Conservatism and Libertarianism lost a trailblazer and a powerful voice today. Walter E. Williams, Ph.D. has passed away in the early hours of this morning. He was 83.
Dr. Williams was the more firebrand side of a group of Black intellectuals (which includes Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell), who added depth and breadth to the conversation on civil liberties and limited government, as well as the social and economic impact government policies have wreaked upon minorities.
I became acquainted with Dr. Williams and his writings because he would often guest host for Rush Limbaugh in the early years of his program. Because of (not in spite of) his race, he was able to cut through the current “woke” talking points on race relations, discrimination, and equity. He focused a chapter in his book “Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?” on these topics:
I believe that people have the right to engage in discrimination on any basis that they want. That is, you can discriminate as far as race, or sex, or criminal background, etc. etc. But you don’t have the right to use government to force other people to concur with your discrimination.
Dr. Williams was an Eminent Scholar and Professor of Economics at George Mason University. A prolific writer, he wrote articles, book reviews, and scholarly papers for over 150 publications. As a fellow of several conservative think tanks like the Hoover Institution and the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER); he published books and booklets on a wide variety of subjects covering economics, civil liberties, race, and federalism. His last three booklets: “Up from the Projects: An Autobiography,” (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 2010), “Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?” (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 2011), and “American Contempt for Liberty” (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 2015) are still in wide press.
In a January 2014 podcast interview on The Tom Woods Show, he said, “Most Americans do not have a very good understanding of our history,” and described his philosophy as small “L” libertarian. He told Wood, “I’m not a part of any political movement.”
He was a frequent guest and panelist across all media, and we were privileged to have him as a contributor to Townhall Media. One of his final articles for us, “Benefits vs. Costs and Covid-19” truly embodied his well-researched, thoughtful, yet direct style.
The absolute worst part of the COVID-19 pandemic, and possibly its most unrecoverable damage, is the massive power that Americans have given to their federal, state and local governments to regulate our lives in the name of protecting our health. Taking back that power should be the most urgent component of our recovery efforts.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Walter E. Williams held a B.A. in economics from California State University, Los Angeles, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from UCLA. He also held a Doctor of Humane Letters from Virginia Union University and Grove City College, Doctor of Laws from Washington and Jefferson College and Doctor Honoris Causa en Ciencias Sociales from Universidad Francisco Marroquin, in Guatemala, where he was also Professor Honorario.
Dr. Williams served on the faculty of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and remained there until his death. He also served as a John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics since 1980, from 1995 to 2001 as department chairman. He was part of the faculties of other distinguished colleges and universities such as: Los Angeles City College, California State University Los Angeles, Temple University, and Grove City College in Pennsylvania.
Rest in Peace, Dr. Williams. Thanks to your prolific body of work: your voice will never be silenced and the discussions on Conservatism and Libertarianism have been bettered.