Even at Grove City College where commencement speeches are not filled with leftist banality, they often enough succumb to the banality of the occasion. But once in a while, a memorable one is delivered.
Walter Williams, who is a member of the college’s board of trustees, gave a positively Rothbardian talk last Saturday. He started out by telling the assembled that he would discuss “fundamental principles” necessary to “preserve the blessings of liberty.” “The first principle of a free society,” he said, “is that each person owns himself.” And “the direct implication of self-ownership is people must own those things they produce.” “The idea of self-ownership” he continued, “is what makes slavery, murder, rape, assault, extortion, theft, and the like immoral acts.” The market economy not only preserves these fundamental rights of property, but brings into being a prosperous middle class and permits the leisure and extended division of labor necessary for civilization. In the market, income is earned by serving others and can be used for genuine charity towards those in need.
Our social problems do not stem from the market, but from the state. “The great problems that confront our nation,’ he said, “have their roots in morality where we’ve asked government to commit immoral and unconstitutional acts.”
The charge he gave to our graduates was “to be moral yourself and to try to sell to our fellow man on the superiority of personal liberty and its main ingredient, limited government.”
If you have suffered through a commencement speech recently, console yourself with his speech.