The Corner

Economics

Walter Williams, R.I.P.

The great economist and freedom fighter Walter Williams has died. This is an incredibly sad news. Walter was a great communicator of ideas and a prolific, provocative and uncompromising writer. He was the John M. Olin distinguished professor of economics at George Mason University. His voice, his happy-warrior demeanor, his cosmopolitan views, his endless fight on behalf of those with no political voices, and his generosity to all of us at Mason will be missed.

David Henderson writes about the news here.

Economic Policy Journal has this tribute. It includes this tidbit:

He was the author of over 150 publications which have appeared in scholarly journals such as Economic Inquiry, American Economic Review, Georgia Law Review, Journal of Labor Economics, Social Science Quarterly, and Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy and popular publications such as Newsweek, Ideas on Liberty, National Review, Reader’s Digest, Cato Journal, and Policy Review. He authored ten books: America: A Minority ViewpointThe State Against Blacks, which was later made into the PBS documentary “Good Intentions,” All It Takes Is Guts, South Africa’s War Against Capitalism, which was later revised for South African publication, Do the Right Thing: The People’s Economist Speaks More Liberty Means Less Government, Liberty vs. the Tyranny of Socialism, Up From The Projects: An Autobiography, Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed On Discrimination? and American Contempt for Liberty.

If possible, I will update this post with more tributes to Walter. Until then, here is one of Russ Roberts’ EconTalk podcasts with Walter Williams.

R.I.P., Walter.

Update:

Here are some of the many remembrances of Walter Williams that have been published since his passing.

Donald Boudreaux: “A onetime cabdriver who grew up poor in Philadelphia, Walter knew injustice—and understood the way to fight it wasn’t by emoting but by probing and learning.”

Thomas Sowell: “He was my best friend for half a century. There was no one I trusted more or whose integrity I respected more.”

Pete Boettke: “Walter did not seek confrontation for the sake of confrontation, nor did he run away from it. He sought truth in the human condition aided by the rigorous logic of economic reasoning and the discipline of the scientific method.”

Dominic Pino: “He was impatient with nonsense, but he was never impatient with the process of learning. The number of students who benefitted from his genius are too many to count. Many of them are now teachers themselves, passing on Williams’ teaching to even more minds.”

Nick Gillespie: “If we are not as far down the road to serfdom as he feared, it’s in good part due to his voluminous writings and appearances which were by turns impassioned, funny, insightful, and memorable as hell. Walter E. Williams, rest in peace.”

Alex Tabarrok: “Walter led a remarkable life recounted in his autobiography, Up From the Projects. He was arrested for disorderly conduct several times and drafted into the army. He was later court-martialed but, acting as his own attorney, he wins his case. He’s sent to Korea and when asked to fill in a form stating his race he writes Caucasian because the Negros got all the worst jobs. He tells his commanding officer that he has pledged to defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic and that he, the commanding officer, is a domestic enemy of the constitution. He writes to complain to President John F. Kennedy. The army gives him an honorable discharge. His wife, Connie, helps him to become more mannerly. It was only when he discovered economics, however, that he learned to combine trouble-making with discipline.”

David Boaz: “An engaging teacher of Econ 101, in a classroom or on the lecture circuit. A missionary for sound economics and clear thinking, happy to engage in public debate. A newspaper columnist and frequent radio/​TV guest or host.”

Dan Mitchell: “…Walter was a take-no-prisoners troublemaker who got in trouble as a young man (everything from arrests to a court martial) because he refused to tolerate racism.”