“The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn’t do, and that is to destroy the black family.”
Walter E. Williams was born in West Philadelphia, but any parallel to a certain ‘90s sitcom ends there. He was raised by his mother in North Philadelphia. That’s where the future academic and preeminent economist shared a neighborhood with Bill Cosby. He even knew the real “Fat Albert” in person. (It is highly unlikely that Walter E. Williams quotes Fat Albert very often. Not one of the Cosby Kids had very much to say about economics.)
Williams was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1959. There he was court-martialed for daring to challenge racial order and the conventions of Jim Crow. In spite of Mark Twain’s best advice Williams argued his own case at his hearing – and won.
Williams resumed his college education at UCLA after flying 51 combat missions in the Korean War. He became fast friends with Thomas Sowell despite having never attended one of his lectures. Williams earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in economics before going on to teach at Temple University, Stanford University, and finally George Mason University.
Williams is a libertarian, antisocialist, and passionate advocate for laissez-faire capitalism. In his view a free market unfettered by government intervention is the most productive economic system ever devised. The professor has named Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman and F. A. Hayek as crucial influences on his philosophical development. He has also expressed a great fondness for Ayn Rand’s writing and her tireless defense of capitalism.
Yet Williams has certainly contributed a great deal to modern libertarian discourse on his own. After analyzing the Davis-Bacon Act and its impact on the economy, he concluded that minimum wage laws actually harm minorities. In his book The State Against Blacks Williams makes an iron clad case that the government’s involvement in America’s economy has done more to hamper the development of African American communities than actual racism – the impact of which he would also argue has been vastly overstated.
Williams has addressed several other libertarian issues in his essays and frequent appearances on radio and television. He denounces anti-discrimination laws for their gross violation of freedom of association. He is just as supportive of gun control, a government measure which serves only to jeopardize the innocent while failing to reduce crime. He believes states ought to have every right to secede if they wish to. And in true libertarian fashion Williams believes in the right to sell one’s own organs. (If your kidney is not your own to sell, then whose else could it be?)
In 2009 the Ludwig von Mises Institute ranked Williams the third most influential Hayekian intellectual in America. The subject of this brief biography was no doubt pleased to see his old friend Thomas Sowell ranked first.
Walter E. Williams has never let the mainstream narrative dictate his deeply cherished political and economic beliefs. His many academic distinctions aside, that alone makes him a paragon for other libertarians to look up to.
Walter E. Williams Quotes
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Who is Ayn Rand? Born to a middle class Russian-Jewish family in 1905, Rand was treated to a front row seat to the wonders of communism in action. Rand fled with her family to the Crimea following the “liberation” of her father’s pharmacy but ultimately returned to Saint Petersburg where she could attend university when she wasn’t busy starving. Due to her life experiences, Ayn Rand quotes are some of the most thought-provoking in the world.