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The John M. Olin distinguished professor of economics at George Mason University Walter E. Williams has died at the age of 84.

Walter E. Williams (1936 – 2020): RIP

By Marian L. Tupy @HumanProgress

The John M. Olin distinguished professor of economics at George Mason University Walter E. Williams has died at the age of 84. Williams was a much-loved teacher of economics, a syndicated columnist, an author of numerous books, and a defender of liberty. I first met him in 2000, when I visited him in his GMU office. I was grateful for the time he spent with a mere post-graduate student. Over the years, I had the pleasure of attending some of his talks and was thrilled when Walter added www.humanprogress.org to the recommendations section of his website nearly six years ago. While I am greatly saddened by his passing, Walter’s writings will go on informing future generations of students on the subjects of race, affirmative action, minimum wage, gun control, and so on. His 1989 book South Africa’s War Against Capitalism remains one of my favorites. As Walter explained, separate development emerged, in large part, out of a variety of job reservation schemes intended to insulate one group of workers (Europeans) from competition from another group of workers (Africans). As in South Africa, so in the United States, Walter’s life-long struggle against the minimum wage was driven by his conviction that artificially heightened wages make racial discrimination less costly to the employer. The book concludes with a prescient warning to South Africa’s society. Writing as apartheid was ending and South Africa’s experiment with multiracial democracy was about to begin, Walter asked, (I am paraphrasing) “The most important question facing the South African society is not what has gone on before, but what sort of economic system will the country choose in the future.” The country’s new government, unfortunately, chose creeping socialism and doubled down on race-based hiring and promotion. As a result of those choices, South Africa has experienced an outflow of skills and capital, high unemployment, a massive increase in deficit and debt, and a general slide toward economic catastrophe. Walter’s book is more than 30 years old but remains relevant and South Africa’s current leaders should consider reading it.

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