One of America’s leading public intellectuals for nearly half a century, Walter Williams (1936–2020) defended free markets, championed individualism, and fought to liberate blacks and other minorities from destructive ideas and policies. He often opposed the status quo, especially the shibboleths of the left. And he was derided accordingly by journalists and intellectuals. But Williams was never deterred. His mind, wit, and focus on facts—combined with his remarkable ability to communicate in clear, plain English—left his detractors in the dust and taught countless people crucial truths about economics and how the marketplace actually works.
His courageous life story, from the Richard Allen housing project in Philadelphia to the lecture halls of George Mason University, reinforces the ideas Williams spent his life promoting: Government interventions in the economy are destructive and immoral; freedom, more than any other factor, enables social mobility; and capitalism is the only moral economic system. . . .
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1. Walter E. Williams, Up from the Projects: An Autobiography (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2010), 7.
2. The Richard Allen housing project now reflects this unfortunate social depravity. Layla Jones, “Neighbors Beg for 24-Hour Patrols at Violent North Philly Corner, but Police Cite Lack of Resources,” Billy Pen, September 3, 2020, https://billypenn.com/2020/09/03/north-philly-gun-violence-24-hour-police-patrols-richard-allen-projects-poplar-wysenia-williams/.
3. Williams, Up from the Projects, 1.
4. Williams, Up from the Projects, 17.
5. Williams, Up from the Projects, 12.
6. Williams, Up from the Projects, 13.
7. Williams, Up from the Projects, 141.
8. Williams, Up from the Projects, 78.
9. Williams, Up from the Projects, 83.
10. Williams, Up from the Projects, 83.
11. Williams, Up from the Projects, 83.
13. Walter Williams, “Moral or Immoral Government,” Jewish World Review, December 8, 2010, http://jewishworldreview.com/cols/williamns120810.php3#.YDV7KS2z23U. This idea of self-ownership is akin to Ayn Rand’s view that “man [is] a sovereign individual who owns his person, his mind, his life, his work and its products” and that “your life belongs to you.” Ayn Rand, “What Is Capitalism” in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (New York: Signet, 1967), 18; For the New Intellectual (New York: Signet, 1963), 120.
14. “About Walter E. Williams,” Creators Syndicate, https://www.creators.com/author/walter-ewilliams (accessed February 23, 2021); Williams, Up from the Projects, 91–92.
15. Williams, Up from the Projects, 115.
16. Williams, Up from the Projects, 89.
17. Williams, Up from the Projects, 89.
18. “Minimum Wage and Discrimination,” Walter E. Williams, http://walterewilliams.com/minimum-wage-and-discrimination/ (accessed February 15, 2021).
19. Louis Woodhill, “The War on Poverty Wasn’t a Failure—It Was a Catastrophe,” Forbes, March 19, 2014, https://www.forbes.com/sites/louiswoodhill/2014/03/19/the-war-on-poverty-wasnt-a-failure-it-was-a-catastrophe/?sh=7e24b5a36f49.
20. Walter Williams, “Minimum Wage Dishonesty,” Jewish World Review, January 13, 2016, http://jewishworldreview.com/cols/williams011316.php3.
21. Walter Williams, Good Intentions, PBS, 1982, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5TS8QUJWXo&t=251s.
22. Paraphrasing of George Gilder’s statement. Walter Williams, Good Intentions, PBS, 1982.
23. Walter Williams, “The Welfare State’s Legacy,” Jewish World Review, September 20, 2017, http://jewishworldreview.com/cols/williams092017.php3.
24. Williams, “Welfare State’s Legacy.”
25. Walter Williams, “Culture and Social Pathology,” Jewish World Review, June 17, 2015, http://jewishworldreview.com/cols/williams061715.php3.
27. Ian Schwartz, “Walter Williams: ‘The Civil Rights Struggle Is Over, and It Is Won,’” Real Clear Politics, August 28, 2013, https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2013/08/28/walter_williams_the_civil_rights_struggle_is_over_and_it_is_won.html.
28. Ayn Rand, “Racism,” in The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: Signet, 1964), 126.
29. Walter E. Williams, “Reparations for Slavery,” Creators Syndicate, June 26, 2019, https://www.creators.com/read/walter-williams/06/19/reparations-for-slavery.
30. Williams, Up from the Projects, 117.