. military action, undertaken simply to spare Barack Obama the embarrassment of doing nothing, after his ill-advised public ultimatum to the Syrian government to not use chemical weapons was ignored.

Some people say that some military response is necessary, not to spare Obama a personal humiliation, but to spare the American presidency from losing all credibility — and therefore losing the ability to deter future threats to the United States without bloodshed.

There is no question that the credibility of the presidency — regardless of who holds that office — is a major asset of this country. Another way of saying the same thing is that Barack Obama has recklessly risked the credibility of future presidents, and the future safety of this country, by his glib words and weak actions.

November 26, “Random Thoughts“:

Many people take pride in defying the conventions of society. Those conventions of society are also known as civilization. Defying them wholesale means going back to barbarism. Barbarians with electronic devices are still barbarians.

Next year I’m going to dive deeper into Sowell’s books. Here’s my reading plan and recommendations to others.

In addition to Black Rednecks and White Liberals, I’ve already read these seven Sowell books and suggest this order of importance with the first four especially as essential:

  1. Marxism: Philosophy and Economics
  2. Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy
  3. A Personal Odyssey
  4. A Conflict Of Visions
  5. The Quest for Cosmic Justice
  6. A Man of Letters
  7. Compassion Versus Guilt, and other essays

And here are the 21 Sowell books still on my reading list, in the approximate order that I’d like to read them over the next few years:

An Overview:

1. The Thomas Sowell Reader

Two Critiques of Today’s Dominant Intellectual Culture:

2. Intellectuals and Society: Revised and Expanded Edition

3. The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy

A 1980 classic on how the transmission of knowledge in economics and social life affects decision making processes:

4. Knowledge And Decisions (This book can be especially helpful in explaining to people why Obamacare is failing so dramatically. The primary problem with socialism isn’t an ideological one but a practical one: nobody has the capability to acquire and process enough knowledge in order to make decisions for everyone else.)

A 1981 Classic Study of the History of ethnic groups in America:

5. Ethnic America: A History

Five Introductions to Classical Liberal Economics:

6. Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One

7. Economic Facts and Fallacies, 2nd edition

8. The Housing Boom and Bust: Revised Edition

9. On Classical Economics

10. Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One

Three Explorations of Cultures Around the World:

11. Race And Culture: A World View

12. Conquests And Cultures: An International History

13. Migrations And Cultures: A World View

Three Examinations of the Relationships Between Race and Economics:

14. Markets and Minorities

15. Race and Economics

16. The Economics and Politics of Race: An International Perspective

Six newspaper essay collections:

17. Dismantling America: and other controversial essays

18. Ever Wonder Why? And Other Controversial Essays

19. Is Reality Optional?: And Other Essays

20. Barbarians inside the Gates and Other Controversial Essays

21. Controversial Essays

22. Pink and Brown People and Other Controversial Essays

Two Studies of Education:

23. Inside American Education

24. Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study

Two Books on child development:

25. Late-Talking Children

26. The Einstein Syndrome

1 posted on 12/26/2013 12:00:49 PM PST by jazusamo
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To: abigail2; Amalie; American Quilter; arthurus; awelliott; Bahbah; bamahead; Battle Axe; ...
Thomas Sowell

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Recent columns
Christmas Books
A Challenge to Our Beliefs
Random Thoughts

Please FReepmail me if you would like to be added to or removed from the Thomas Sowell ping list…

2 posted on 12/26/2013 12:03:10 PM PST by jazusamo ([Obama] A Truly Great Phony -- Thomas Sowell
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To: jazusamo

Thanks for giving the list. I wasn’t going to click through a slideshow with popups.

3 posted on 12/26/2013 12:04:22 PM PST by 1rudeboy
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To: 1rudeboy

I hear you. Took me awhile to figure out what to do.

4 posted on 12/26/2013 12:07:09 PM PST by jazusamo ([Obama] A Truly Great Phony -- Thomas Sowell
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To: jazusamo


5 posted on 12/26/2013 12:09:15 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: jazusamo

Sowell is the centerpiece of every argument ever made by or with a black liberal. His personal story and his fantastic literary style make for fascinating and thoughtful reads. I have immense and abounding respect for blacks in this country, for their stories and how far they’ve come in the 200+ years in this country. Recent cultural and social shifts in the black communities have turned back the clocks and made many whites leery of not only their safety but their personal understanding of “blackness” in America.

Thomas Sowell is the bright, shiny example of what it means to be a successful American, let alone a man of color. I am proud to call him a countryman, and I hope that legions of black men and women follow in his footsteps in the near future. We need men and women of all races to embrace what it means to be conservative in America.

6 posted on 12/26/2013 12:10:32 PM PST by rarestia (It's time to water the Tree of Liberty.)
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To: SeekAndFind

That omission stuck out to me as well, as did Daniel Greenfield.

7 posted on 12/26/2013 12:10:44 PM PST by gorush (History repeats itself because human nature is static)
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To: jazusamo


Just WOW!

Thanks, jazusamo! This list is a great Christmas present.

8 posted on 12/26/2013 12:10:57 PM PST by BwanaNdege (Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. J.F. Kennedy)
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To: jazusamo

Ann Coulter? Jonah Goldberg? Give me a break. Daniel Greenfield (Sultan Knish) runs circles around those two.

9 posted on 12/26/2013 12:11:08 PM PST by montag813 (NO AMNESTY * ENFORCE THE LAW *
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Comment #10 Removed by Moderator

To: 1rudeboy

Bill Whittle?

11 posted on 12/26/2013 12:12:13 PM PST by Attention Surplus Disorder (At no time was the Obama administration aware of what the Obama administration was doing)
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To: jazusamo

Appreciate the work you have done for us!

12 posted on 12/26/2013 12:12:44 PM PST by hoosiermama (Obama: "Born in Kenya" Lying now or then)
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To: 1rudeboy

Bill Whittle? Guess he’s not a columnist (strict) but he’s phenomenally articulate.

13 posted on 12/26/2013 12:12:59 PM PST by Attention Surplus Disorder (At no time was the Obama administration aware of what the Obama administration was doing)
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To: SeekAndFind

VDH should be on this list, but Sowell is without equal.

His writing moves minds.

14 posted on 12/26/2013 12:13:19 PM PST by KC Burke (Officially since Memorial Day they are the Gimmie-crat Party.ha)
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To: rarestia

Well said.

15 posted on 12/26/2013 12:16:11 PM PST by jazusamo ([Obama] A Truly Great Phony -- Thomas Sowell
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To: hoosiermama; All

It’s my pleasure and a very HAPPY NEW YEAR to ALL!

16 posted on 12/26/2013 12:18:50 PM PST by jazusamo ([Obama] A Truly Great Phony -- Thomas Sowell
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To: SeekAndFind

I second the motion...VDH

17 posted on 12/26/2013 12:21:19 PM PST by csmusaret (Will remove Obama-Biden bumperstickers for $10)
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To: montag813

Ann?...The Ann who called the defenders of Article 2, Section 1, “CRANKS!” and then used the KKK analogy to drive home her point?

Gee! That Ann?

That Ann is dead to me.

18 posted on 12/26/2013 12:23:22 PM PST by wintertime
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To: jazusamo

I would rank Sowell above Coulter. Actually, I’d rank about half that list above Coulter, but especially Sowell.

19 posted on 12/26/2013 12:23:33 PM PST by ZirconEncrustedTweezers (I'm not anti-government, government's anti-me.)
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To: jazusamo

I think Sowell has had more influence on me than any other columnist.

20 posted on 12/26/2013 12:25:34 PM PST by Vince Ferrer
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