For today's Black History Month QsOTD, I'm featuring one of my all-time favs, Professor Walter E. Williams, an economist at George Mason University. His resume is quite impressive with more than 150 publications in various professional journals, 10 books, numerous radio and TV interviews and is often a guest host on the Rush Limbaugh show.
He serves on numerous boards, including for Reason Foundation, Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation; has received many awards and commendations, and is frequently called upon to provide expert testimony before Congress.
One of the things I like so much about his writing is that he knows how to tell a story - and that makes understanding economic theory very easy. His columns, featured on Townhall.com and available on his website, are something I look forward to each week.
In his last column, A Minority View: Higher Minimum Wage, he writes:
In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama proposed raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour. That would be almost a 25 percent increase. Let's look at the president's proposal, but before doing so, let's ask some other economic questions.
Are people responsive to changes in price? For example, if the price of cars rose by 25 percent, would people purchase as many cars? Supposing housing prices rose by 25 percent, what would happen to sales? Those are big-ticket items, but what about smaller-priced items? If a supermarket raised its prices by 25 percent, would people purchase as much? It's not rocket science to conclude that when prices rise, people adjust their behavior by purchasing less.
It's almost childish to do so, but I'm going to ask questions about 25 percent price changes in the other way. What responses would people have if the price of cars or housing fell by 25 percent? What would happen to supermarket sales if prices fell by 25 percent? Again, it doesn't require deep thinking to guess that people would purchase more.
This behavior in economics is known as the first fundamental law of demand. It holds that the higher the price of something the less people will take and that the lower the price the more people will take. There are no known exceptions to the law of demand. Any economist who could prove a real-world exception would probably be a candidate for the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and other honors.
In just three paragraphs, he gets people to think about how they react to a price increase and, hopefully, makes them realize that an increase in the minimum wage really won't help the poor, as it's touted as doing. He then notes why it's especially hard on minorities, including Black teens:
As detailed in my recent book "Race and Economics" (2012), during times of gross racial discrimination, black unemployment was lower than white unemployment and blacks were more active in the labor market. For example, in 1948, black teen unemployment was less than white teen unemployment, and black teens were more active in the labor market. Today black teen unemployment is about 40 percent; for whites, it is about 20 percent. The minimum wage law weighs heavily in this devastating picture.
Talk about a devastating critique.
Here are some more great quotes from this great man:
History is not going to be kind to liberals. With their mindless programs, they've managed to do to Black Americans what slavery, Reconstruction, and rank racism found impossible: destroy their family and work ethic.
A right, such as a right to free speech, imposes no obligation on another, except that of non-interference. The so-called right to health care, food or housing, whether a person can afford it or not, is something entirely different; it does impose an obligation on another. If one person has a right to something he didn't produce, simultaneously and of necessity it means that some other person does not have right to something he did produce. That's because, since there's no Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy, in order for government to give one American a dollar, it must, through intimidation, threats and coercion, confiscate that dollar from some other American.
In a free society, government has the responsibility of protecting us from others, but not from ourselves.
There are people in need of help. Charity is one of the nobler human motivations. The act of reaching into one's own pockets to help a fellow man in need is praiseworthy and laudable. Reaching into someone else's pocket is despicable and worthy of condemnation.
No matter how worthy the cause, it is robbery, theft, and injustice to confiscate the property of one person and give it to another to whom it does not belong.
Three-fifths to two-thirds of the federal budget consists of taking property from one American and giving it to another. Were a private person to do the same thing, we'd call it theft. When government does it, we euphemistically call it income redistribution, but that's exactly what thieves do -- redistribute income. Income redistribution not only betrays the founders' vision, it's a sin in the eyes of God.
Democracy and liberty are not the same. Democracy is little more than mob rule, while liberty refers to the sovereignty of the individual.
Government is necessary, but the only rights we can delegate to government are the ones we possess. For example, we all have a natural right to defend ourselves against predators. Since we possess that right, we can delegate authority to government to defend us. By contrast, we don't have a natural right to take the property of one person to give to another; therefore, we cannot legitimately delegate such authority to government.
No human should be coerced by the state to bear the medical expense, or any other expense, for his fellow man. In other words, the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another is morally offensive.
For the most part, income is a result of one's productivity and the value that people place on that productivity.
One of the wonderful things about free markets is that the path to greater wealth comes not from looting, plundering and enslaving one's fellow man, as it has throughout most of human history, but by serving and pleasing him.
If we wish to be compassionate with our fellow man, we must learn to engage in dispassionate analysis. In other words, thinking with our hearts, rather than our brains, is a surefire method to hurt those whom we wish to help.
People who denounce the free market and voluntary exchange, and are for control and coercion, believe they have more intelligence and superior wisdom to the masses. What's more, they believe they've been ordained to forcibly impose that wisdom on the rest of us. Of course, they have what they consider good reasons for doing so, but every tyrant that has ever existed has had what he believed were good reasons for restricting the liberty of others.
In general, presidents and congressmen have very limited power to do good for the economy and awesome power to do bad. The best good thing that politicians can do for the economy is to stop doing bad. In part, this can be achieved through reducing taxes and economic regulation, and staying out of our lives.
The true test of one's commitment to liberty and private property rights doesn't come when we permit people to be free to do those voluntary things with which we agree. The true test comes when we permit people to be free to do those voluntary things with which we disagree.
What we call the market is really a democratic process involving millions, and in some markets billions, of people making personal decisions that express their preferences. When you hear someone say that he doesn't trust the market, and wants to replace it with government edicts, he's really calling for a switch from a democratic process to a totalitarian one.
Should the fact that if I become injured by not wearing a seatbelt or sick from eating and smoking too much, and become a burden on taxpayers, determine whether I'm free to not wear a seatbelt or puff cigarettes and gorge myself? Is there a problem with freedom? I say no, it's a problem of socialism. There is absolutely no moral case for government's taking another American's earnings, through taxes, to care for me for any reason whatsoever. Doing so is simply a slightly less offensive form of slavery. Keep in mind that the essence of slavery is the forceful use of one person to serve the purposes or benefit of another.
You say, "Williams, you sound like a warmonger!" No, I'm not. But neither am I willing to wait until a chemical or bacteriological attack kills millions of Americans or a "dirty bomb" makes one of our cities uninhabitable for 100 years before there's an effective response to nations who harbor terrorists. I detest the initiation of force, but if I see someone building a cannon aimed at my house, I'm not going to wait for him to fire it. I would eliminate him and anyone else in his house before he gets a chance to fire it.
Black politicians and civil rights organizations' loyalty to the education establishment means academic doom to black youngsters. Washington, D.C,. politics and its schools, among the worse in the nation, are a case in point. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, along with most members of the Congressional Black Caucus, use private schools to educate their children. But, when D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams broke ranks with most black elected-officials and endorsed recently proposed education vouchers, Norton blasted him as being "a sell-out .Whom do you think Frederick Douglass would deem the sell-out: those who seek an alternative to rotten schools that cost taxpayers $13,000 a year per student or those who support the status quo?
Experts and the educated elite have replaced what worked with what sounded good. Society was far more civilized before they took over our schools, prisons, welfare programs, police departments and courts. It's high time we ran these people out of our lives and went back to common sense.