I made a small contribution to the brilliant career of Tom Sowell, the famously pugnacious black conservative economist who has just announced that he is giving up his syndicated column at the age of 86. In 1987, I wrote a long profile of Sowell for Forbes Magazine that so intrigued the great editor of the magazine, James W. Michaels, that he persuaded Sowell to undertake a regular Forbes column, accepting the unprecedented condition that Sowell's work would not be edited (by which Sowell meant that not one comma should be changed). It became a huge success.
Eleven years later, in 1998, I did another Forbes interview with Sowell on the occasion of the publication of his Conquests and Cultures: An International History. Sowell was widely assumed to support the post-Cold War "conservative" immigration enthusiast consensus, but in fact his doubts were obvious as early as his 1995 review of my book Alien Nation. You can see them also in our 1998 interview, in which I pushed him pretty hard. In retrospect, that such an interview could appear in a Main Stream Media outlet is evidence of the brief and curious Political Correctness interglacial that John Derbyshire has noted in the 1990s.
I always hoped that Sowell would get more involved on the Patriot side of the immigration debate. But he did say this in 2012, about Obama’s Administrative Amnesty:
Only after the border is controlled can any immigration policy matter be seriously considered, and options weighed through the normal constitutional process of congressional hearings, debate and legislation, rather than by presidential shortcuts.
Not only is border control fundamental, what is also fundamental is the principle that immigration policy does not exist to accommodate foreigners but to protect Americans — and the American culture that has made this the world’s richest, freest and most powerful nation for more than a century.
[The Immigration Ploy, June 19, 2012. Emphasis added.]
Despite my best efforts, the very successful Sowell/ Forbes detente came undone after Michaels was deposed and his successor foolishly tried to subject Sowell to conventionally crude magazine editing. But we stayed in touch, by his austere standards, and when my son graduated from Parris Island I was happy to note and report to Sowell that the U.S. Marine Corps maintains a sort of shrine in its museum there to its apparently most unlikely, and yet in some ways most characteristic, product.