8 Great Quotes on Poverty from Walter Williams

As we continue our observations on various causes of poverty in rural South Africa, it is important to focus on the items we can fix. Poverty through natural disasters or crimes by former regimes is out of our control. As Wayne Grudem has said, the main drawback with blaming outside factors for poverty (e.g. colonialism, banks, rich nations, etc.) is that it does nothing to solve the problem.

The young people in our village need black heroes they can emulate. Walter Williams is one such example. He is an economist and author of several books, including The State Against BlacksRace and Economics and South Africa’s War Against CapitalismHe also writes a weekly column addressing issues on race, poverty, and economics.

Williams grew up in a single-parent home and endured many instances of discrimination. At university he was a self-professed radical until some professors challenged him to examine the evidence. He eventually became a conservative, used his many gifts to earn several college degrees–including a PhD–and became Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University where he has taught for nearly 40 years.

  1. In a free society, government has the responsibility of protecting us from others, but not from ourselves.
  2. Roadmap out of poverty: Complete high school; get a job, any kind of a job; get married before having children; and be a law-abiding citizen. Among both black and white Americans so described, the poverty rate is in the single digits.
  3. The greatest percentage of poverty is found in female-headed households. Over 70 percent of female-headed households are poor. A large percentage of poor people are children (17 percent); fully 85 percent of black children living in poverty reside in a female-headed household.
  4. Let me offer you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn. Do you disagree? Well then tell me how much of what I earn belongs to you – and why?
  5. 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.
  6. Communism and socialism [are] seductive. It promises us that people will contribute according to ability and receive according to needs. Everybody is equal. Everybody has a right to decent housing, decent food and affordable medical care. History should have taught us that when we hear people talk this stuff – watch out!
  7. Government income redistribution programs produce the same result as theft. In fact, that’s what a thief does; he redistributes income. The difference between government and thievery is mostly a matter of legality.
  8. Having children is not an act of God. It’s not like you’re walking down the street and pregnancy strikes you; children are a result of a conscious decision. For the most part, female-headed households are the result of short-sighted, self-destructive behavior of one or two people.
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