My Interview With Dr. Walter Williams

I had the pleasure and privilege of interviewing Professor Walter E. Williams.


Dr. Williams has served as an economics professor at George Mason University for over a quarter of a century. His syndicated column can be read in 140 newspapers and locations as diverse as Townhall to Jewish World Review. He is often asked to testify before Congress on economic issues due to his expertise on such matters. He is also an occasional guest host for Rush Limbaugh, blending lighthearted humor with a serious and principled conservatism. He announces to his audience that he is “Black, by popular demand,” which fits in perfectly with Limbaugh’s over the top humor.


I interviewed Dr. Williams by telephone on Presidents Day, and the conversation lasted for about 25 minutes. I shared with Dr. Williams that in the early 1990s, Rush Limbaugh was looking for a potential guest host. One of Rush’s stagehands suggested a brilliant conservative thinker, but got the name wrong. The stagehand mentioned “Juan Williams,” a liberal radio host on National Public Radio. This led to a comedy bit where Rush roasted his stagehand for committing an act of heresy by confusing liberal Juan Williams with conservative Walter Williams. That mistake led me to research Walter Williams. I recommend that any person desiring a brilliant analysis of economic and political issues spend a significant amount of time on his site.


With that, it is with great pleasure that I bring you the words and wisdom of Dr. Walter Williams.



1) Does government do anything right? What should government do?


The Federal Government should be bound by the U.S. Constitution. Article I, Section VIII of the Constitution lists about 21 things that the Federal Government is authorized to do. Today, 2/3 of our spending is unauthorized, whether it be justified by misuse of the Commerce Clause or the General Welfare Clause.


In 1794, James Madison was against spending $15,000 to help French refugees. Madison stated, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” Today the Federal Government spends on benevolence from everything from crop subsidies to prescription drug benefits. It should spend money specifically on what the Constitution authorizes it to spend, such as providing a National Defense, and providing Post Offices.


      2) With regards to the stimulus package…you have come out against it, decrying it as economically insignificant. Yet what about psychologically? Does that matter, and should it? Can bad policy be good policy by merely being seen as good policy?


There is no evidence that such stimulus packages work. In terms of actual dollars the stimulus package is a drop in the bucket. With most stimulus packages, studies show that 2/3 of the money given out is either saved or used to pay bills. What would be far more helpful would be to make the Bush tax cuts permanent.


      3) What part of the conservative message should appeal to black America, and so far why is the republican message not being received by 90% of black voters?


This has always perplexed me, since blacks have suffered the most from the failures of government. The government failed to end slavery in a timely manner. The government is responsible for the rotten state of public education today. The government has failed to protect people in their neighborhoods. The democratic party propaganda has been believed, yet the democratic party has been in power where blacks have suffered the most whether it’s the Jim Crow of the past or the major cities of today. Part of the problem with the republican party is that the republican party is not for limited government either. However, it was republicans that ended slavery. The democrats would not have passed civil rights legislation without the massive support of republicans. Black Americans, like all Americans, would benefit from less government intrusion.    


      4) Poison Ivy League Universities recently did their version of Tea with Mussolini, in this case Columbian Coffee with Armageddonijad. Should sanctions be levied against universities that invite terrorist enemies to speak on their campuses?


It might be debatable if President Ahmadinejad is a terrorist. Iran is a terrorist nation. It is not worth the argument. If anything, the visit showed what leftist universities really are. It exposed them. After his visit, Columbia University professors trekked to Iran to personally apologize to President Ahmadinejad for the rough treatment he received on campus.


      5) The Jayson Blair Times has been accused of giving away troop movements. Does freedom of speech allow for this? If not, should media outlets that engage in such behavior face criminal sanctions?


Absolutely. I’m 71 years old. In World War II, people who gave away secrets were tried for treason. Treason is not treated seriously anymore. In earlier days people were shot for treason. People accused of treason should be given a fair trial and a good defense, but if they are found guilty, they should be punished. 


      6) Chris Rock says the same things in his comedy routines that Bill Cosby and Juan Williams express regarding concerns facing black America. Yet Chris Rock gets a pass because it is comedy. Do you believe that most black Americans truly disagree with the issues being discussed, or are they just keeping silent due to fear of repercussions?


People who the media focus on disagree with the average black person. Black Americans living in bad neighborhoods are worried about being mugged, the sounds of gunshots, and having their property destroyed.   Polls show that a slight majority of blacks are in favor of the death penalty, against abortion, and in favor of prayer in schools. The black so-called leadership express other values.


Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have more in common with white hippies than with the average black person. Black people, according to survey polls, actually have more in common with Jerry Falwell. Most black voters are supporting Barack Obama, while the Congressional Black Caucus is supporting Hillary Clinton. This is another example of black leaders not reflecting black people. Also, the term “black leaders” is a strange term. Go to any other culture and ask who their leaders are and you will get strange looks. Who are the Irish leaders? The Italian leaders? The Jewish leaders? The Chinese leaders? Why do we alone as blacks need leaders? Are we too dumb to think for ourselves that we need leaders? Again, black leaders appeal to white hippies, but most black Americans are closer in thinking to Jerry Falwell.  


      7) Who are your 3 favorite USA political heroes, and your 3 favorite non-USA political heroes?


My favorite American political hero is President Grover Cleveland. He was known as the “Veto King.” His total number of vetoes exceeded the total number of vetoes of his predecessors combined. He understood that charity is not part of the U.S. Constitution. In vetoing a charity bill, he stated, “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit.”


I also admire former Presidents James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. As for world leaders, obviously there is Margaret Thatcher. In addition, I admire Golda Meir and Winston Churchill.     


      8.) Outside of Milton Friedman and Dr. Thomas Sowell, not many economists are achieving legendary status today. Has the age of the “superhero uber-economist” passed? If not, who are the rising economists we should all know and admire?


(When Dr. Williams expressed that he was not sure he would call either Milton Friedman or Dr. Thomas Sowell “legends,” even though he had befriended both of them, I stated to him that I was arbitrarily bestowing that title on them. He laughed.)


Milton Friedman was a good friend of mine. Thomas Sowell is a good friend of mine. The problem with economists is that we haven’t made the tools and thinking of our profession accessible to the ordinary person. There is too much jargon and technicality. Also, economists tend to be the skunk at the picnic. When politicians are talking about free this or free that, economist point out that nothing is free and in order for government to give to one person it must take from another. People don’t like to hear that. This prevents economists from being seen as rock stars. The average person does not relate to such a dose of reality.


      9) Mutual Fund Manager Bill Fleckenstein uses a slogan “Often wrong, but never in doubt.” With that in mind, do you have any predictions for the democratic primaries, and the General Election? Do you have any personal preferences?


Also, as a follow up question, G. Gordon Liddy has referred to Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and other harsh critics of Senator John McCain as “Suicide Bomber Republicans.” Should we fall in line behind Senator McCain, or is it reasonable to just stay home, or even vote for Hillary to teach republicans a lesson?


I have no predictions, and I condemn all of the remaining candidates on domestic policy. John McCain is the best among them on foreign policy.


As for teaching republicans a lesson, that would not be smart, to stay home. It is alright to criticize Senator McCain. To take it a step further, it is also perfectly alright for Republicans to criticize President Bush when he is wrong, such as with the prescription drug benefit and “No Child Left Behind.” If Al Gore had been President and done half of what President Bush did, conservatives would have been all over him. We can hold Senator McCain’s feet to the fire, and still vote for him. Domestically, he is the lesser of three evils.


      10) How would you like to be remembered? 100 years from now what would you want people to think about Dr. Walter Williams the person?


While my primary job is teaching economics, my goal is to sell Americans on the moral superiority of personal liberty, whose main ingredient is limited government. If liberty dies in America, it is dead in all places for all times. I would hope people would remember that I tried to teach people about the importance of liberty.




I would like to thank Dr. Williams for his generosity with regards to his time. He mentioned to me that he does not take days off, and that he works seven days a week. He has the energy of a man half his age, but the brilliance obtained with the wisdom that age delivers. His intelligence is beyond dispute, but his humility was refreshing. He clearly understands that great concepts are meaningless unless they can be communicated effectively to the average person. He is not afraid to take on the flaws in his own profession, and he puts principles above sacred cows.


If Rush Limbaugh needs to take more time off, his show will not miss a beat as long as Dr. Williams is filling in. The only people who would suffer for this would be liberals having their arguments dispelled, and students at George Mason University, who would miss out on top notch economics lectures on those days.


I wish Dr. Williams the best of everything, and look forward to reading his next column.   


After all, as he reminds us, he is black, by popular demand.



8 Responses to “My Interview With Dr. Walter Williams”

  1. Jersey McJones says:


    I wish the good professor would expand on what he thinks “liberty” is. To most it means “the freedom to do as I choose.” I wonder what the professor thinks government is for. Is it for being “limited.” Is that even a thing to be for? Government exists to govern – to direct the flow of our expressions of liberty so as to maintain our ability to express. I do not believe the good professor shares my meanings of liberty or government.


  2. micky says:

    The government exists to “protect” our liberties. To protect our “right ” to direct our flow of expressions of liberty without intevention. not “govern” them.
    No body “directs” the flow of my expression. Anything else is called legislating morals and ethics.

  3. Jersey McJones says:

    Protect? Direct? Govern? I think governence has more to do with direction than protection. What, do you want a mommy state?


  4. micky says:

    I was saying that the governments responsabilty should be limited to protecting our rights. Not directing them or governing them.
    I don’t want a nanny or mommy state. I said that ” NOBODY” directs the flow of my expression.
    I’m about as politically correct as Sam Kinison.
    It all is determined by the perception of whos interest is best. Does the government have the right to determine whats in the best interest of the people ?
    Or does the government make sure that we are able to determine by our own free will whats in our best interest ?

    #3 in Erics interview explains a good part of my feelings on governments and how their interventions have usually been failures in domestic issues. Education etc…

    Also #10;
    “my goal is to sell Americans on the moral superiority of personal liberty, whose main ingredient is limited government”

    Mr Williams hit it on the nail.
    When government gets too big as in communist countries or socialist countries you lose liberties.
    Any form of governing whether its political or mechanical or instructional has always constricted liberty.

  5. Jersey McJones says:

    When you have a bunch of different people doing a bunch of different things, and all these bunches have to somehow get along and do as they please as much as possible – that’s when you need a government. Freedom REQUIRES government. Liberty REQUIRES constraint on government.

    Its all about balance.


  6. micky2 says:

    Good enough, but not so much in all areas.
    Safety and zoning , public infrastructure, and such yea.
    The market and peoples personal lives they should leave alone.

  7. Jersey McJones says:

    “The market”??? Which market? Should we just have uninspected food? Uninspected toys for kids? Unisured banking? What regulations would you do away with? What constraints would you remove?

    I always hear this “small gov’t” argument from conservatives, but I rarely get any details about what exactly they would shrink, other than getting rid of entitlements so that we’d be a thrid world cess pool.


  8. micky says:

    Dont take this personally. I’m just notin the mood to argue the same thing all over again.
    I’ll give it to you briefly.
    The government imposes taxs on the market that are not condusive to growth.
    We have global warming initiatives being pushed on the market by the government.
    Npo smoking bans are a small but good example of government confusing private property with the “greater good’
    Entitlements create cess pools by fostering low work initiatives and stagnate the economy. Any country without a decent market could not afford to give out entitlements. And as a result of a decent economy would not need them.
    What have entitlements done to get this country any further in the last 50 years ? I needed to know.
    More people with population growth considerd are using entitlements now than ever before. They only create a paradox of dependancy. And are a magnet for lethargy.
    Wealth redistribution never did any good for any system except drive it broke. Just look at the countries that use it. It doesnt work and its very expensive for those who dont need or use it.
    The free market is what has caused this country to thrive. Not government regulations.

    God bless man , pay attention. I said above that government should be applied most definatly in areas of zoning , safety and public infrastructure.

    ZONING so we dont have acid plants next to schools

    SAFTEY would be the inspected food you mentioned, drugs and the infrastructure , our highways and electric grids our sewers and water transport. And protecting American lives from any threat

    I just dont want to be told what I should have to do with my money because some slob wont get off his rump. Or what to eat , or how to dicipline my children. Or what words I can and cant use, or what to do with my property. Or which hospital or doctor to see.
    Of course there needs to be balance. But ones perception of what even balance is, is what the problem is.
    Our government is bigger now than its ever been. More new and various types of entitlements are being dished out than ever before.
    Dont tell me that you dont think big government isnt responsable for our biggest defacit ever ?
    Too many cooks spoil the soup.
    Plus, someone has to pay them.

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