When Walter Williams Worked for the Carter Administration

John McClaughry's memoirs, continued


A while back I mentioned that John McClaughry, a contributing editor here at Reason, has been serializing his memoirs at the Front Porch Republic site. The most recent installment, which covers the Ford and Carter years, continues the theme of the federal government's inability to seriously grapple with the idea of devolving power.

One interesting tidbit involves the National Commission on Neighborhoods, a Carter-era body where McClaughry served as a token Republican. The commission was run by Robert Kuttner, later to become famous as a liberal pundit, and the bulk of its recommendations, McClaughry writes, amounted to "a massive new national effort to spend money and issue mandates." But its report did include one interesting chapter, he adds: "the one on Legal, Fiscal and Administrative Obstacles."

That was because the corresponding committee was effectively run by me and Bob O'Brien, aided by our consultant Dr. Walter Williams, libertarian economist and author (1982) of The State Against Blacks. I don't believe that Kuttner was aware of Walt's libertarian leanings, but quickly approved his hiring because he wanted more black faces.

Although some statist notions crept in, the major thesis of this chapter was that neighborhood people were too often handcuffed in building civil society by obsolete or malicious laws and regulations that defeated their efforts. Building on my earlier work for [the Office of Minority Business Enterprise], we advocated rapid and efficient legal recycling of tax-foreclosed properties into new ownership; a report on home owner's equity insurance; a study of carried interest and compulsory unitization of derelict urban neighborhoods, built on the principles of Texas petroleum law; transparent land and title information systems; model uniform conveyancing statues; continuation of five year amortization of rehab expenditures; tax shelter partnerships and corporate tax credits for support of neighborhood corporations; various property tax reforms; privatization of building code enforcement; and (seriously watered down) joint labor union-neighborhood organization efforts "to resolve problems arising from the prevailing wage and work rule provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act."

You can read the rest of the article here. The cast of characters includes both Ron Paul and Dick Cheney.