TROY - Nationally syndicated columnist and author Walter Williams told a crowd Wednesday at Troy University's Claudia Crosby Theater that the concept of free enterprise has been under "constant attack" in the U.S. for at least half a century.
The lecture, titled "The Legitimate Role of Government in a Free Society," was sponsored by the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy.
"We can safely say we have made a significant departure from the constitutional values of individual liberty that made us a wealthy nation in the first place," Williams said. "As time goes by, you and I own less and less of our most valuable property, namely ourselves and the fruits of our labor. The average taxpayer works from January 1 until about the end of April to pay federal, state and local taxes. We are working on four months out of the year and we do not have the right to decide how the fruits of our labor will be used for those months."
Williams told the crowd that the vast majority of items funded by federal tax dollars are not sanctioned by the Constitution.
The primary justification for these expenditures, he said, is a general desire for the government to "do good."
"People say government should help the poor, the disadvantaged (and) college students. It's nice to say those things, but we have to recognize that the government has no resources of its very own," Williams said. "Those programs coming out of (Washington, D.C.) and your legislature, they don't represent congressmen reaching into their own pockets to give the money. They first have to confiscate that dollar form some other American. We as American people ask the government to do things that, if a person did the same thing privately, we would condemn him as an ordinary, despicable thief."
In a question-and-answer session after the lecture, Williams advocated for increasing the number of representatives in Congress.
"A greater number of congressmen would be able to reflect our wishes a little better and would make the job of lobbyists far more difficult," he said. "Right now they only have to worry about influencing 435 people. That job becomes far more challenging if we have 1,500 congressmen. The more difficult it is to influence Congress, the freer we will be."
Williams, the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University since 1980, has authored 10 books, authored more than 150 publications in scholarly journals and has appeared on scores of radio and television programs. His weekly syndicated column appears in some 140 newspapers across the nation.