We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access .
 >   > 
Knowledge and Decisions Audiobook

Knowledge and Decisions

Regular Price:$31.47
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

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

Average Customer Rating

4.6 (189 )
5 star
 (140)
4 star
 (31)
3 star
 (13)
2 star
 (2)
1 star
 (3)
Overall
4.6 (161 )
5 star
 (123)
4 star
 (21)
3 star
 (13)
2 star
 (2)
1 star
 (2)
Story
4.6 (166 )
5 star
 (115)
4 star
 (35)
3 star
 (12)
2 star
 (2)
1 star
 (2)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Doug St. Louis MO, USA 12-08-12
    Doug St. Louis MO, USA 12-08-12 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    170
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    608
    14
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    fm2 01-04-13
    fm2 01-04-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
    25
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    16
    16
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Søren 12-18-15
    Søren 12-18-15 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    18
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    40
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Important knowledge!"

    Great insight, and a new way of thinking for me, really enjoyed it, even the dense high level English.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    AndriiShyshkalov 01-08-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    83
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Read at least first half"

    The most important and foundational of Sowell's book. The first part is superb, while the second is boring at times. I enjoyed second part too because it is 30 years old and gives contemporary account, which is different than reading history books now.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    daniel Athens, Alabama 08-24-17
    daniel Athens, Alabama 08-24-17 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    13
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A great book. Sowell calls it one of his best."

    This is a great book. Interesting and thought provoking. Early on in the book, I was worried that it might be written more for an audience of economists or academics. Would it be accessible for a general audience? Yes, it is. Some of the set up for the book, explaining the author's intention to focus on *systems* of decision-making, just about scared me off. But the book became fascinating the further I got into it, so much so that getting close to the end of the book made me a little sad. I wanted it to keep going!

    This book goes through a lot of different topics, generally emanating from themes involving who makes decisions, what relevant knowledge does the decision maker have, what are the incentives or dis-incentives for the decision maker, and what feedback does the decision-maker receive to influence subsequent decisions. An important distinction is made between the intention of a decision, and the system used for making the decision. A business may have the intention of making a profit, but its systematic decision-making is more important than its intention. Many for-profit businesses fail to consistently (or ever) make profits. A government program may have the intention of reducing poverty, but if its administrators receive raises and promotions based on how many poor people they deal with, that program is incentivized to ensure there are always a lot of poor people. The discussions of relevant time scales for the incentives and feedbacks from decisions were also very interesting and thought provoking. An individual politician is incentivized to push policies that pay off to voters (or at least appear to pay off to voters) before the next election. Long term consequences of the policies are less important, because they occur after the next election, and voters might not have sufficient knowledge to connect the consequences to the earlier decisions anyway. A political machine or a political party that is entrenched in power is more incentivized to "play the long game", looking to remain in power while individual politicians advance through the party hierarchy by being loyal to its long-term plans.

    The book was originally written in 1979, during the Cold War, just before Reagan. Toward the end, it seems pretty fatalistic in addressing the great conflict between freedom and totalitariansim, the threat of a nuclear war or even the simple effect of a nuclear standoff that prevents adversaries from learning from mistakes, and the effectiveness with which intellectuals have used the free world's systematic processes to undermine those very processes. This newer edition includes a preface written in the mid-1990's, noting some of the dramatic reversals that seemed to have taken place across the globe during the previous decade. That being said, the discussions from 1979 seem entirely relevant and timely to a reader in 2017. "Social justice" seems to have become a big buzz word in recent years, but Sowell really attacked the concept of social justice and its implications for decision-making in this 1979 book. Sections about courts and bureaucracies making decisions without being influenced by feedback from voters, and without personal experience with the outcomes of those decisions, also seemed like they could have been written any time in the last several years.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Yvonne@Windlullaby 08-08-17 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    14
    10
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Eye opening, myth debunker"

    A must read by all freedom and liberty lovers. Sowell delves into the dark mysterious world of politics and reveals how politicians and power mongers manipulate the distracted public.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sayaka Takasawa Yokohama, Japan 07-10-17
    Sayaka Takasawa Yokohama, Japan 07-10-17 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    7
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Outstanding!"

    This book explains why the left has so much power. As a student of sociology, psychology and later linguistics, I have always wondered how the left could get away with their BS in an field that requires data, logic and evidence. This book gives an adequate explanation.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JayVL 05-03-17
    JayVL 05-03-17 Member Since 2017
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Soooo much info"

    Sowell is brilliant. Logical clear presentations of many arguments in favor of a free democratic people. Highly informative. Few will agree with everything in such a huge book, but reading his compelling ideas and arguments is highly educational. You will look at many things in society and government differently after this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen D. Wasson Rochester, MN USA 11-01-16
    Stephen D. Wasson Rochester, MN USA 11-01-16 Member Since 2017
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Even more relevant now than when it was written."

    Good narration, excellent content. It is a tightly written book that does require paying attention.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. J. Heisler 05-28-16
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    12
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Challenging commentary on ideas and action"

    Thomas Sowell has a wonderful style identifying the errors of the conventional and articulating a rational and contrarian perspective on society and individuals.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank you.

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.