American Contempt for Liberty
© 2015 Walter Williams
American Contempt for Liberty caught my eye immediately, for its title alone, for I’ve had a growing suspicion that the failure of the American republic lies not only in the ever-expanding state, but in the populace that feeds it, and its subjects’ eagerness to bully one another – an eagerness never more clearly on display in 2020, where we took turns bullying each other for wearing or not wearing a mask – and are charging ahead into a brave new world of segregation. This collection of essays is drawn from Williams’ columns throughout the 2010s. Although the articles within given sections are highly repetitive (sharing the same topic, quoting the same statistics, and reusing phrases), the collection as a whole proved to be more of interest than I expected. The titular theme is chiefly dealt with in the first two sections, on politics and the Constitution, and thereafter Williams writes more broadly on topics like race and education, topics which are closely linked in his thinking. The last section covers the environment, health, and international goings- on including an article on how sugar subsidies indirectly sabotage the long-term health of Americans.
Chiefly of interest to me were Williams’ pieces on race and education. As someone who came of age in the days of Jim Crow, Williams is outraged about how educational and political culture continues to fail his fellow blacks. Pointing to the marked relative failure of black students compared to whites, hispanics, etc, Williams puts his finger on several possible reasons, beginning with a noxious paternalism which excuses disruptive behavior in classrooms and schools as simply part of ‘black culture’, and does not push black students academically, allowing them to languish with middle-school writing & reading skills even late into college. Perhaps more importantly, Williams points to the disintegration of the black family from the mid-20th century as an underminer of long-term success, academic and otherwise. Williams suggests that self-appointed black leaders do their communities a disservice by studiously overlooking this factor, and endemic black-on-black violence, as they continue blaming everything on racism. Williams has increasingly little use for the offerings of contemporary education even outside their connection with race, however, as he details rife corruption within high schools and the college system repeatedly, almost taking pleasure in how widespread the rot is.
Given my own contempt for the state, it’s hardly surprising that I enjoyed this collection, especially for Williams’ thorough savaging of the ‘education’ sector. If you have never read Williams before, I would suggest not trying all of this in one go, given the frequent re-use of datasets. Although I read this title in 2020, I shelved the review (given its similarities to Thomas Sowell’s Is Reality Optional, another collection of essays in the conservative-libertarian realm) and forgot about it until recently, when I read a pair of books by two emerging black conservatives. Those are forthcoming.