Rest in peace, Walter E. Williams

Walter Williams, an American economist and academic, passed away in December. He was 84.

Williams made countless contributions to the discussion of the government's role in the American economy.

Walter Williams, an influential American economist and academic, passed away on December 1.

Williams was raised by a single mother in Philadelphia along with his sister. He drove a taxi to earn money and lift himself up by the bootstraps before being drafted into the U.S. Army and later entering academia.

Williams, the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia since 1980, earned countless degrees from universities like the University of California-Los Angeles, California State University, Virginia Union University, Grove City College, and Washington & Jefferson College. 

In addition to ten books, Williams authored hundreds of publications, which were printed in outlets like the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy, American Economic Review, National Review, Cato Journal, and Georgia Law Review.

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Williams consistently spoke and wrote about the benefits of free-market capitalism, and he frequently argued against government programs that attempted to redistribute wealth.

In an essay entitled “Capitalism and the Common Man,” for example, Williams explained that “politicians, charlatans, and assorted do-gooders for well over a century in their quest for control” attempt to argue that “capitalism primarily benefits the rich and not the common man.”

Williams frequently explained the dollar as a certificate of performance, which represented the answer to “you’re demanding something that your fellow man has produced... what have you done to serve him?”

He explained this concept in a PragerU video that amassed nearly 1.3 million views.

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George Mason University’s economics department lauded Williams’ many decades of producing “high-quality, rigorous research” while effectively communicating the lessons drawn from his research “effectively to the general public.”

His department also remembered his willingness to engage in economic “iconoclasm,” applying “thoroughly mainstream” economic theory to “politically sensitive questions,” which often “led him to conclusions that were often at odds with popular beliefs.’

Leading conservatives eulogized Williams, citing his influence on their own lives.

“I grew up reading him, and he was a ferocious defender of free markets and a powerful explainer of the virtues of Liberty,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said.

Political commentator Ben Shapiro remembered Williams fondly, calling him an “amazing person and thinker.”

Constitutional lawyer and radio host Mark Levin recalled Williams’s influence on his life, recalling how he was the first guest on his radio program Life, Liberty & Levin.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft