Remembering The Ever-Relevant Words Of Walter E. Williams
Walter Williams
Courtesy Of Young America’s Foundation

Walter E. Williams died on the morning of Wednesday December 2nd, having taught “his final class at George Mason University” the night before. In addition to being a Professor of Economics, Williams was also well known and respected as a columnist and author. Daily Wire Editor Emeritus, Ben Shapiro, described Williams as “an amazing person and thinker.”

Williams’ thoughts on subjects such as the economy, socialism, and racism demonstrated a level of insight which should never be underestimated or ignored. Here is a modest collection of his words which, regardless of when they were spoken or written, will remain hugely relevant in the years to come. To remember the great Walter Williams, remember his words.

Government, Theft and Accountability

“How stupid is it of us to ask those who brought us ‘affordable’ housing to now turn their attention to bringing us ‘affordable’ health care?”

“The moral tragedy that has befallen Americans is our belief that it is okay for government to forcibly use one American to serve the purposes of another — that in my book is a working definition of slavery.”

“The recognition of the fact that Congress has no resources of its own forces us to acknowledge that the only way Congress can give one American one dollar is to first, through intimidation, threats, and coercion, confiscate that dollar from some other American. If a private citizen did the same thing that Congress does, we would call it an immoral act — namely theft. Acts such as theft that are immoral when done privately do not become moral when done collectively. The moral tragedy that has befallen Americans is our belief that it is okay for government to forcibly use one American to serve the purposes of another.”

“Democracy and liberty are not the same. Democracy is little more than mob rule, while liberty refers to the sovereignty of the individual.”

“It’s government people, not rich people, who have the power to coerce and make our lives miserable. Coercive power goes a long way toward explaining political corruption.”

“The real problem is that workers are not so much underpaid as they are under-skilled. And the real task is to help those people become skilled. Congress cannot do this simply by declaring that as of such-and-such a date, everybody’s productive output is now worth $7.25 per hour. This makes about as much sense, and does just about as much harm, as doctors ‘curing’ patients simply by declaring that they are cured.”

“You men win your way into office and retain that office essentially by promising some Americans that you will give them the fruits of another man’s labor. You also win office by promising one group of Americans that they will be given a right or privilege that will be denied other Americans.”

“There are many farm handouts; but let’s call them what they really are: a form of legalized theft. Essentially, a congressman tells his farm constituency, ‘Vote for me. I’ll use my office to take another American’s money and give it to you.’”

“Believing that presidents have taxing and spending powers leaves Congress less politically accountable for our deepening economic quagmire. Of course, if you’re a congressman, not being held accountable is what you want.”

“Three-fifths to two-thirds of the federal budget consists of taking property from one American and giving it to another. Were a private person to do the same thing, we’d call it theft. When government does it, we euphemistically call it income redistribution, but that’s exactly what thieves do — redistribute income. Income redistribution not only betrays the founders’ vision, it’s a sin in the eyes of God.”

Race and Discrimination

“But I think that the Democrats have been very successful in portraying themselves as the caring people, when if you look at the effects of the Democratic Party on black people I think it’s horrible, it’s horrendous. For example, if you ask the question, ‘In what cities do blacks live under the worst conditions — in terms of crime, rotten education, poor services,’ — these are the very cities that have been run for decades by Democrats. I don’t care whether you are talking about Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Chicago, or Detroit, it’s all been Democrats. And then on top of it, it’s been black Democrats! That is, again, if you look at where blacks live under the most horrible conditions, it’s in cities where a black is the mayor, a black is the chief of police and a black is the superintendent of schools.”

“First, weaken the black family, but don’t blame it on individual choices. You have to preach that today’s weak black family is a legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and racism. The truth is that black female-headed households were just 18% of households in 1950, as opposed to about 68% today. In fact, from 1890 to 1940, the black marriage rate was slightly higher than that of whites… In New York City, in 1925, 85% of black households were two-parent households… Disgustingly, black politicians, civil rights leaders, liberals and the president are talking nonsense about ‘having a conversation about race.’ That’s beyond useless. Tell me how a conversation with white people is going to stop black predators from preying on blacks. How is such a conversation going to eliminate the 75% illegitimacy rate? What will such a conversation do about the breakdown of the black family… Only black people can solve our problems.”

“Discrimination is simply the act of choice. Scarcity requires us to choose; scarcity is the cause of discrimination!”

“Employer substitution of higher-skilled for lower-skilled workers is not the only effect of the minimum wage law. It also gives employers an economic incentive to make other changes: substitute machines for labor; change production techniques; relocate overseas; and eliminate certain jobs altogether. The substitution of automatic dishwashers for hand washing, and automatic tomato-picking machines for manual pickers, are examples of the substitution of machines for labor in response to higher wages.”

“The law-abiding black citizen who is passed up by a taxi, refused pizza delivery, or stopped by the police can rightfully feel a sense of injustice and resentment. But the bulk of those feelings should be directed at those who have made race synonymous with higher rates of criminal activity rather than the taxi driver or pizza deliverer who is trying to earn a living and avoid being a crime victim.”

“How much of a barrier to self-improvement is discrimination? What kinds of tools are in the ready grasp of those subjected to it? Surely one doesn’t want to sit around waiting for the end to discrimination.”

Economics, Socialism and Capitalism

“Some say it’s wrong to profit from the misfortune of others. I ask my students whether they’d support a law against doing so. But I caution them with some examples. An orthopedist profits from your misfortune of having broken your leg skiing. When there’s news of a pending ice storm, I doubt whether it saddens the hearts of those in the collision repair business. I also tell my students that I profit from their misfortune — their ignorance of economic theory.”

“Social Security is unsustainable because it is not meeting the first order condition of a Ponzi scheme, namely expanding the pool of suckers.”

“This is why socialism is evil. It employs evil means, coercion or taking the property of one person, to accomplish good ends, helping one’s fellow man. Helping one’s fellow man in need, by reaching into one’s own pockets, is a laudable and praiseworthy goal. Doing the same through coercion and reaching into another’s pockets has no redeeming features and is worthy of condemnation.”

“Socialism promises a utopia that sounds good, but those promises are never realized. It most often results in massive human suffering. Capitalism fails miserably when compared with a heaven or utopia promised by socialism. But any earthly system is going to come up short in such a comparison. Mankind must make choices among alternative economic systems that actually exist.”

“It turns out that for the common man capitalism, with all of its alleged shortcomings, is superior to any system yet devised to deal with his everyday needs and desires. By most any measure of human well-being, people who live in countries toward the capitalistic end of the economic spectrum are far better off than their fellow men who live in countries toward the socialist end.”

“Capitalism, or what some call free markets, is relatively new in human history. Prior to capitalism, the way individuals amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering and enslaving their fellow man. With the rise of capitalism, it became possible to amass great wealth by serving and pleasing your fellow man. Capitalists seek to discover what people want and produce and market it as efficiently as possible as a means to profit. … Here’s my question to you: Are the people who, by their actions, created unprecedented convenience, longer life expectancy and a more pleasant life for the ordinary person — and became wealthy in the process — deserving of all the scorn and ridicule heaped upon them by intellectuals and political hustlers today?”

“What our nation needs is a separation of “business and state” as it has a separation of “church and state.” That would mean crony capitalism and crony socialism could not survive.”

Morality and Freedom

“Do-gooders fail to realize that most good is not done in the name of good but done in the name of self-interest.”

“But let me offer you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn. Do you disagree? Well then tell me how much of what I earn belongs to you — and why?”

“How does something immoral, when done privately, become moral when it is done collectively? Furthermore, does legality establish morality? Slavery was legal; apartheid is legal; Stalinist, Nazi, and Maoist purges were legal. Clearly, the fact of legality does not justify these crimes. Legality, alone, cannot be the talisman of moral people.”

“No matter how worthy the cause, it is robbery, theft, and injustice to confiscate the property of one person and give it to another to whom it does not belong”

“Philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe explained that ‘no one is as hopelessly enslaved as the person who thinks he’s free.’ That’s becoming an apt description for Americans who are oblivious to — or ignorant of — the liberties we’ve lost.”

Read more of Walter E. Williams’ work here.

Ian Haworth is host of The Ian Haworth Show and The Truth in 60 Seconds. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.

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