The world this week lost a great defender of economic freedom with the passing of the great American economist Walter E. Williams. He was 84.
Williams’ legacy will be one of fighting for lasting liberty at every turn against those who would be dictators over their fellow man.
As an economics professor at George Mason University, Williams gave numerous speeches at The Heritage Foundation over the years, and he always had fascinating things to say. His mind was sharp and clear as he saw things for the way they are, putting him at odds with those seeking Big Government policies for shortsighted solutions.
There have been only a small number of economists in modern times who have challenged and overturned more wrongheaded economic thinking than Williams.
For 40 years, he argued against the illogic of the minimum wage, racial quotas, and occupational licensing, as well as the welfare state. What drives his liberal critics crazy is his provocative argument that these government interventions hurt the very people they are designed to help.
At one of many events at The Heritage Foundation, Williams presented his book “American Contempt for Liberty.” The ground he covered was—as always—fresh and thought-provoking.
The following are some quotes from that book to remind us of the primary importance of liberty and economic freedom.
- “Free markets imply voluntary exchange. Tyrants do not trust that people behaving voluntarily will do what the tyrants think they should do. Therefore, they seek to replace the market with economic planning control and regulation.”
- Americans have several options. We can, like sheep, submit to those who have contempt for liberty and the Constitution. We can resist, fight, and risk bloodshed and death in an attempt to force America’s tyrants to respect our liberties and Constitution. A superior alternative is to find a way to peaceably separate into states whose citizens respect liberty and the Constitution. My personal preference is a restoration of the constitutional values of limited government that made us a great nation.”
- “The prospects are dim for a society that makes mascots out of the unproductive and condemns the productive.”
In his December 2019 column “Why Capitalism Is Morally Superior to Other Systems,” Williams made a succinct case for free-market capitalism for young people by pointing out:
Free markets are morally superior to other economic systems … . In a word or so, our protest should not be against capitalism. People should protest crony capitalism, where people use the political arena to buy government favors.
If millennials and others want to wage war against government favors and crony capitalism, I’m with them 100%. But I’m all too afraid that anti-capitalists just want their share of the government loot.
Indeed, the sensible voice and knowledge of Williams has extended beyond the classroom. As Heritage Foundation President Kay C. James noted on Williams’ passing:
No matter what hat he wore, he was first and foremost an incorrigible fighter for freedom … . His dedication to free markets and free peoples informed and inspired millions.
He will be missed.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal