Dr. Walter Williams was a fine economist who made a difference in his standard academic research and as a popularizer of economics especially in op-eds, on TV, and on talk radio (substituting for Rush Limbaugh). Here’s his last op-ed– about basic econ and how/why so few understand it. As an economist, he had come to Libertarian conclusions about the often unethical and impractical exercise of governance– and in particular, the implications for African-Americans.
The most powerful argument I remember from Dr. Williams was that Apartheid proved that not nearly everyone in South Africa was a racist. If the whites were all racist, there would have been no need for laws to enforce racist behavior. Some whites were not racist at all. And many were presumably not so racist– that as profit-maximizing capitalists, they would be willing to part with money to indulge bigoted preferences. The law was necessary to tie the hands of the (more) enlightened and the “greedy”.
I remember Dr. Williams making an appearance at an Econ Club meeting at George Mason University– unusual for someone of his stature to mix with undergrads (more than he had to). I don’t remember anything about the meeting, but his attendance and collegiality were memorable and surely a small influence on me. He died soon after his last Econ class on December 2– just like he said he wanted to go out.
I’ll use this post to link to resources about Dr. Williams…
Memoriams: Tom Sowell, Pete Boettke, Walter Block, Ben Powell, Tom DiLorenzo, Nick Gillespie, Art Carden, Larry Reed, Ben Johnson, Larry Beane with reflections on the “euphemism treadmill”, Cal Thomas, Jeff Jacoby, Philip Terzian, Ethan Yang, Anne Wortham, Reihan Salam, World (magazine)
Audio/video resources of Dr. Williams: on mandatory occupational licensing, on liberty and government failures, on life, liberty and economics, interview in Reason, a review of his book on South African apartheid, a memorial video by Tom Sowell, a memorial video by Larry Elder, a 1982 documentary (Good Intentions) on The State Against Blacks, a 2015 biographical video (Suffer No Fools).
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