In his lecture, “The Legitimate Role of Government in a Free Society,” columnist and author Walter Williams shared his views on our current government and capitalism.
The Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy hosted the lecture, which took place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 20, in the Claudia Crosby Theatre. Stephen Miller, executive director of the Johnson Center, said he regarded Williams as the defender of the vision of our Founding Fathers and of personal and economic liberty.
Williams said one of the justifications for the growth of government beyond our Founding Fathers’ intent was the idea of “justice and fairness.” While the Founders granted Congress the authority for taxing and spending, Williams said there is no constitutional authority for Congress to spend up to three-quarters of our GDP on programs such as bank bailouts, food stamps, Medicare or social security.
“We’ve made a significant departure from the constitutional principles of individual freedom and limited government that made us a rich nation in the first place,” Williams said.
Williams said he rejected the idea that the Constitution is a living document.
“Anybody who tells you that the Constitution is a living document is at the same time telling you that we do not have a constitution,” he said. “The Constitution represents the rules of the game and for the rules of the game to mean anything, they must be fixed.”
Williams said taxes are government’s claim on private property.
“As time goes by, you and I own less and less of our most valuable property, namely ourselves and the fruits of our labor,” he said.
Williams said “capitalism was the most effective social organization for the promotion of individual freedom.”
Although some women may consider capitalism oppressive to them, Williams said that generally women would still rather live in the U.S. than in Saudi Arabia.
“American from all walks of life, whether they realized it or not, have demonstrated a deep and abiding contempt for private property and economic freedom,” Williams said. “Free enterprise in our country is threaten today, somewhat ironically, not because of its failures. It’s threatened because of its success.”
Williams’ recent book was titled “American Contempt for Liberty.”
“In the name of other ideals such as equality of income, race and sex balance, affordable housing, medical care… we have abandoned many personal freedoms,” he said.
Williams said that some people claim they need big government to protect them from big, powerful businesses.
“In a free market, (big businesses) don’t have any power over us,” he said, stressing on the voluntary exchange and transactions people make with giant corporations such as AT&T or Exxon.
Williams said the most good done in this world is motivated by “greed” and that as people pursue greed, they please their fellow men. He concluded his lecture with a piece of advice.
“We have to focus less on politicians and we have to focus more on trying to (show) our fellow Americans on the moral superiority of personal liberty and its main ingredients: limited government,” he said.