Econ 1: Fall 2010: Files for November 15 "Public Goods and Asymmetric Information" Lecture
Department of "Huh?!" (Clive Crook Edition)

Intellectual Garbage Cleanup: Walter Williams Edition

Ta-Nehisi Coates does the honors:

Confederate Hair Tonic: In this instance, it must be said that Williams is practicing history in the manner of a phrenologist practicing brain surgery--with similarly ghastly results. In raising primary sources to the level of indisputable fact, Williams employs a methodology which does not merely argue for the existence of black Confederate legions, but for UFOs, orcs, the Dover Demon, elves and magic. The sable Confederate arm is too modest. Surely, Nessie awaits. I would not demand that history remain solely the property of professionals. But I  would simply see a basic commitment to honesty from academics plying a borrowed trade. 

What makes Williams spiritualism so appalling is that like his forebears, he is preying on a deep pain. It is utterly agonizing for Americans--regardless of color--to face the Civil War as it was. No honest broker of history can fail to admire the military exploits of Stonewall Jackson or Nathan Forrest. It is utterly discomfiting that the same honest broker must admit that these men charged backwards into history. What Walter Williams offers here is a credentialed con--a way of avoiding the agony of American history, of ducking the mixed inheritance that is our responsibility.  It is American citizenship on the cheap. It is lard packaged as a salve. It is charlatanism. And it should always be known as such.