Liberty and the Failures of Government
July 20, 1999
Walter E. Williams
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is David Theroux, and I am the President of The Independent Institute. I am delighted to welcome you here this evening, including our viewers who will be joining us on C-SPAN. This evenings program is part of an expanded series of lectures, seminars and debates, the Independent Policy Forum, that we are holding at The Independent Institute. Roughly, they are held once or twice per month here at our conference center in Oakland, California. As many of you know, The Independent Institute regularly holds programs featuring outstanding scholars, policy experts and authors of important books and people who have insights into public policy that we think are important to share with other people.
For those of you who are new to The Institute, you will find information in your packets. There is also information on our web site, which is www.independent.org. We welcome you to join with us in our many services and publications. The Institute is a public policy research institute. We produce many books. We produce a quarterly journal called The Independent Review and many other studies and we host many conference and media projects based on that work. We accept no government funding, and our support is drawn from a wide range of private sources individuals, businesses other organizations, foundations and so on.
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The topics of the prs and Violent Crime, featuring Joyce Malcolm from Bentley College, who has an important book from Harvard University Press called To Keep and Bear Arms, as well as Don Kates, the civil rights attorney. On October 20th, our program will focus on virtual money, e-commerce and the Internet, Virtual Money, Privacy, and the Internet, We will feature Richard Rahn, former chief economist with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who is now senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and author of the book, The End of Money and the Struggle for Financial Privacy. On November 17th, we will hold a program on the American Civil War, The Civil War: Liberty and American Leviathan, featuring the historian Henry Mayer and his award-winning book, All On Fire, on William Lloyd Garrison and the abolition of slavery, as well as the economist and historian Jeffery Rogers Hummel and his book, Emancipating Slaves, Slaving Free Men. We hope that you will all be able to join with us at each of those programs.
This evening, however, we are indeed privileged to have one of the brightest beacons of economic and ethical sense around in the United States and elsewhere. I am sure that many of you would agree with me about that. Professor Walter Williams combines an unwavering commitment to the interconnected principles of economic and civil liberties. Drawing on his new book, which I hope everyone here will not leave home without, More Liberty Means Less Government. Professor Williams is a well-respected scholar, syndicated columnist, talk show host and all around dragonslayer of political lunacy and buncombe, as H. L. Mencken might have put it. This evening Walter will examine bureaucratic myths and legends, the bureaucratic record, and contrast it with free-market societies based on the principal that all people have the right to be free. More specifically, with the dubious and I would suggest, quite frankly, dysfunctional record of politics in bureaucracy in addressing so many issues. Most people would agree that when they come into contact with government institutions, theres something missing, theres something wrong. We are suggesting from an economic standpoint this is not simply an accident.
Professor Williams is the distinguished John M. Olin Professor and Chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University. He is also, and were also very pleased that he is, a member of the advisory board of The Independent Institute. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from UCLA. He also holds a doctorate of humane letters, a degree from Virginia Union University and he has been on the faculty of Los Angeles City College, California State University at Los Angeles, and Temple University in Philadelphia. Professor Williams is also the author of five other books, as well technical articles in top academic journals, and his weekly newspaper column is nationally syndicated by Scripps Howard. Many of you may also be familiar with the fact that he is a regular guest host on the Rush Limbaugh Program.
I should add that Walter is someone who has been featured in many different major television series over the years. He was a major participant in Milton Friedmans program, Free to Choose, and the program, Star Spangled Line, both on PBS, as well as appearing on ABCs Nightline and many programs on CNN. An earlier book of his, which was one of my favorites, is a book called The State Against Blacks. It was also made into a very successful PBS television documentary called Good Intentions. If I could put in a plug, our journal, The Independent Review, has an excellent review by him, which I suspect means that if you dont subscribe, you will deeply offend him, and we dont want that to happen.
So, I am very pleased to introduce Professor Walter Williams.
Thank you very much for that very warm welcome. What I plan to do tonight is not so much a lecture but to have a conversation about some of my ideas that I discuss in my syndicated columns and some other miscellaneous articles that you will find in the book. This seems like a very friendly audience, but try to ask me hard questions. You can kind of say, Well look Walter I have a liberal friend and he told me to ask you You can try that. Let me start off by saying the first principle on how I relate to my fellow man and that is the principle of self-ownership and youll see this all through my columns. I believe the notion that we got from John Locke in the second treaties on government that each of us owns ourselves. That is, I am my private property. You are your private property. You belong to yourself. If you accept that as the initial premise or as the first principle, then what constitute just rules of conduct are very easy. That is, why is murder wrong, because it violates private property. Why is rape wrong or immoral? It violates private property. Why is theft wrong? It violates private property. Starting out from that initial premise, I think that everything is fairly easy.
It gets a little more complex when we look at our everyday lives. When we ask, what should be the role of government in a free society? Why I think at least one role of government should not be that of violating private property. However, thats the major function of the United States government and governments almost everywhere. We, as Americans, support government doing things that if a private person did the identical thing, we would all randomly condemn him as a low down, despicable thief.
For example, I could see an elderly lady sleeping on a grate in downtown San Francisco over the winter and she needs some dental care, she needs some food, she needs some housing and I could walk up to David with a gun in my hand and say David, give me your $200. After having gotten his $200, I go down and buy the lady some medical attention and some housing and some food. Would you find me guilty of a crime? Yes, you would. I would be guilty of theft, regardless of what I did with the money, because theft is defined as taking the rightful property of one person and giving it to another to whom it does not belong. Most American can buy that however, there is a problem.
Now, the question is suppose the Federal Government, the agents of the United States Congress came to me and said, Williams that $200 that you made last week that you were planning to buy two nice bottles of La Fete Rothschild Bordeaux Wine with? You will not do that with the money. We will go downtown and help the lady out. I assert that there is no conceptual distinction between those two acts. That is, both acts involve taking the property of one American and giving it to another to whom it does not belong. If you press me for a distinction the only distinction I can find is that the first act where I walk up to David that is illegal theft. The second act is legal theft, but, nonetheless, theft all the same.
We as moral people, we cannot allow legality alone to be our talisman, because many things in this world are or were legal but clearly immoral. That is, slavery was legal, but did that make it moral? Apartheid in South Africa was legal, that did not make it moral. Or the Nazi persecution of Jews; the Stalinist purges; they were all legal but clearly immoral. That is, you and I as Americans we need to ask the question is there a moral basis of taking the property of one person and giving it to another to whom it does not belong. It turns that that is 3/4 or at least 2/3 of what the Federal government spends money on. If you look at the expenditures of our government, most of them consist of nothing more than legalized theft. A lot of people will say to me, Well, Williams, all these things you disagree with, they are a result of the fact that we have democracy and majority rules. Well, first of all, I try to tell the person that the framers did not intend for it to be a democracy. It was to be a republic. The more important thing is that just because we vote to steal from somebody doesnt make it right.
I think that what we have to recognize and the framers of the Constitution, our founders, recognized is that the general government is the enemy of the people because the essence of government is coercion. We do need some government as Thomas Paine and others recognized because men are not angels. We need to have government to stop you from taking my money, or stop me from murdering you. So we do need government. The only role for government in a free society is to stop one person from coercing another. That is the basic role of government in a free society. The framers knew this well. They sought to limit the government. If you read the Constitution of the United States it is a very, very negative language. You find words like Congress shall not infringe. Congress shall not disparage. Congress shall not do etc., etc., etc. It is all negative language because the framers recognized that government was, in general, the enemy of the people.
What is some more evidence of government being the enemy of the people? By the way, I will run into people, particularly lawyers, and they tell me you shouldnt be so narrow in your interpretation of the Constitution. The Constitution is a living document. If you say that the Constitution is a living document that is the same as saying that we have no Constitution. How you would you like to play me poker and the rules be living? Maybe my two pair could beat you flush depending on the circumstances. Now, going back to more evidence that government is generally the enemy of the people. This century is closing (matter of fact, the new century does not begin next year). The century is closing. I think that this will go down in history as the most brutal century in the history of mankind. Some numbers, if you go through a fellows book, Professor Rummell, the University of Hawaii, in his book called Death by Government, he points out that in this century 4050 million people were killed during war. Thats an awesome number, but 170 million people were murdered by their own government. The leader in this was Stalin, 65 million people. Mao Tse Tung, 35 million people. Hitler was just a third rate guy, 1618 million. People murdered by their own government. If you ask the question how was this done? If Stalin and Hitler or Stalin and Lenin or Stalin or Mao Tse Tung, if they had lived during the 18th Century they could not have murdered as many people. Why? Because government did not have that kind of power during that time. That is, the major phenomenon of the 20th Century was the consolidation of power in government. This is what the framers of our nation were so fearful of.
I look at governments role as being very limited. If you read Article I, Section VIII of the Constitution, it is about 19 things the Federal government should do. There is nothing in there about Social Security. Matter of fact, the word does not appear in the Constitution. The word education does not appear in the United States Constitution.
Another thing I also point out in a number of my columns is I talk about the issue of race. Tragically enough racial discrimination in the United States could have died a well deserved death a number of years ago, but somehow its managed to resuscitate almost daily. I dont believe that racial discrimination explains very much of what we see today in our country. I believe that one of the very important oversights that we ignore when we look at matters of race is that we fail to acknowledge the tremendous gains that black Americans have made in the United States. I believe, if Im not being to chauvinistic, its safe to say that black Americans made some of the greatest gains over some of the highest hurdles in the shortest period of time than any other racial group in the history of mankind. You say, whats the evidence of that? If you add up the earnings of black people each year, and just thought of black people as a nation, and you look at the GNP of black people, it would turn out that we would be the 13th or 14th richest nation on the face of this earth coming in just behind Switzerland or Canada. Black Americans are some of the worlds most famous personalities. Black Americans are some of the worlds richest people. It was a black American, Colin Powell, who was the commander of the worlds mightiest military.
In 1865, neither a slave nor a slave owner would have believed these kinds of gains were possible in just over 100 years, if ever. That speaks very well of the intestinal fortitude of the people. Just as important, it speaks very well of a nation in which these gains are possible. That is, those gains would not have been possible anywhere else on the face of this earth except the United States of America. There are problems that remain. That is, some of these gains have been elusive for a significant portion of the black community but it has nothing to do with racial discrimination. One devastating thing that is happening in black communities is the high illegitimacy rate. However, that has nothing to do with racial discrimination. Illegitimacy rates among black teenagers in 1918 was less than that among white teenagers. In fact, there is a breakdown of the black families. Breakdown is probably not the proper word, I mean not forming in the first place. This is entirely unprecedented, that is only 40% of black kids live in 2 parent families. Back in 1925, in Harlem, 85% of black kids lived in 2 parent families. In 1870, 1880, in cities like Cleveland, Detroit, and Philadelphia you found numbers like 70% to 85% of black kids living in 2 parent families. How do you explain that? Can you say that there was not as much racial discrimination in the United States in the late 1800s or early 1900s? No, that doesnt cut water. Discrimination just cannot explain that. How can you explain the high crime rates which are devastating to the black community? Black people huddle in their homes at night living under conditions, many times under conditions in poor neighborhoods, that the average American wouldnt believe or tolerate. For example, in Washington DC, mothers serving their children their meals on the floor, so as to avoid stray bullets. Or fearing to come to the window because of stray bullets. Worrying about whether kids are going to get home alive when they go to school. Its not the Klan riding into the neighborhood causing this kind of mayhem. You cannot attribute it to discrimination.
There are a number of other things that I talk about in the book. I try to apply economics to a whole range of problems. I try to explain some complex economics to people who dont know much economics. Matter of fact, I had a very tenacious mentor at UCLA, Dr. Armand Auschin. We were talking in the hallway during a faculty graduate student coffee hour and he said to me, Williams, the truest test of whether somebody knows their subject is whether they can explain it to somebody that doesnt know a damn thing about it. I can take the light in trying to explain economics in ordinary language to ordinary people in ways that they can understand it. I apply economics to many things. I try to make people think in my columns and on my appearances on radio. I look at them as an extension of my classroom to try get good economics out to the masses. I try to break some economic myths. People have asked me things like, whats the greatest human motivation? Whats that human motivation that gets wonderful things done? Im honest with people, I say greed. Im not talking about ripping off people or robbing. I am talking about people not giving a hoot about anybody but themselves. That is the motivation that gets wonderful things done.
For example, I talk in some of the columns about Texas cattlemen. They were going out last winter running down stray cows, feeding them, maybe even getting kicked in the face by the cows just to make sure New Yorkers had beef on their shelves. You had Idaho potato farmers getting up in the morning doing back breaking work, sun shining on them, and bugs biting them, making huge personal sacrifices to make sure New Yorkers also had potatoes. Do you think theyre doing that because they like New Yorkers? They may hate New Yorkers. Im not that wild about New Yorkers myself, but they make sure that beef and potatoes get to New York every single day. Ask yourself, how much beef and potatoes do you think New Yorkers would have if it all depended on human love and kindness? I worry about New Yorkers. All of you, you came here in automobiles. Do you think you have that automobile because some Detroit assembly line workers cared about you? They dont give a damn about you. But they care about themselves. Theyre trying to get more for themselves. This is what Adam Smith was talking about in the wealth of nations. He said that the public good is served by the private interest. I support greed. That is, I want people to try to get as much as they can for themselves in honest ways.
Let me stop there. I know you have some questions you might want to try. Or you might have some friends that told you to ask a question when you come. Lets try a few.
Questions from the Floor
Question: Given the subject matter of theft, what is your view of the payment of reparations to black people?
Walter Williams: Well, first of all, with regards to payments for reparations, I personally think that slave owners should make payments to slaves for the injustices. We are going to take care of that business somewhere else, either in heaven or hell. There is no way that a white person living today has any obligation for slavery. No responsibility for slavery. What many people with this reparation are saying is that essentially a white of today should compensate a black of today for what a white of yesterday did to a black of yesterday. To me, that does not make sense. If an Indian came to my house saying Walter I want you to compensate me I would go get my gun. Not because I have anything against Indians, I just dont want foolish people knocking on my door.
In the case of Japanese Americans, for example, who were interned during the Second World War, those are a current generation of people who were abused by a living generation of people. I think there should be some compensation, but however, I have problems with that because they are compensating them with my tax dollars. I didnt have anything to do with getting the Japanese interned. I dont feel any obligation whatsoever. In the case of Jews in Germany, you might have a case for reparation, but youre talking about 100 years when everybodys dead whos involved with the injustice.
Question: Just making a quick reference to your first principal of self-ownership. I dont know if youre aware of the incident or not, but a court in England is hearing the case brought to it by the government health service about a girl who is 15-16 years old who has a diseased heart and cannot be expected to live; they wanted to do a heart transplant on her, and she didnt want it. Well guess what, the court said go ahead and they did.
Walter Williams: I think thats despicable. I think thats just plain wrong. Thats theft. I believe people have the right to sell their organs. I believe that people should have the right to bequeath their organs to their heirs. My doctor some years ago, he was trying to get me to stop smoking. I told him, what sense does it make to put pink lungs in the ground? I told him that when you die you should go out in a big bang. Everything should be wrong with you. You kind of feel sorry for the guy who died with just one thing...heart attack, because his liver is good, it means that he did not drink enough. His lungs are good, he did not smoke enough. I was telling my doctor, if I could sell my organs, if I could bequeath my organs, lets say to my daughter, I would have incentive to take better care of them. If you cant bequeath something whats the optimum balance to leave here? Its zero. If you cannot bequeath money to your heirs, well you should die with zero the same thing with your organs.
Question: You were talking about theres nothing in the Constitution about education, so what do you say to these people who say the Federal government shouldnt be involved in education? Well what about all the poor black kids in the ghetto? Whos going to teach them how to read and write?
Walter Williams: Well, I would say that the government schools have produced a devastating product in terms of the black education. Black education through the schools is nothing less than fraud. If I were the grand dragon of the Klu Klux Klan, and I wanted to sabotage black academic excellence, I could not find a better way to do so then the current government schools in most cities.
If you look for black academic excellence, in poor neighborhoods, you see it in black owned and operated schools such as Marva Collins School in Cincinnati and Chicago and Osh Kosh, the Marcus Garvey School in Los Angeles, in the so-called troubled section of Los Angeles. Ive been to the schools I have just mentioned. I have walked through every single classroom and those kids, the black kids at those schools from poor and low and moderate income families, many female headed households, 85% of those kids at each of those schools read at or above, sometimes 6 years above, grade level. If you go to Marcus Garvey School in Los Angeles, its out on Slausen Avenue, Dr. Palmer is the founder and headmaster of the school, he will take you around the school. Dr. Palmer has been trying to get me to visit. He was taking to me around the school. I was walking into the science class and a teacher had asked a child the chemical name for magnesium and he said MN. She said, very good. This is a 6th grade chemistry class. As he was ready to sit down, he gave the atomic number. I think the atomic number was 12.
How is this academic excellence achieved in these schools? The kids come to school sober. They have left their knives and guns at home. You can walk down the hallway, lets say at Ivy league in Philadelphia, and you can hear a rat piss on cotton. I mean, its that quiet. The kids are in their seat actually looking at the teacher. Its no magic. Lets say Cleasta Mimms, shes the headmistress of Marva Collins School in Cincinnati. When the kids enroll in the school she says that parents have to come once every month to get updates on the kids and see the progress of the kids. She also requires that if she summons the parent to school, if the parent does not come, the student is out of the school. The government schools cant do that.
Question: You talk about the devastation of the public education system and now theres a big push to bring that system to healthcare. My question is about the motivation of the people who advocate these things. Is that because theyre bureaucrats and theyre self motivated to perpetuate themselves?
Walter Williams: Just very briefly, I think theres nothing older in the history of mankind than the idea that wisdom resides in the few of the elite and they have been ordained to forcibly impose that wisdom on the rest of us. Thats the ugliest parts of human history are explained by that kind of phenomenon, where people think that they have the right to control the lives of other people. Its an arrogance.
Think about this for a second; suppose I write a letter to the Congress of the United States or any of you, you write a letter to the Congress of the United States, and I tell the Congress of the United States, my name is Walter Williams and I am an emancipated adult. I am fully capable of taking care of my own retirement needs. If I fail to do so, let me depend on charity or die in the streets, but stop taking money out of my paycheck to put in your bankrupt retirement plan named social security. How do you think that would be greeted by the Congress of the United States? It would be greeted with contempt. Here I am an adult and I want to take care of my own retirement. If Im too resolute in wanting to do that by not sending my money, theyll kill. Some of the listeners might say, what is this guy talking about killing. Suppose I tell the agency of the United States Congress Im not allowing any of my money to go to Social Security. What are they going to do? Theyre going to fine me. I say, Im not going to pay your fine. They say, Well, were going to take your house. No youre not, thats my house. They are going to send armed agents to take my house, and I am going to be in my window armed to protect my house and theyre going to kill me. Its as simple as that.
By the way, going to that point a little bit more, if you come in a few weeks when the people are going to talk about the Second Amendment, Don Kates and Joyce Malcolm, I think its very important for Americans to get the meaning of the Second Amendment, why the framers gave us the Second Amendment. You have these people in Washington and in your state capital, theyre suggesting that the framers of the Constitution gave us the Second Amendment so we can go deer and duck hunting and maybe shoot a few clay pigeons over the weekend. Thats not the reason. If you read through the stated messages of people like George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, Madison, they say things like the right to keep and bear arms needs to be protected so that American people can protect themselves against the United States Congress. Its not to protect us against criminals and to go deer and duck hunting. It was to protect ourselves against the United States Congress. A lot of us say it means a well regulated militia. What did George Mason say when somebody asked him whats a well regulated militia? He says that a militia consists of all males above the age of 16 except a few public officials. Those were the words of George Mason.
Question: Do you have some suggestions on how you use economics against your government when theyre capable of taking all the money from you that they want and restricting you from cutting your timbers or preventing you from using your property as you see fit, but you have not delegated that power to them. But they just come and take the money to do it. The only way I know is through the courts. I would like to see more economic solutions from you.
Walter Williams: I dont have all the solutions. I dont have all the answers. I think a part of the answer for all this lies in trying to convince our fellow Americans on the moral superiority of liberty. A lot of people say we have to change politicians. I say no. Politicians are not to blame for the problems that we have. We can blame them a little bit. We can blame them for not being statesmen. We can blame them for being hustlers. We can blame them for being liars. The bulk of the blame lies with you and I. Politicians are doing precisely what you and I elected them to office to do. What do we elect them to office to do? We elect them to office to use the power of their office to take what belongs to one American and give it to us or to give one American a privilege that will be denied another American. You see this and you say not we people in California.
Imagine I am running for the United States Senate in California. I go up and down the state and I tell the people of California, I have read the United States Constitution namely Article I Section VIII of the United States Constitution. If you send me to Washington, dont expect for me to bring back Meals on Wheels, Aid to Higher Education, highway construction fund, because its not in the Constitution of the United States. Do you think I would get elected to the Senate? Now here is the tragedy of this ladies and gentlemen, from a narrow, economic self-interest point of view, Californians will be exactly right not sending me to the United States Senate. Why? Because, if I dont bring back billions of dollars worth of goodies, it doesnt mean that Californians will pay a lower Federal income tax. All it means is that Nevada will get it instead. When legalized theft begins, it pays for everybody to get involved. Those who dont get involved, wind up holding the brown end of the stick. That is the tragedy that is making sense for all of us to get involved with using government to take somebody elses money. Its a tragedy.
Some of your politicians will say, Well, Williams all of these things are justified in the Constitution under the general welfare clause. That is utter nonsense. If you read the words of people like Madison, James Madison, he objected to money going to some French refugees in 17891792. He said, I cannot lay my finger on the article in the Constitution that warrants Congress taking the money of their constituents for purposes of benevolence. James Madison is the father of the Constitution. With regards to the words general welfare, he says that if we apply the word general welfare to everything, it will turn the Constitution into something that was not contemplated by its designers.
Question: Could you give us your thoughts about the privatization of Social Security: if it will happen or when it will happen?
Walter Williams: I think that privatization has to come because the Social Security system is going to collapse. With the robust economy, we have just postponed the collapsing maybe a year. Its estimated that the expenditures are going to start exceeding revenues in 2014 or 2012. The system will go absolutely bankrupt in 2032, 2033. I think that what we need to do, we need to begin to take this window of opportunity to privatize social security. Here is what I would do if I had it my way, I would tell every single American who is age 45 or younger, forget whatever you put in social security. Kiss it goodbye. Youre not going to get a dime. For all those above age 45, I would give them the option of opting out or I would say youre going to get what we promised. The reason why 45 is chosen is because if a person put the same amount of money that he would have put into social security between 45 and 65 into a private retirement account, hell break even with what he would have gotten in social security. I believe that it is possible through a private retirement plan for most people on retirement (lets say the average worker) to be almost a millionaire. Almost no question. Matter of fact, the stock market in any 20 year interval has returned something like 10%12%. Social security is approximately 1%, sometimes maybe an even negative.
Other countries have begun the privatization. In Chile, Jose Fanera talks a lot about the Chilean privatization. Almost everybody has opted out. You see some of the tragedies. You get these people in the United States, criticizing those congressmen who say we ought to privatize and turns out some congressmen are from districts. In San Diego where city workers are not in the social security plan, and the governments trying to bring them into the social security plan, and their representatives are trying to keep them out. If you have to force somebody to be in something wonderful, then it kind of raises some questions.
Question: Im wondering how it is justified today that in California we have the gun ban going on here in the state of California. They are outlawing copycats now. They are basically finding a way to outlaw guns gradually. Its a progressive move. The only dictator in my four childrens lives should be me. Yet, the government is dictating to us that we have to put our children in schools. Im wondering how do the states derive this power from the Constitution. I still cant figure it out. I havent seen where it is that it is mandated that we lose the rights that we gained in the Federal Constitution. We somehow lose it at the State level.
Walter Williams: Well, I cant explain the mechanism because Im not a lawyer, but Im against compulsory education. I think for children it should be their parents who decide most of what a kid does. Its very interesting that we listen to these people after the Columbine shooting in Colorado, we hear these people saying we ought to hold parents more accountable. I think that parents should be held accountable, but these people fail to realize that over the last 4 decades the government has been undermining parental authority. Systematically. For example, in some places, for a child to go on a school trip, you have to get parental permission. You need parental permission to get their earlobes pierced. But in some places you can get an abortion without either the parents prevention or knowledge. Principals sometimes have to get search warrants to open up lockers to be able to search. We have been undermining authority. Schools give out condoms whether parents want them to do that or not. They use sex education to indoctrinate kids. Again, undermining authority. A colleague of mine, his kid was given a safe sex kit. My colleague and I are not spring chickens, but we could not figure out what half the stuff was used for in the safe sex kit. Here you have the school authorities attacking the home values the first day. I agree, but I cant tell you the mechanism. I dont think that there is any moral basis for our obeying immoral laws and unconstitutional laws. However, if you choose to go that route, you have to be prepared for whatever is going to happen to you. I think that they cannot put 100 million people in jail. I think that we need to start questioning some of these laws that we are just doing what the government says.
Question: The first question, where in the world is the best government? Where is there an example of a government that understands liberty and freedom. The second question is how much credit should Coperthweit be given for the overall understanding of liberty and freedom in Hong Kong.
Walter Williams: First of all, I would have to say that in terms of liberty, I would think it would have to be the United States. Now, were losing liberty. It was great philosopher David Hume said seldom has liberty of any kind been taken all at once. We always lose liberty bit by bit. Not in big chunks. I have a colleague, Leonard Reed, the founder of Foundation Education Economics, he said that if you want to take liberty away from Americans you have to know how to cook a frog. He said that you cannot cook a frog by putting on a pot of hot water and then throwing the frog in the water because the frogs reflexes are too quick. By the time his feet hit the water, he would hop away and be free. He said the way to cook a frog is to put on a pot of cold water, put the frog in the water and heat it up bit by bit. By the time the frog realized he was being cooked it would be too late. This is the same thing with Americans. If anybody came over talking about taking away all of our liberties all at once, we would rebel. But they are talking about taking away all of our liberties bit by bit in cities, so we have to stop them. We have an awesome responsibility as Americans, because if liberty dies in America its dead all over the world. Its gone forever without Americans to defend liberty. Thats an awesome responsibility that we have for our own generation and future generations.
With regard to Hong Kong I think that Hong Kong, at least it has been a classic example of a free market. Its an open market. There are very, very low taxes. There are very few regulations. I dont believe they have any import duties. They dont have things like unemployment compensation. Consequently, there is no unemployment. I think that it is a model of laissez-faire. However, its my understanding, and Im not an expert in this area, they didnt have political freedom for a long time. They still might not ever get it, but nonetheless, they have economic freedom. I think Hong Kong is a good example of how liberty leads to wealth. Hong Kong is the second richest jurisdiction in the Far East. A lot of people say that the reason why the United States is rich is because we have a lot of natural resources. Thats nonsense. Hong Kong is literally a rock in the Pacific. It even has to import its water and its food. But it is the second richest political jurisdiction because there is economic freedom. If you go around the world, the richest people in the world, the richest people in the world are those people with economic freedom. Germany was decimated during World War II, but West Germans were far richer than East Germans. Korea was devastated in the Korean War, but South Koreans are richer than North Koreans. Hong Kong Chinese are richer than Mainland Chinese. You cant get around it. The liberty, personal liberty, economic liberty, is the road to wealth.