Walter Williams, RIP

December 2, 2020

Walter Williams, who taught millions of people economics throughout his long career, has died.

He was the author of over 150 publications and a syndicated columnist, writing on many topics including tax, and often cited our research.

He was a professor of economics at George Mason University, and I attended his microeconomics class nearly 20 years ago.

In addition to his famous wit and wisdom, I recall his distinct ability to boil the complex topic of economics down to the essential elements—i.e., the ideas of classical economics going back to Adam Smith, which he remained focused on in application to everyday policy issues.

He taught us from a classic textbook by Armen Alchian (his professor at UCLA) and William Allen, last published in the early 1980s.

Walter believed things like the Law of Demand were as immutable as the Law of Gravity.

He believed, like Milton Freidman, that economic models should be as simple as possible and ideally explained in plain English. 

And he believed that economists have a duty to educate the public about how the economy works and how it is affected by public policy.

These are lofty goals that he pursued for more than 40 years, sometimes controversially but always from first principles.

The great man is dead but his ideas, and the ideas that he brought to life and carried forward, will remain.

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