OPINION: William L. Anderson - How Walter Williams Helped Me Lose a Job

Walter E. Williams (1936-2020)
Walter E. Williams (1936-2020)

The passing of economist Walter Williams this week is a blow to anyone who cares about free markets and the negative effects of government intervention on human progress. Professor Williams articulated the role of markets, prices, and private property about as well as any economist outside of Ludwig von Mises or Murray Rothbard.

Like Mises and Rothbard, he was uncompromising in his views. Free markets, Professor Williams believed, provided the best way for humans—and especially people born on lower rungs of the economic ladder—to advance materially and in other ways, too, and he never passed on a chance to bring those views to the larger public. While he published in the “scholarly” journals such as American Economic Review, he is better known for his columns and books that dealt with race, discrimination, and economics.

My personal history with Walter Williams goes back to September 1982 at the meetings of the Mont Pelerin Society, which were held at the Intercontinental Hotel in what then was West Berlin. I had won the Olive W. Garvey Economic Essay Contest, entering at the encouragement of William H. Peterson, who became an early mentor for me in learning economics, and especially from the Austrian school.

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Anderson is a professor of economics at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland.