Matt Welch was born in Bellflower in 1968, raised in Long Beach and schooled at the daily newspaper of UC Santa Barbara. He now resides in Los Angeles. At the age of 22 he moved to Prague, where he and some pals from the college daily launched the East Bloc's first independent post-communist English-language newspaper, the unfortunately named Prognosis. In 1995 he moved to Budapest where he managed a Business Journal and met his lovely French wife; in 1998, after an abortive move to Cuba, the couple came to California. Matt writes for Reason and The National Post. He blogs at Matt Welch.
Why do you blog? > To keep in touch with friends and loved ones without having to, you know, actually talk to them; to announce whatever new thing I've published; to flag articles and columns of interest; converse with my weird and smart readers; write about crap that wouldn't make a proper paid piece; and react in real-time to stuff that provokes me.
What has been your best blogging experience? > I once whined like a cur about being poor, and people responded by giving me more than $1,000. Sounds crass, pales in many comparisons to the terrific interactions I've had, and it would certainly never happen again, but… dude, a thousand bucks.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Watching bloggers I used to enjoy get hijacked by their insane comments sections and/or some utterly pointless intra-blog feud.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > For the love of God, don't write about national politics! Exploit your specialities, tell us something we didn't know, make us laugh, don't be predictable, use the 'preview' button, stay gold.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Vaclav Havel, Bill James, George Orwell, Martin Luther King.
What are you reading at the moment? > Friendly Fire: The Near-Death of the Transatlantic Alliance, by Elizabeth Pond.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Huckleberry Finn.
What is your favourite poem? > 'Oh, What a Man I Was', by Charles Bukowski.
What is your favourite song? > Today, it's 'Irish Blood, English Heart', by Morrissey, for reasons that elude me. More permanently, I'm partial to 'Don't Worry Baby', by the Beach Boys.
Who is your favourite composer? > Mr Lennon/McCartney.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I used to think that enacting campaign finance reform legislation was the most important political issue in the United States, and that most people who worried about its effects on free speech were disingenuous. I no longer do.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > That liberalism - liberal science, open inquiry, basic human freedom and rights, free markets - is the best basic orientation for any society, and can always be improved upon and tinkered with to meet specific local needs and concerns.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > That the ends justify the means.
Who are your political heroes? > Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, that dude who stepped in front of the tanks at Tiananmen Square.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'If the main pillar of the system is living a lie, then it is not surprising that the fundamental threat to it is living the truth.' - V. Havel
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Declassify 98% of all secret documents, current and historical, and drastically cut back on the categories that currently merit top-secret classification.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be President, who would you choose? > Ben Sullivan. Friend of mine, proprietor of the Science Blog, all-round good guy. You'd agree with me if you knew him.
What would you do with the UN? > If I was God or something? I would have it structured in four tiers: one for specifically defined liberal electoral democracies, another for countries that aren't quite there but are improving, a third for countries not yet close but not yet totalitarian, and a fourth for the real bad guys. Everybody still gets a seat at the one big table, but only real democracies can ever have veto power, or a significant chairmanship, no matter how temporary. Countries should be given an incentive to liberalize and join the next Circle of Friends; be penalized for being horrible. It is still pragmatic and useful, I think, to have a body that includes every last country, and the lure of integration can be a very powerful, beneficial thing.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The combination of totalitarianism, weapons of mass destruction and abject poverty.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > Yet to come, despite the rough patch.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Rock on!
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > I'm already married, and even though she's French, we aren't radically different in basic political outlook. So, no.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > When a band I didn't like too much asks me what I thought of the show, and the lead singer has that desperately vulnerable look.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Oh, lots. For starters, I'm not generally fond of Southern Italians, Austrian law enforcement officials, Czech waiters, Yugoslavs who begin sentences with 'but you don't understand our history', British lads on Mediterranean islands, most groups of men larger than five (especially if soccer is involved), doctrinaire types just out of college (especially those with freshly minted journalism degrees, though these are good for sport), middle-aged American women who heart Castro, Californians who can't tell the difference between 'recession' and 'them dang Mexicans!'... and, obviously, prejudiced people.
What is your favourite proverb? > Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. Note that this applies to baseball, not music.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > That the suicide Islamo-cultists might get hold of a nuke, that the US will succumb to the historical temptations of greatly expanded power, that the rest of the democratic world (and especially Europe) will prefer sniping from the sidelines to actual responsibility, and that the combination of these things will make the post-September 11 world far less free and far more dangerous.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > A free Havana.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Sitting on a beach with books, guitars, friends and fruity, rum-based cocktails, for as long as it takes.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Assuming the hypothetical of spare time... exploring corners of Southern California I haven't seen, going to Angels games with my Dad, discovering some new city or country with my wife.
What is your most treasured possession? > My wedding ring.
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? > Luke. Or maybe Osterhaus.
What talent would you most like to have? > The ability to fix anything at all.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Rock musician.
Which baseball team, and which basketball team, do you support? > The Anaheim Angels, and the Los Angeles Lakers, fanatically.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > That my friends and I could make an honest living by putting out records.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of previous profiles, and the links to them, can be found here.]