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Knowledge and Decisions | [Thomas Sowell]

Knowledge and Decisions

This reissue of Thomas Sowell’s classic study of decision making, which includes a preface by the author, updates his seminal work in the context of The Vision of the Anointed. Sowell, one of America’s most celebrated public intellectuals, describes in concrete detail how knowledge is shared and disseminated throughout modern society. He warns that society suffers from an ever-widening gap between firsthand knowledge and decision making—a gap that threatens not only our economic and political efficiency but our very freedom.
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Publisher's Summary

This reissue of Thomas Sowell’s classic study of decision making, which includes a preface by the author, updates his seminal work in the context of The Vision of the Anointed. Sowell, one of America’s most celebrated public intellectuals, describes in concrete detail how knowledge is shared and disseminated throughout modern society. He warns that society suffers from an ever-widening gap between firsthand knowledge and decision making—a gap that threatens not only our economic and political efficiency but our very freedom. This is because actual knowledge is being replaced by assumptions based on an abstract and elitist social vision of what ought to be.

Knowledge and Decisions, a winner of the 1980 Law and Economics Center Prize, was heralded as a landmark work and selected for this prize “because of its cogent contribution to our understanding of the differences between the market process and the process of government.” In announcing the award, the center acclaimed that the “contribution to our understanding of the process of regulation alone would make the book important, but in reemphasizing the diversity and efficiency that the market makes possible, [this] work goes deeper and becomes even more significant.”

Thomas Sowell is currently a scholar in residence at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has been published in both academic journals and such popular media as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Fortune and writes a syndicated column for newspapers across the country.

©1980 Basic Books, Inc. Preface 1996 by Thomas Sowell (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“This is a brilliant book. Sowell illuminates how every society operates. In the process he also shows how the performance of our own society can be improved.” (Milton Friedman)

“In a wholly original manner [Sowell] succeeds in translating abstract and theoretical argument into a highly concrete and realistic discussion of the central problems of contemporary economic policy.” (F. A. Hayek)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Doug St. Louis MO, USA 12-08-12
    Doug St. Louis MO, USA 12-08-12 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Thomas Sowell's Greatest Work"

    IMO, among Thomas Sowell's small library of outstanding contributions, Knowledge and Decisions easily ranks as the finest. This is the 1996 edition, which simply adds a substantial preface to the original 1980 edition as far as I can tell.

    The first half of the book is a brilliant, seminal, and timeless treatment of the nature of knowledge, how it is obtained, validated, transmitted, coordinated and acted upon. Sowell analyzes social, economic, and political structures and institutions in terms of their decision making processes and incentives as opposed to their intentions and hoped for results, and explains in a truly fundamental way how complex societies work.

    The second half of the book examines specific trends and issues in the social, political, economic, and legal arenas. At the time of its publication, this was the current events section. Of course, the world has changed in many profound (and superficial) ways since 1980, so this section today is more historical in nature.

    But since one of the great strengths of Sowell's work is its basis in and exposition of global and world historical experiences and perspectives, section two retains its interest and force, and is an effective reminder of the failures of centralized decision making structures that were viscerally evident a generation ago (especially via communism), but whose implications are largely forgotten today. As the saying goes, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

    All in all, this is a great book that stands the test of time quite easily.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    fm2 01-04-13
    fm2 01-04-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Interesting in theory but dull in practice"

    I generally like sowell's work even if it they all tend to move a bit slow for me as they are often geared to a very general reader.
    The main problem with this book is one of degree: that it spoon feeds. For anyone who is accustomed to thinking systematically, this book breaks down the bites way too small and hence becomes extra slow moving and by extension dull. I gave up less than one-third of the way through-knowing i couldn't take that many more hours. i will say that i enjoyed the introduction (written 15 years after the original book) more than what followed.

    again, he is a good writer, its an interesting topic, his stories and explanations are very clear, but he really belabors every little point in this book.an abridged audio book would NOT help, but i do feel he could have written this in half the text

    Dean is a solid narrator.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Di United States 10-15-12
    Di United States 10-15-12 Listener Since 2010
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    "A must-read master piece"
    If you could sum up Knowledge and Decisions in three words, what would they be?

    Best best and best


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Knowledge and Decisions?

    Every moment


    What does Robertson Dean bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    A good narrative


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    from cover to cover


    Any additional comments?

    I just love Thomas sowell, and this book!

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Henry Chatswood, Australia 10-08-13
    Henry Chatswood, Australia 10-08-13 Member Since 2012
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    "A worthy thesis on knowledge and decision-making."
    Would you recommend Knowledge and Decisions to your friends? Why or why not?

    Yes. This book discusses knowledge and decisions in a fair amount of depth. It definitely requires multiple listenings to fully appreciate and understand the concepts being presented. Overall, I think it is a well argued book very much for an academic crowd or those who want to understand more about decision-making processes.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michal Lichota 07-12-13 Listener Since 2008
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    "Great as ever!!!"
    What did you like best about this story?

    Thomas Sowell as good as ever presents the issues of contamporary society in a clear and not too biased way. We all need to be grateful that a member of a minority has the courage to speak things, which said by a member of any majority would be considered 'politically incorrect'. Of course, mr. Sowell believes in a free market much more than it would be optimal, but is would be really hard to argue with his hypothesies, I couldn't do it:)


    If you could give Knowledge and Decisions a new subtitle, what would it be?

    How institutions work mainly to benefit themselves rather than to fill their goals


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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