Walter E. Williams

Walter Edward Williams (born March 31, 1936) is an American economist, commentator, and academic. He is the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, as well as a syndicated columnist and author known for his classical liberal and libertarian conservative views.[2] His writings frequently appear on, WND, and Jewish World Review.

Walter E. Williams
Walter Edward Williams

(1936-03-31) March 31, 1936 (age 83)[1]
Connie Taylor
(m. 1960; - her death 2007)
InstitutionGeorge Mason University (1980–present)
Temple University
Los Angeles City College (1972–1974)
California State University, Los Angeles (1969–1970)
Grove City College
FieldEconomics, education, politics, free market, race relations, liberty
School or
Alma materCalifornia State University, Los Angeles
(B.A.) 1965
UCLA (M.A.) 1967
UCLA (Ph.D.) 1972

Early life and educationEdit

Williams's family during childhood consisted of his mother, his sister, and him. Williams's father played no role in raising Williams or his sister.[3] He grew up in Philadelphia. The family initially lived in West Philadelphia, moving to North Philadelphia and the Richard Allen housing projects when Williams was ten years old. His neighbors included a young Bill Cosby. Williams knew many of the individuals that Cosby speaks of from his childhood, including Weird Harold and Fat Albert.[4]

Following graduation from Benjamin Franklin High School, he went to California to live with his father and attend one semester at Los Angeles City College.[5] In 1959, he was drafted into the military, and served as a Private in the United States Army.[4][6] While stationed in the South, he "waged a one man battle against Jim Crow from inside the army". He challenged the racial order with provocative statements to his fellow soldiers. This resulted in an overseeing officer filing a court-martial proceeding against Williams. Williams argued his own case and was found not guilty.[4] While considering filing countercharges against the officer that had brought him up for court martial, Williams found himself transferred to Korea. Upon arriving there, Williams marked "Caucasian" for race on his personnel form. When challenged on this, Williams replied wryly if he had marked "Black", he would end up getting all the worst jobs. From Korea, Williams wrote a letter to President John F. Kennedy denouncing the pervasive racism in the American government and military and questioning the actions black Americans should take given the state of affairs, writing:

Should Negroes be relieved of their service obligation or continue defending and dying for empty promises of freedom and equality? Or should we demand human rights as our Founding Fathers did at the risk of being called extremists ... I contend that we relieve ourselves of oppression in a manner that is in keeping with the great heritage of our nation.[4]

He received a reply from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Alfred B. Fitt, a response which he termed "the most reasonable response that I received from any official."[7]

Following his military service, Williams re-entered college, earning a bachelor's degree (1965) in Economics from California State College at Los Angeles (now California State University, Los Angeles). He earned both his master's degree (1967) and his Ph.D. (1972) in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles. Speaking of his early college days, Williams says "I was more than anything a radical. I was more sympathetic to Malcolm X than Martin Luther King because Malcolm X was more of a radical who was willing to confront discrimination in ways that I thought it should be confronted, including perhaps the use of violence. But I really just wanted to be left alone. I thought some laws, like minimum-wage laws, helped poor people and poor black people and protected workers from exploitation. I thought they were a good thing until I was pressed by professors to look at the evidence." While at UCLA, Williams came into contact with economists such as Armen Alchian, James M. Buchanan, and Axel Leijonhufvud who challenged his assumptions.[8]

While Williams was at UCLA, Thomas Sowell arrived on campus in 1969 as a visiting professor. Although he never took a class from Dr. Sowell, the two met and began a friendship that has lasted for decades. In the summer of 1972, Sowell was hired as director of the Urban Institute's Ethnic Minorities Project, which Williams joined shortly thereafter.[9] Correspondence between Sowell and Williams appears in the 2007 "A Man of Letters" piece by Sowell.

Academic careerEdit

Williams has been a professor of economics at George Mason University since 1980, and was chairman of the University's Economics department from 1995 to 2001.

He had previously been on the faculty of Los Angeles City College, California State University – Los Angeles, Temple University, and Grove City College. Williams was awarded an honorary degree at Universidad Francisco Marroquin.

Williams has written ten books, as well as numerous columns.[10] He wrote and hosted documentaries for PBS in 1985. The "Good Intentions" documentary was based on his book The State Against Blacks.[11]

Economic and political viewsEdit

As an economist, Williams is a proponent of free market economics and opposes socialist systems of government intervention.[12] Williams believes laissez-faire capitalism is the most moral, most productive system humans have ever devised.[13]

In the mid-to-late 1970s, Williams conducted research into the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 and on the impact of minimum wage laws on minority employment. His research led him to conclude the government's interventional programs are harmful. Among those state programs Williams was critical of were minimum wage and affirmative action laws, stating both practices inhibit liberty and are detrimental to the blacks they are intended to help. He published his results in his 1982 book The State Against Blacks, where he argued that laws regulating economic activity are far greater obstacles to economic progress for blacks than racial bigotry and discrimination.[8] Subsequently, Williams has spoken on the topic and penned a number of articles detailing his view that increases in the minimum wage price low skill workers out of the market, eliminating their opportunities for employment.[14][15][16][17] Williams believes that racism and the legacy of slavery in the United States are overemphasized as problems faced by the black community today. He points to the crippling effects of a welfare state and the disintegration of the black family as more pressing concerns. "The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn't do, and that is to destroy the black family."[8] Although in favor of equal access to government institutions such as court houses, city halls, and libraries, Williams opposes anti-discrimination laws directed at the private sector on the grounds that such laws infringe upon the people's right of freedom of association.

Williams views gun control laws as a governmental infringement upon the rights of individuals, and argues that they end up endangering the innocent while failing to reduce crime.[18] Williams also makes the argument that the true proof of whether or not an individual owns something is whether or not they have the right to sell it. Taking this argument to its conclusion, he supports legalization of selling one's own bodily organs.[19] He argues that government prohibiting the selling of one's bodily organs is an infringement upon one's property rights.[20][21]

Williams has praised the views of Thomas DiLorenzo,[22] and wrote a foreword to DiLorenzo's anti-Abraham Lincoln book.[23] Williams maintains that the U.S. states are entitled to secede from the union if they wish, as the Confederate states attempted to do during the Civil War,[22] and asserts that the Union's victory in the Civil War allowed the federal government to "to run amok over states' rights, so much so that the protections of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments mean little or nothing today."[23]

In reaction to what he viewed as inappropriate racial sensitivity that he saw hurting blacks in higher education, Williams began in the 1970s to offer colleagues a "certificate of amnesty and pardon" to all white people for Western Civilization's sins against blacks – and "thus obliged them not to act like damn fools in their relationships with Americans of African ancestry." He still offers it to anyone. The certificate can be obtained at his website.[24]

Williams is opposed to the Federal Reserve System[25] arguing that central banks are dangerous.[26]

In his autobiography, Williams cited Frederick Bastiat, Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, and Milton Friedman as influences that led him to become a libertarian.[27] Williams praised Ayn Rand's 1967 work Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal as "one of the best defenses and explanations of capitalism one is likely to read."[28]

Besides his weekly columns, Williams has been a guest host for Rush Limbaugh's radio program when Limbaugh is away traveling. Reason has called Williams "one of the country's leading libertarian voices."[4] In 2009, Greg Ransom, a writer for the Ludwig von Mises Institute, ranked Williams as the third-most important "Hayekian" Public Intellectual in America, behind only Thomas Sowell and John Stossel.[29]

Personal lifeEdit

Williams and his wife Connie (née Taylor) were married from 1960 until her death on December 29, 2007. They had one daughter, Devon. Williams is a cousin of former NBA player Julius Erving.[30]

Williams served on the board of directors of Media General from 2001 until his retirement from the board in 2011. He was also chairman of the Audit Committee.[31][32]


  • America: A Minority Viewpoint (1982) ISBN 0-8179-7562-4
  • The State Against Blacks (1982) ISBN 0-07-070378-7
  • All It Takes Is Guts: A Minority View (1987) ISBN 0-89526-569-9
  • South Africa's War Against Capitalism (1989) ISBN 0-275-93179-X
  • Do the Right Thing: The People's Economist Speaks (1995) ISBN 0-8179-9382-7
  • More Liberty Means Less Government: Our Founders Knew This Well (1999) ISBN 0-8179-9612-5
  • Liberty versus the Tyranny of Socialism: Controversial Essays (2008) ISBN 0-8179-4912-7
  • Up from the Projects: An Autobiography (2010) ISBN 0-8179-1254-1
  • Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination? (2011) ISBN 978-0-8179-1244-4
  • American Contempt for Liberty (2015) ISBN 978-0-8179-1875-0


Public lectures videosEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Cato Editors (2011-03-31). "Happy Birthday Walter Williams". Cato@Liberty.
  2. ^ Free Market Mojo
  3. ^ Williams Up From the Projects p. 3
  4. ^ a b c d e Root, Damon (2011-01-28) Man Versus the State, Reason
  5. ^ Williams Up From the Projects p. 28
  6. ^ Williams Up From the Projects p. 36
  7. ^ Williams Up From The Projects pp. 63–65
  8. ^ a b c Riley, Jason (January 22, 2011). "The State Against Blacks". The Wall Street Journal.
  9. ^ Williams Up From The Projects pp. 91–93
  10. ^ "Walter E. Williams Biographical Sketch". George Mason University. Retrieved 2011-07-29.
  11. ^ George Mason University. "Biography, Walter E. Williams".
  12. ^ Williams More Liberty Means Less Government pp. 42–44
  13. ^ Williams, Walter (August 25, 1997). "Capitalism and the Common Man". Retrieved March 20, 2013.
  14. ^ Williams, Walter E. (December 3, 2010). "Opinion: Minimum wage's effect is universal in all parts of U.S." The Oakland Press.
  15. ^ Williams, Walter E. (April 14, 2010). "Opinion: Minimum wage increases hurt, not help, workers". Deseret News.
  16. ^ Williams, Walter E. (March 24, 2005). "Minimum Wage Is Not An Anti-Poverty Tool". Investors Business Daily.
  17. ^ Williams, Walter E. (April 9, 2012). "Williams With Sowell – Minimum Wage, Maximum Folly". Radio Interview.
  18. ^ Williams More Liberty Means Less Government pp. 59–61
  19. ^ Williams More Liberty Means Less Government pp. 138–140
  20. ^ Williams More Liberty Means Less Government p. 140
  21. ^ Williams, Walter. "My Organs Are For Sale". Retrieved October 30, 2010.
  22. ^ a b Williams, Walter (March 22, 2005). "DiLorenzo Is Right About Lincoln". Retrieved April 7, 2007.
  23. ^ a b DiLorenzo, Thomas (2003). "Foreword". The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War. Foreword by Walter Williams. New York, New York: Three Rivers Press. p. xii-xiii. ISBN 0-7615-2646-3. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  24. ^ "Gift of Amnesty and Pardon" (PDF).
  25. ^ "Walter Williams".
  26. ^ "Counterfeiting Versus Monetary Policy".
  27. ^ Williams Up From the Projects p. 83
  28. ^ Williams, Walter E. "Book Recommendations". Walter Williams Homepage.(ret'd. 12-30-2011)
  29. ^ Ransom, Greg (April 2, 2009). "The Top 30 Hayekian Public Intellectuals In America". Mises Economics Blog, Ludwig von Mises Institute. Retrieved November 16, 2010.
  30. ^ "Walter Williams".
  31. ^ "Walter E. Williams - Executive Bio, Compensation History, and Contacts - Equilar Atlas". Retrieved 2017-02-17.
  32. ^ "Executive Compensation & Stock Trading - Businessweek".
  • Williams, Walter E. (1999) "More Liberty Means Less Government; Our Founders Knew This Well" Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press. ISBN 0-8179-9612-5
  • Williams, Walter E. (2010) "Up From The Projects" Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press. ISBN 978-0-8179-1255-0

External linksEdit