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Harold Black Remembers Walter Williams

This month’s Liberty Matters episode is devoted to the work and legacy of my late, great colleague and dear friend Walter Williams. The first essay is by Professor Harold Black. Other essays, including one by me, will appear within the next few days.

Here’s a slice from Professor Black’s essay (footnotes deleted):

Williams was a fierce advocate of limited government and opponent of forced income redistribution. He famously stated, “Let me offer you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn. Do you disagree? Well you tell me what I earn belongs to you – and why?” He also stated “No matter how worthy the cause, it is robbery, theft and injustice to confiscate the property of one person and give it to another to whom it does not belong.” As such, Williams added to the debate of reparations and paying one’s “fair share” and did it in a manner that was intentionally provocative. Williams’ prescription for lessening poverty was simple: “complete high school; get a job, any kind of job; get married before having children; and be a law-abiding citizen. Among both black and white Americans so described, the poverty rate is in the single digits.” A controversial statement in today’s “woke” climate but again one that cannot be proven wrong.

Although Williams was labeled as a “conservative”, he was even handed when it came to criticizing both liberals and conservatives in government. Both liberals and conservatives advocate the confiscation of one person’s property to give it to another. The difference was in who was to get the spoils. In essence, taxation was theft, and since the government is essentially nonproductive, it has to seize the property of others to function and to reward its friends and not its enemies (which change with each election). To quote Williams, “The compelling issue for both conservatives and liberals is not whether it is legitimate for government to confiscate one’s property to give it to another, the debate is over the disposition of the pillage.”

(DBx: By “liberals,” Walter of course meant “Progressives.”)