On Friday, Sept. 13, The Hammond Institute for Free Enterprise will welcome renowned economist Dr. Walter E. Williams as a featured speaker in its H. F. Langenberg Memorial Speaker Series.
Williams, a professor of economics at George Mason University, is a widely published author and syndicated columnist, whose work is carried by 140 newspapers and magazines, including Mid Rivers Newsmagazine.
At Lindenwood, he will present a lecture titled “Is The Constitution Still Relevant?”
Lindenwood University economists, Dr. Howard Wall, director of the Hammond Institute for Free Enterprise, and Dr. Tawni Ferrarini, director of the Economic Education Center, will serve as moderators of the event that will include a question-and-answer session.
Admission is $20 per person. Tickets can be purchased in person from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts box office, 2300 West Clay St. in St. Charles; by calling (636) 949-4433 or online at lindenwood.edu, search “Walter Williams.” On the night of the event, all students with a valid ID from any school will be admitted free.
In advance of his visit to St. Charles, Williams spoke with Mid Rivers Newsmagazine about his topic, his friendship with Thomas Sowell and the nation’s changing societal norms and its future.
Walter E. Williams on himself
“The overwhelming characteristic of my life is that I have been a troublemaker and rabble rouser for all of it.
On Thomas Sowell
“We’ve been friends since 1969. He got his doctorate from the University of Chicago and I received my doctorate from UCLA. Sometimes, people have called UCLA and the University of Virginia the farm teams of the University of Chicago. There’s a very, very strong relationship between the three. So we had many of the same professors.”
On writing a column
“I started writing for the Philadelphia Tribune, it was a black paper [in the late 1970s]. The fellow who was president of the paper wanted to change its focus so he invited me to write a weekly, or sometimes twice a week, column. I did that for about four or five years. Then, the Heritage Foundation, started a column so I went to a reception for that. A fellow named Ed Grimsley [was there.] He was the editorial-page editor for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and he told me: ‘Nobody reads the Philadelphia Tribune. You ought to get syndicated and if you do so, we will subscribe.’ That was a long time ago, 1980, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch still carries my column occasionally.
“I write about what comes to my mind or what interests me or what might be on the news. I give an economist’s approach to the problems that people face. I apply economics to many, many issues that people don’t normally apply economics to, such as race discrimination or sales of commodities and other things that people don’t always think of in economic terms. One of my tenacious mentors at UCLA, a fellow named Armen Alchian, he’s dead now but we were at a faculty-student graduate hour and he said: ‘You know, Williams, a true test of whether a person knows his subject comes when he can explain it to somebody who doesn’t know a damn thing about it.’ I take a lot of delight in being able to explain potentially complicated ideas in economics to ordinary people.”
On the Constitution
Do you think most Americans know what’s in the Constitution?
“No, and I’m pretty sure if they did, they wouldn’t like it. That is, if you look at Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, it enumerates 23 things that Congress can do and there’s nothing in the enumerated powers of the United States Congress that says that Congress can take the earnings of one person and give it to another to whom it does not belong. And you see this if you look at the writings and quotations of the Founders.
“In 1794, Congress appropriated $15,000 to help some French refugees. James Madison, the acknowledged father of the Constitution, stood on the floor of the house irate and said: ‘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.’ [Annals of Congress, House of Representatives, first session, page 170]
“Now, if you look at the federal budget today, two-thirds to three-quarters of it is for the purpose of benevolence. That is taking money from one American and giving to another American. If you told average Americans that there is nothing in the Constitution that authorizes Congress to engage in these thousands of activities that Congress engages in, they’d say: ‘Well, the hell with the Constitution.’
“Liberty is not mankind’s standard dish. Throughout mankind’s history, he’s been subject to arbitrary abuse and control by others. A historian writing maybe 200 or 300 years from now, he might say, ‘You know most of mankind has been subject to arbitrary abuse and control by others but there was this tiny historical curiosity where people had a large measure of liberty and it was in the United States of America and western Europe and Canada but it all went back to the normal state of affairs – arbitrary abuse and control by others.’
“If you ask the questions: ‘Which way are we headed as a nation, tiny steps at a time? Are we headed more toward more personal liberty or toward more government control over our lives?’ It unambiguously has to be the latter.
“It would take a heroic step from Americans to right this ship.
“The only prospect on the horizon is a group of people called the Free State Project. This is a group of Libertarian types. They’re trying to get a bunch of people to move to New Hampshire and once they get enough people in New Hampshire to take over the political system in New Hampshire by Democratic means and elect their own Congressmen and Senators, and then negotiate with Congress to obey the Constitution. If Congress refuses to obey the Constitution, some of the members talk of seceding from the Union.READ: The Hammond Institute for Free Enterprise welcomes Dr. Walter E. Williams as a featured speaker
On attending the lecture at Lindenwood
“I think people should consider learning more about our Constitution, learning more about our founding, what the Founders proposed. You hear so many people, especially politicians, say ‘our democracy’ but the Founders had utter contempt for democracy. As a matter of fact, you don’t find the word democracy in any of our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence or the United States Congress.
“The Founders wanted us to be a republic. That is a republic of limited government. You find this when you pledge allegiance to the flag. Do we pledge allegiance to the democracy for which it stands? No, it’s republic. Or that song from the Civil War, is it the battle hymn of the democracy or the republic? It’s the republic.
“So, I think there’s widespread ignorance in our country and I think that if people come out to the lecture they can be better informed and they can raise questions.”