It was a book that I believed would be excellent required reading in an elementary economics course. I especially thought this for the brief time when I taught at an historically black university. Of course that was impossible, because Dr. Williams was “politically incorrect” in stating views that ran contra to prevailing visions.
The book and the reaction to it is indicative of why economics is referred to as the dismal science. Economics is neither optimistic nor pessimistic nor dismal. It is merely (or should be) a study of human nature and action. It deals with the world that is, not the world as some utopian would like it to be.
Good economics is at odds with utopias. To utopians or central planners, economics is dismal because it presents obstacles to their programs. Economics is not against utopians per se. It merely exposes the inconsistencies and impossibilities contained within their cherished pipe dreams.
To realists, economics is practical and common sense. Hence, uneducated people often exhibit greater economic insight than professors of economics. The professors too often are swayed by normative views (how they would like the world to be) than the positivist views (how the world is) that should be directing their study. Too often their vision of how society “should” be overwhelms their economic reasoning and common sense.
Dr. Williams book deals with social policy aimed at helping people, blacks in particular. He uses clear economic reasoning to expose the fallacies in many of these policies and how these policies have been harmful to the groups targeted to benefit.
Recently I discovered a 4-part PBS series based on the book. Each segment is 10 minutes in length. Here is the first one. If you enjoy it, you can find the other three on Youtube.