Walter E. Williams
An American economist, commentator, and author of Liberty Versus the Tyranny of Socialism
Latest from Walter E. Williams
Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, leading to President Donald Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, has thrown progressives, the Democratic Party and the news media into an out-and-out tizzy. The online magazine Slate declared, “Anthony Kennedy Just Destroyed His Legacy as a Gay Rights Hero.” The New York Times' editorial board said about a second Trump court appointment, “It is a dark moment in the history of the court and the nation, and it's about to get a lot darker.”
The Canadian government, lining the pockets of its dairy producers, imposes high tariffs on American dairy imports. That forces Canadians to pay higher prices for dairy products. For example, Canadians pay $5.24 for a 10.5-ounce block of cheddar. In Washington, D.C., that same amount of cheddar sells for $3.64. Canadians pay $3.99 for a 1-pound container of yogurt. In Washington, D.C., you can get nearly twice as much yogurt for a little over $4. It's clear that the Canadian government's tariffs screw its citizens by forcing them to pay higher prices for dairy products.
Amy Wax, a University of Pennsylvania law professor, has come under attack and scathing criticism because she dared criticize the school's racial preferences program. In an interview with Brown University economist Glenn Loury, discussing affirmative action, Wax mentioned how racial preferences hinder the ability of blacks to succeed academically by admitting them into schools at which they are in over their heads academically.
My column a fortnight ago, titled "Diversity and Inclusion Harm," focused on the dumbing down of science, technology, engineering and mathematics curricula to achieve a more pleasing mixture of participants in terms of race and sex. Heather Mac Donald, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, wrote about this in her article titled "How Identity Politics Is Harming the Sciences."
In conversations with most college officials, many CEOs, many politicians and race hustlers, it's not long before the magical words “diversity” and “inclusiveness” drop from their lips. Racial minorities are the intended targets of this sociological largesse, but women are included, as well. This obsession with diversity and inclusion is in the process of leading the nation to decline in a number of areas. We're told how it's doing so in science, in an article by Heather Mac Donald, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, titled “How Identity Politics Is Harming the Sciences.”
Having enjoyed my 82nd birthday, I am part of a group of about 50 million Americans who are 65 years of age or older. Those who are 90 or older were in school during the 1930s. My age cohort was in school during the 1940s. Baby boomers approaching their 70s were in school during the 1950s and early '60s.
Several recent polls, plus the popularity of Sen. Bernie Sanders, demonstrate that young people prefer socialism to free market capitalism. That, I believe, is a result of their ignorance and indoctrination during their school years, from kindergarten through college. For the most part, neither they nor many of their teachers and professors know what free market capitalism is.
Robert Mueller's investigation into whether President Donald Trump and the Russians colluded to rig the 2016 presidential election so far has borne little fruit. The Democrats and their media allies would love to find some Russian collusion and interference. I can help them discover some, but I doubt that they will show much interest.
In the aftermath of the Kanye West dust-up, my heart goes out to the white people who control the Democratic Party. My pity stems from the hip-hop megastar's November announcement to his packed concert audience that he did not vote in the presidential election but if he had, he would have voted for Donald Trump.
Before the massive growth of our welfare state, private charity was the sole option for an individual or family facing insurmountable financial difficulties or other challenges. How do we know that? There is no history of Americans dying on the streets because they could not find food or basic medical assistance.
Just within the past week or so, some shocking professorial behavior has come to light. In the wake of Barbara Bush's death, California State University, Fresno professor Randa Jarrar took to Twitter to call the former first lady an "amazing racist." Jarrar added, "PSA: either you are against these pieces of s--- and their genocidal ways or you're part of the problem. that's actually how simple this is. I'm happy the witch is dead. can't wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million iraqis have. byyyeeeeeeee."
Earlier this month, the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, aka The Nation's Report Card, was released. It's not a pretty story. Only 37 percent of 12th-graders tested proficient or better in reading, and only 25 percent did so in math. Among black students, only 17 percent tested proficient or better in reading, and just 7 percent reached at least a proficient level in math.
When World War II ended, Washington, D.C.'s population was about 900,000; today it's about 700,000. In 1950, Baltimore's population was almost 950,000; today it's around 614,000. Detroit's 1950 population was close to 1.85 million; today it's down to 673,000. Camden, New Jersey's 1950 population was nearly 125,000; today it has fallen to 77,000. St. Louis' 1950 population was more than 856,000; today it's less than 309,000.
I don't mind saying that this column represents a grossly understated review of "Discrimination and Disparities," just published by my longtime friend and colleague Dr. Thomas Sowell. In less than 200 pages, Sowell lays waste to myth after myth not only in the United States but around the globe.
Here's a question for you: In 1950, would it have been possible for anyone to know all of the goods and services that we would have at our disposal 50 years later? For example, who would have thought that we'd have cellphones, Bluetooth technology, small powerful computers, LASIK and airplanes with 525-passenger seating capacity? This list could be extended to include thousands of goods and services that could not have been thought of in 1950.
One of the unavoidable tragedies of youth is the temptation to think that what is seen today has always been. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in our responses to the recent Parkland, Florida, massacre. Part of the responses to those murders are calls to raise the age to purchase a gun and to have more thorough background checks -- in a word, to make gun purchases more difficult. That's a vision that sees easy gun availability as the problem; thus, the solution is to reduce that availability.
There are a couple of important economic lessons that the American people should learn. I'm going to title one "the seen and unseen" and the other "narrow well-defined large benefits versus widely dispersed small costs." These lessons are applicable to a wide range of government behavior, but let's look at just two examples.
Before we discuss violence with guns, I'd like to run a couple of questions by you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day nearly 30 Americans die in motor vehicle crashes that involve drunk driving. What kind of restrictions should be placed on automobile ownership? Should there be federal background checks in order for people to obtain a driver's license or purchase a car?
A liberal-created failure that goes entirely ignored is the left's harmful agenda for society's most vulnerable people -- the mentally ill. Eastern State Hospital, built in 1773 in Williamsburg, Virginia, was the first public hospital in America for the care and treatment of the mentally ill. Many more followed. Much of the motivation to build more mental institutions was to provide a remedy for the maltreatment of mentally ill people in our prisons.
A recent article in The Guardian dons the foreboding title "Robots will destroy our jobs -- and we're not ready for it." The article claims, "For every job created by robotic automation, several more will be eliminated entirely. ... This disruption will have a devastating impact on our workforce."