Walter E. Williams
An American economist, commentator, and author of Liberty Versus the Tyranny of Socialism
Latest from Walter E. Williams
Some people have called for a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution as a means of reining in a big-spending Congress. That's a misguided vision, for the simple reason that in any real economic sense, as opposed to an accounting sense, the federal budget is always balanced. The value of what we produced in 2017 -- our gross domestic product -- totaled about $19 trillion.
President Donald Trump reportedly asked why the U.S. is “having all these people from sh*thole countries come here.” I think he could have used better language, but it's a question that should be asked and answered. I have a few questions for my fellow Americans to consider. How many Norwegians have illegally entered our nation, committed crimes and burdened our prison and welfare systems?
President Donald Trump said, "We are going to take a strong look at our country's libel laws so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts." The president was responding to statements made in Michael Wolff's new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.
Hillary Clinton blamed the Electoral College for her stunning defeat in the 2016 presidential election in her latest memoirs, "What Happened?" Some have claimed that the Electoral College is one of the most dangerous institutions in American politics. Why? They say the Electoral College system, as opposed to a simple majority vote, distorts the one-person, one-vote principle of democracy because electoral votes are not distributed according to population.
A frequent point I have made in past columns has been about the educational travesty happening on many college campuses. Some people have labeled my observations and concerns as trivial, unimportant and cherry-picking. While the spring semester awaits us, let's ask ourselves whether we'd like to see repeats of last year's antics.
We are a nation of 325 million people. We have a bit of control over the behavior of our 535 elected representatives in Congress, the president and the vice president. But there are seven unelected people who have life-and-death control over our economy and hence our lives -- the seven governors of the Federal Reserve Board. The Federal Reserve Board controls our money supply. Its governors are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate and serve 14-year staggered terms.
My recent columns have focused on the extremely poor educational outcomes for black students. There's enough blame for all involved to have their fair share. That includes students who are hostile and alien to the educational process and have derelict, uninterested home environments. After all, if there is not someone in the home to ensure that a youngster does his homework, has wholesome meals, gets eight to 10 hours of sleep and behaves in school, educational dollars won't produce much.
Before the question, how about a few statistics? The 20th century was mankind's most brutal century. Roughly 16 million people lost their lives during World War I; about 60 million died during World War II. Wars during the 20th century cost an estimated 71 million to 116 million lives. The number of war dead pales in comparison with the number of people who lost their lives at the hands of their own governments.
I'm approaching my 82nd birthday, and my daughter will occasionally suggest that modernity is perplexing to me because I'm from prehistoric times. As such, it points to one of the unavoidable problems of youth -- namely, the temptation to think that today's behavioral standards have always been. Let's look at a few of the differences between yesteryear and today.
Officials in Catalonia, Spain's richest and most highly industrialized region, whose capital is Barcelona, recently held a referendum in which there was a 92 percent vote in favor of independence from Spain. The Spanish authorities opposed the referendum and claimed that independence is illegal. Catalans are not the only Europeans seeking independence.
The educational achievement of white youngsters is nothing to write home about, but that achieved by blacks is nothing less than disgraceful. Let's look at a recent example of an educational outcome all too common. In 2016, in 13 of Baltimore's 39 high schools, not a single student scored proficient on the state's mathematics exam. In six other high schools, only one percent tested proficient in math. In raw numbers, 3,804 Baltimore students took the state's math test, and 14 tested proficient. Citywide, only 15 percent of Baltimore students passed the state's English test.
A common feature of our time is the extent to which many in our nation have become preoccupied with diversity. But true diversity obsession, almost a mania, is found at our institutions of higher learning. Rather than have a knee-jerk response for or against diversity, I think we should ask just what is diversity and whether it's a good thing. How do we tell whether a college, a department or another unit within a college is diverse or not? What exemptions from diversity are permitted?
When hunting was the major source of food, hunters often used stalking horses as a means of sneaking up on their prey. They would synchronize their steps on the side of the horse away from their prey until they were close enough for a good shot. A stalking horse had a double benefit if the prey was an armed person. If the stalkers were discovered, it would be the horse that took the first shot. That's what blacks are to liberals and progressives in their efforts to transform America -- stalking horses.
One of the most challenging and important jobs for an economics professor is to teach students how little we know and can possibly know. My longtime friend and colleague Dr. Thomas Sowell says, "It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance." Nobel laureate Friedrich August von Hayek admonished, "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design."
I am not nearly so coldhearted and unsympathetic toward the mainstream media as some of my conservative friends, such as Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Chris Plante and Ann Coulter. In fact, my heart goes out to them. As evidence of the same, if I had President Donald Trump's ear, I'd urge him to declare this coming Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, a day of remembrance and order that flags be flown at half-staff on all federal buildings.
Our nation's leftist progressives have long sought to undermine the American values expressed in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Though typical Democrats and Republicans do not have this leftist hate for our nation, they have been willing accomplices in undermining the most basic value the Founding Fathers sought to promote -- limited government.
Politicians exploit public ignorance. Few areas of public ignorance provide as many opportunities for political demagoguery as taxation. Today some politicians argue that the rich must pay their fair share and label the proposed changes in tax law as tax cuts for the rich. Let's look at who pays what, with an eye toward attempting to answer this question: Are the rich paying their fair share?
As George Orwell said, "some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them." Many stupid ideas originate with academics on college campuses. If they remained there and didn't infect the rest of society, they might be a source of entertainment, much in the way a circus is. Let's look at a few stupid ideas peddled by intellectuals.
Let's throw out a few numbers so we can put in perspective the NFL players taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem. Many say they are protesting against police treatment of blacks and racial discrimination. We might ask just how much sense their protest makes. According to The Washington Post, 737 people have been shot and killed by police this year in the United States. Of that number, there were 329 whites, 165 blacks, 112 Hispanics, 24 members of other races and 107 people whose race was unknown.
Our college-age population consists mostly of 18- to 30-year-olds, and likewise our armed forces. I wonder whether they shared common responses to the 2016 presidential election. Many college administrators provided students with therapy dogs, play dough, coloring books, bubbles, videos of frolicking kittens and puppies, and soft music. They even canceled classes and postponed exams so that their 18- to 30-year-old snowflakes could better cope with the election results.