The liberating legacy of Walter E. Williams

Exclusive: Lowell Ponte honors great conservative thinker

Lowell Ponte

By Lowell Ponte
Published December 3, 2020 at 7:34pm


Americans, already weeping for the decline and possible fall of our democratic republic, learned this week of the passing at age 84 of one of our greatest conservative-libertarian advocates of free minds and free markets, Dr. Walter E. Williams.

Economics is the “dismal science,” but as a columnist, author and longtime professor of economics at George Mason University, Dr. Williams taught with brilliant bluntness and humor about why laissez-faire capitalism is the most moral, most productive economic system humans have ever devised.

Walter Edward Williams was born on March 31, 1936, in Philadelphia into a family that during his childhood consisted of his mother, sister and him. His father reportedly played no role in raising either child.

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At age 10 his family moved into North Philadelphia’s Richard Allen housing projects, where one neighbor was a young Bill Cosby. Williams knew the people Cosby later made famous as characters nicknamed Weird Harold and Fat Albert. Williams was also a cousin of legendary NBA player Julius Erving.

After high school, Williams moved to California to live with his father. For one semester he attended Los Angeles City College. In 1959, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, stationed first in the American South and then South Korea. On his personnel form, Williams caused a small ruckus by describing his race as Caucasian.

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After his army stint, Williams in 1965 earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and his Master’s degree (1967) and Ph.D. (1972) at the University of California Los Angeles. At UCLA, he met another economist who would be his best friend for the next 50 years, Dr. Thomas Sowell.

Like Sowell, Williams for a time thought of himself as a troublemaker and radical, a black activist drawn more to Malcolm X than to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But even then, the tough and pragmatic Williams believed that he could help African Americans and others most by teaching how free markets create opportunity and prosperity without discriminating against anyone’s race.

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In the second of his 10 books, “The State Against Blacks” (1982), Williams explains why the free market is superior to any individual or group dependence on self-serving politicians and government, whether Marxist, socialist or paternalistic American liberal.

“[L]et me offer you my definition of social justice,” wrote Williams in his 1987 book “All It Takes Is Guts.” “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.”

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

Theft by a robber, Williams believed, does not become moral when the same thing is done collectively by a government acting under law; Hitler and Stalin also robbed people “lawfully.”

The Constitution’s Article I Section 8 lists government’s few “enumerated powers,” such as national defense. Under President John F. Kennedy, more than 50 cents of every tax dollar funded national defense; today, nearly 70 cents goes for unconstitutional “transfer payments,” redistribution of wealth by state coercion.

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“Prior to capitalism,” taught Williams, “the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering and enslaving their fellow man. Capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by serving your fellow man.”

The free market is not coercive and lets people voluntarily exchange money or barter for products or services they freely choose to buy. The free market is simply human freedom in the economic realm.

By contrast, taught Williams: “Government is about coercion. Limiting government is the single most important instrument for guaranteeing liberty.” But government schools have dumbed our children down, leaving them easily seduced by welfare, “tax the rich” demagogues, and politicians’ divide-and-conquer tactics to gain more power for themselves.

To help free Americans from such racial polarization, Dr. Williams created his “Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon Granted to All Persons of European Descent,” giving white Americans his “full and general amnesty and pardon” for wrongs they or their ancestors may have committed against African-Americans.

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Dr. Walter E. Williams is in Heaven, but his enlightening videos, writings and guilt-forgiving certificate of amnesty and pardon live on. As of this writing, you may print copies for free in black-and-white or handsome color”>here. You can copy the entire certificate at full size onto regular or photo paper without adjusting your paper’s 8-1/2 X 11” size or image orientation.

The liberating legacy of Walter E. Williams

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