Geoff Robinson's early working career included years as tax office clerk, university manager and student association research officer. Despite mostly studying law, politics and industrial relations as an undergraduate, he completed a history PhD on the New South Wales Labor Government of 1930-32 (but mostly dislikes Jack Lang and Labor Party 'true believers' generally). Since 2004 Geoff has taught Australian Studies and Politics, mostly to prospective primary teachers at Deakin University's Warrnambool campus on the south coast of Australia. Sometimes he imagines himself a lone voice for analytical Marxism and quantitative methodology among Australian historians. He would like to teach American history. Geoff blogs at The South Coast.
Why do you blog? > More productive use of time than talking to my computer. Mostly a futile quest to encourage people to be aware that there is a history to the present and to encourage evidence-based commentary particularly on the US.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Refer to facts rather than expressing opinions; don't just quote silly statements by people you dislike.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Karl Marx, Brian Fitzpatrick, W.K. Hancock, Max Weber, John Stuart Mill.
What are you reading at the moment? > E. M. Johnston-Liik, A Measure of Greatness: The Origins of the Australian Iron and Steel Industry; Richard Bensel, Sectionalism and American Political Development; The Kerala Human Development Report 2005; Laura Kalman, The Strange Career of Legal Liberalism; Lisa Alter, Bedrock; Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood's End.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > U.S.A. by John Dos Passos.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I have become more aware of the importance of entrepreneurship and property rights for economic growth.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > The scientific method.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Confusion of is and ought.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Weber's Economy and Society - for the distinction between formal and substantive rationality.
Who are your political heroes? > Ben Chifley, Brian Howe, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, Abraham Lincoln.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards. It takes both passion and perspective.' (Max Weber).
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Support for collective bargaining in workplace relations, as much because it would indirectly encourage a series of other changes.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister, who would you choose? > Stuart Macintyre.
What would you do with the UN? > Have UN ambassadors directly elected.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Low levels of equitably distributed economic growth.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > Best to come. In recent centuries vast numbers of people have escaped hunger and premature death and there is no reason why everybody cannot.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Empathy but not to excess (historians need this skill but can carry it too far).
What personal fault do you most dislike? > People talking of things they know nothing about.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > To reduce suffering.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Against people who endlessly tell us what we should think rather than offer practical advice on what we should do.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'There's nothing new under the sun' (the historian's motto).
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Complaining, resentment and watching TV.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > That material progress can coexist (perhaps even encourage) irrationalism, violence and cruelty. The growth of violence against women in India is an example, child pornography another. Historically I worry about how I would have responded to Stalinism if I had been there.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > Defer my first university course.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > Ed Norton.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Inner-city Melbourne.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Solitary: a week in archives and second-hand bookshops. In company: walking in the bush.
What is your most treasured possession? > My papers, because they are irreplaceable.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Ministerial advisor.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > Getting my book published.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > Reduce my marking load. Establish a research centre and have it pay part of my salary.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > W.K. Hancock, Gillian Cowlishaw, Noel Butlin.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]