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Walter Williams: The People’s Economist

Unleash Prosperity Hotline
Issue #172
1) Walter Williams: The People’s Economist

For many years several of your editors had the pleasure of monthly lunches with Walter Williams to talk about the economy and the world. What made the lunches memorable was Walter’s world-renowned wit and his good spirits. At the end of the lunch, the eight of us would each pitch in to pay for the meal and Walter would dead-pan ask: “Do black people have to pay?” He understood how to capitalize on white guilt before anyone did. Aside from being one of the world’s most influential free-market economists in the second half of the twentieth century, he was very funny.

Image of Walter Williams

He died this week at the age of 84.

His book “The State Against Blacks” was and still is a modern-classic on how the government has often stalled black progress. He proved with compelling data and analysis that do-good policies from racial preferences, to occupational licensing, to the minimum wage, to most importantly, the welfare state, were inhibiting black economic progress. One of our favorite quotes from Walter was this: “The intact black family survived the evils of slavery, segregation, and Jim Crowe laws, but it couldn’t survive the welfare state.”

He had no tolerance for the racial grievances lobby at leftist groups like Black Lives Matter.

Another of our favorite lines from Walter from his famous Econ 100 course: “How do you think it is that you can buy a great steak dinner in New York City? Does anyone think that the cattle farmers in Texas who work tirelessly in those fields to raise those cows give a hoot about the well-being of Manhattan Wall Street traders? The beef gets to New York thanks to the self-interest of the cattle farmer. That’s the magic of the free market.”

And another: “If raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour will reduce poverty in the United States, then why don’t we just raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour in Mexico and India and we can end world poverty?”

It is a damn shame that Walter was not awarded the Nobel prize in economics. Few have done more to teach several generations of Americans economic common sense – something today’s academic economists have strayed so far from.

We don’t normally link to long videos, but if you have the time, gather the family and watch this hour-long Walter Williams tutorial. You will learn more from this than any economics course in the country.

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