Today Professor Walter E. WIlliams turns 75. As the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, Williams has made countless contributions to making complicated economic doctrine more accessible to the masses. Yet, I owe Williams something of a personal debt.
Growing up in New York City, I had never heard of George Mason University. I first heard of GMU during my youth while listening to (don’t judge) the Rush Limbaugh Show (in my youth that was the only alternative to the stuff I learned in NYC public schools). Williams frequently substituted for Rush on Fridays. I learned so much about the fundamentals of economics from those programs. I had never considered things like tariffs, taxation rates, the minimum wage, and other such topics before.
Later, Williams came to speak at Penn State, and I attended. His lecture on the role between the state and individual was enthralling. His flawless challenges to the statist orthodoxy I had learned at all levels of my public education stunned me. I was hooked. After the talk, he graciously autographed a copy of one of his books, and could not have been nicer.
A few years later, when applying to law schools, I was totally ignorant about what to look for in a law school (beyond the US News rankings). I knew I would be working in Arlington, Virginia, for the DoD, and I figured that close-by George Mason would be a good pick, based in large part of my experiences with Williams. In hindsight, that was one of the best decisions I made.
So Professor Williams, happy birthday, and thank you for all that you have done for me (even if you have no clue).