Lisa Venus's picture


  by  Lisa Irving Venus
Economist Walter E. Williams, the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and department chair at George Mason University, died December 1st on the University's campus at age 84.

Economist Thomas Sowell eulogized his "best friend for half a century" in a Northern Virginia Daily column recounting Williams's love of teaching. Sowell wrote: "Walter Williams loved teaching. Unlike too many other teachers today, he made it a point never to impose his opinions on his students. Those who read his syndicated newspaper columns know that he expressed his opinions boldly and unequivocally there. But not in the classroom."

Walter E. Williams
(March 31, 1936 – December 1, 2020)

Numerous media outlets published obituaries profiling Williams's life work. The Washington Post wrote that "Dr. Williams was a provocative scholar and writer who challenged orthodox ideas on economics, race relations and the role of government." The New York Times described Williams as "a prominent conservative economist, author and political commentator." The Wall Street Journal portrayed Williams as "a Black economist with libertarian views" who "delighted in confounding expectations."

Williams approached U.S. immigration from a free market market perspective which did not completely follow libertarian thought. On one hand, he was an expansionist who favored increased immigration, which he expressed at a 2015 forum where he stated that "there should be legal immigration and...we should amend some of the immigration laws to make it easier for people to come to our country."

On the other hand, Williams opposed limitless immigration and was a believer in national sovereignty. In a 2006 Opinion column he wrote: "Many people, including my libertarian friends and associates, advance an argument that differs little from saying that people anywhere in the world have a right to live in the United States irrespective of our laws or preferences. According to that vision, American people do not have a right to set either the number of people who enter our country or the conditions upon which they enter."

In the latter sense he is similarly aligned with the late Representative Barbara Jordan (D, TX ; Chair, U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform) who said "it is both a right and a responsibility of a democratic society to manage immigration so that it serves the national interest."

The libertarian Williams may have supported higher levels of immigration than the liberal Barbara Jordan, but they both recognized the value of economic opportunity and the right of the American people to set immigration at a level that serves their interests.

LISA IRVING VENUS is the Volunteer Standards Program for NumbersUSA

Updated: Wed, Feb 3rd 2021 @ 12:59pm EST

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