All Commentary
Sunday, April 1, 1990

Perspective: Apartheid: War on Capitalism

The whole ugly history of apartheid has been an attack on free markets and the rights of individuals, and a glorification of centralized government power. In 1900 when South African Prime Minister Jan Christiaan Smuts said, “It is ordained that we [Afrikaners], insignificant as we are, should be amongst the first people to begin the struggle against the new world tyranny of capitalism,” he was recognizing that free markets along with their inherent dispersion of power have little respect for race. Therefore, South Africa declared war on capitalism. Now—in order to promote tranquility, dignity for the individual, and prosperity for all—South Africa’s people must strengthen its beleaguered market forces, and declare war against centralized government power.

—Walter E. Williams

South Africa’s War against Capitalism

Jackie Robinson

One of the central myths of the modern age is the belief that politics is the arena for effective social action, and for the advancement of causes. To the contrary, however, politics only adopts causes which have already gained popularity or success, and then often does harm to them . . . .

The civil rights issue is a case in point. Before it ever became a political issue, countless numbers of successful black businessmen, clerks, scholars, and others were winning victories, each in their sphere. They won respect and established beachheads in a variety of areas.

Perhaps the two most important men in gaining civil and societal freedom for blacks were [Brooklyn Dodgers president] Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson. The two men broke down the barriers in perhaps the most rigidly segregated aspect of American life, baseball. When Rick-ey first talked to Robinson [in 1945], he told him, “I need more than a great player. I need a man who will accept insults, take abuse, in a word, carry the flag for his race. I want a man who has the courage not to fight, not to fight back . . . . Can you do that?” Robinson thought it over and answered finally, “If you want to take this gamble, I promise you there’ll be no incidents.” By 1949, Robinson had made his case . . . .

There is no national holiday for Jackie Robinson, but it was his character and action on center stage that changed the United States. Only some years later did political figures get on the bandwagon, dramatize the issue, and claim to have changed America.

—R. J. Rushdoony, writing in the

Winter 1989 issue of Lincoln Review

The Function of Government

The main problem of the market, the main problem of human cooperation, is the fact that there are people who resort to violent action, who do not comply with the rules that are necessary for the preservation and operation of the market. In Order to prevent this violent action, in order to make possible the workings of the market, of human cooperation, of human society, it is necessary to have an institution that protects the market against violence, against people who lack the knowledge or the will to comply with the rules of peaceful exchange of commodities and services. This is the function of government.

—Ludwig von Mises,

speaking at The Foundation for

Economic Education, February 22,1969

Cambodian Catharsis

At the time of the Vietnamese invasion little more than a decade ago, this city [Phnom Penh] was a ghost town. The Khmer Rouge were ousted and the mass killing ended, but Cambodia was still governed by a Communist government. Such regimes produce little economic growth in peacetime, let alone during civil war, so I had mentally prepared myself for a city living in the stone age.

In spite of all that was depressing, the big news in Cambodia is the revival of life, the reconstruction of markets and economic activity. Progress is palpable, even astonishing. A French relief worker told me that since the government began implementing “free market” reforms a few years ago, the progress has come “almost hourly.”

Indeed, as the Vietnamese pull out and their influence in the Cambodian government wanes, Cambodians more and more are putting markets in charge of the economy. Agriculture has been largely de-socialized; farms are now chiefly in private hands, by either lease or outright private ownership.

There are no price controls, no wage restrictions, almost no controls over the movement of people and capital, no rationing and lines of people in front of stores. Having just visited the Soviet Union for a fourth time days before arriving in Phnom Penh, I found myself thinking how envious my friends in Moscow would be if they could see the variety and abundance of goods in Phnom Perth’s markets . . . .

By the end of my stay, I was asking people to tell me just what was Communist about Cambodia anymore. Aside from the one-party political monopoly, the country is relying substantially on free enterprise to direct everyday life. Even former beggars, I was advised, are getting into business.

—Lawrence Reed,

reporting on his August 1989 trip to

Cambodia, in the September 17, 1989,

Idaho Press-Tribune

The Power of Choice

High levels of productive employment and free competition are the best guarantors of consumers’ and workers’ rights. With plenty of jobs to choose from, a worker can decide to leave an unfair employer and work for a better one. But state-owned industry is a monopoly. In India, 67 percent of legal employment belongs to the public sector. Disgruntled government workers have few choices except to resort to frequent strikes.

Blind economic nationalism keeps foreign capital, technology, and products out of India and restricts competition. Indian economists never talk about the loss of jobs when a foreign corporation gets kicked out of the country. They forget that competition not only brings about efficiency, technological innovation, and effective use of limited resources, it gives real power of choice to workers and consumers.

—Rayasam V. Prasad

Jonesboro, Georgia

  • Walter Williams served on the faculty of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics since 1980. He was the author of more than 150 publications that have appeared in scholarly journals. Learn more about him here.