All my regular readers know that black economist Thomas Sowell is my favorite economist, but that’s only because he writes so many USEFUL books on so many topics. I probably agree more with my other favorite economist, who also happens to be black, Walter Williams. Williams is the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, which is – in my opinion – the top school for economics in the country.
His biography is right on his web site.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Walter E. Williams holds a B.A. in economics from California State University, Los Angeles, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from UCLA. He also holds a Doctor of Humane Letters from Virginia Union University and Grove City College, Doctor of Laws from Washington and Jefferson College and Doctor Honoris Causa en Ciencias Sociales from Universidad Francisco Marroquin, in Guatemala, where he is also Professor Honorario.
Dr. Williams has served on the faculty of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics, since 1980; from 1995 to 2001, he served as department chairman. He has also served on the faculties of Los Angeles City College, California State University Los Angeles, and Temple University in Philadelphia, and Grove City College, Grove City, Pa.
Dr. Williams is the author of over 150 publications.
Here is a recent column written by Williams on the situation facing the black community in America. The whole thing is worth reading, and should be seen as “the antidote” to the poison being spread about blacks in the predominantly white mainstream media.
That the problems of today’s black Americans are a result of a legacy of slavery, racial discrimination and poverty has achieved an axiomatic status, thought to be self-evident and beyond question. This is what academics and the civil rights establishment have taught. But as with so much of what’s claimed by leftists, there is little evidence to support it.
The No. 1 problem among blacks is the effects stemming from a very weak family structure. Children from fatherless homes are likelier to drop out of high school, die by suicide, have behavioral disorders, join gangs, commit crimes and end up in prison. They are also likelier to live in poverty-stricken households. But is the weak black family a legacy of slavery? In 1960, just 22 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families. Fifty years later, more than 70 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families. Here’s my question: Was the increase in single-parent black families after 1960 a legacy of slavery, or might it be a legacy of the welfare state ushered in by the War on Poverty?
According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year 11 percent of black children were born to unwed mothers. Today about 75 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers. Is that supposed to be a delayed response to the legacy of slavery? The bottom line is that the black family was stronger the first 100 years after slavery than during what will be the second 100 years.
At one time, almost all black families were poor, regardless of whether one or both parents were present. Today roughly 30 percent of blacks are poor. However, two-parent black families are rarely poor. Only 8 percent of black married-couple families live in poverty. Among black families in which both the husband and wife work full time, the poverty rate is under 5 percent. Poverty in black families headed by single women is 37 percent. The undeniable truth is that neither slavery nor Jim Crow nor the harshest racism has decimated the black family the way the welfare state has.
There’s more, but if you are looking for a quick, simple overview of what REALLY holds blacks down, then this article repays the investment to read it. I think it’s important to listen to the perspective of a self-made man.
I think the solution to the problem is a combination of school choice, and changing the incentives facing young blacks by rewarding success, instead of failure. We should be paying for performance. That way, we’ll get more performance. People always do what there is an incentive to do, and that’s across all races, all times, all places.
This longer article by Robert Rector at the Heritage Foundation has more analysis, with more statistics. It’s also worth reading.