Episode #216: Interview with Dr. Walter Williams



Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Walter E. Williams holds a B.A. in economics from California State University, Los Angeles, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from UCLA. He also holds a Doctor of Humane Letters from Virginia Union University and Grove City College, Doctor of Laws from Washington and Jefferson College. Dr. Williams has served on the faculty of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics, since 1980; from 1995 to 2001, he served as department chairman. He has authored ten books: America: A Minority ViewpointThe State Against Blacks, All It Takes Is GutsSouth Africa's War Against CapitalismMore Liberty Means Less GovernmentLiberty vs. the Tyranny of SocialismUp From The Projects: An AutobiographyRace and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed On Discrimination? and American Contempt for Liberty

Dr. Williams is the author of over 150 publications which have appeared in scholarly journals such as Economic InquiryAmerican Economic ReviewGeorgia Law ReviewJournal of Labor EconomicsSocial Science Quarterly, and Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy and popular publications such as NewsweekIdeas on LibertyNational ReviewReader's DigestCato Journal, and Policy Review.

He has made scores of radio and television appearances which include “Nightline,” “Firing Line,” “Face the Nation,” Milton Friedman’s “Free To Choose,” “Crossfire,” “MacNeil/Lehrer,” “Wall Street Week” and was a regular commentator for “Nightly Business Report.” He is also occasional substitute host for the “Rush Limbaugh” show. In addition Dr. Williams writes a nationally syndicated weekly column that is carried by approximately 140 newspapers and several web sites. His most recent documentary is “Suffer No Fools,” shown on PBS stations Fall/Spring 2014/2015, based on Up from the Projects: An Autobiography

Dr. Williams serves as Emeritus Trustee at Grove City College and the Reason Foundation. He serves as Director for the Chase Foundation and Americans for Prosperity. He also serves on numerous advisory boards including: Cato Institute, Landmark Legal Foundation, Institute of Economic Affairs, and Heritage Foundation. Dr. Williams serves as Distinguished Affiliated Scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. 

Dr. Williams has received numerous fellowships and awards including: the 2017 Bradley Prize from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foudation, the Fund for American Studies David Jones Lifetime Achievement Award, Foundation for Economic Education Adam Smith Award, Hoover Institution National Fellow, Ford Foundation Fellow, Valley Forge Freedoms Foundation George Washington Medal of Honor, Veterans of Foreign Wars U.S. News Media Award, Adam Smith Award, California State University Distinguished Alumnus Award, George Mason University Faculty Member of the Year, and Alpha Kappa Psi Award. 

Dr. Williams has participated in numerous debates, conferences and lectures in the United States and abroad. He has frequently given expert testimony before Congressional committees on public policy issues ranging from labor policy to taxation and spending. He is a member of the Mont Pelerin Society, and the American Economic Association.

Ed’s Questions

Your show Good Intentions, do you think the situation is better or worse, and why can’t we seem to shake this good intentions versus actual outcomes paradigm we’re stuck in?

What, specifically, do you mean by spiritual poverty?

Do you think the current welfare regime contributes to this situation because it encourages this behavior because of the way the programs are structured?

I’ve heard you speak eloquently on the freedom of association and the impact it has from an economic standpoint. Would you mind talking a little bit about that?

I’d actually prefer that bigots self-identify so I could avoid them.

Ron’s Questions

You published your autobiography, Up From The Projects: An Autobiography, in 2010. One story I found fascinating was about your economics professor Armen Alchian, who asked the class: why do we build the Golden Gate bridge when a military bridge would do just fine? He didn’t know the answer. Do you now have an answer to that question?

[Professor Williams recommends the book Universal Economics, based on Armen Alchian’s work].

In 1989, you published South Africa's War Against Capitalism, which sounded like an ironic title at the time. What would you say is the biggest misperception about apartheid [apart-hate]?

Speaking of immigration, what would be your preferred policy on immigration?

Would you be for more legal immigration?

Do you favor a point system, or charging people, to get into the country?

Do you think we’ll ever see a market for body organs?

I find it ironic that Iran allows the sale of body organs, but here in the capitalist west we do not?

You and Dr. Sowell have taught me that a shortage usually has nothing to do with actual physical scarcity but because the price is wrong.

If we had to rely solely on people’s altruism, we’d have a materially lacking life.

If you had a meeting with president Trump, what would be one piece of economic advice would you give him?


Ed Kless

Ed Kless joined Sage in July of 2003 and is currently the senior director of partner development and strategy. He develops and delivers curriculum for Sage business partners on the art and practice of small business consulting. Courses include: Sage Consulting Academy, Business Strategy and Customer Experience Workshops. Ed is the author of The Soul of Enterprise: Dialogues on Business in the Knowledge Economy, a compendium of a few of the episodes of his VoiceAmerica talk-show The Soul of Enterprise: Business in the Knowledge Economy with Ron Baker, founder of the VeraSage Institute where Ed is also a senior fellow.