Megan McArdle was born and raised on Manhattan's Upper West Side. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1994 with a degree in English Literature, and worked for several technology startups before getting an MBA from the University of Chicago. After graduating in 2001, she worked for a time at the World Trade Center disaster recovery site, where she started blogging at Asymmetrical Information. Megan currently works as an economics journalist for the website of The Economist.
What has been your best blogging experience? > How much I like how many of the bloggers I've met offline.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Having commenters tell me to get over it when my dog died. On the other hand, that generated an outpouring of support from friends online and off, so it redeemed itself.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Blog early and often; volume matters. Don't think; do. Whatever you plan to do with your blog, you will change once you've started and seen how the web reacts to your work. So just start blogging, blog frequently, and modify what you do based on what works for you and your readers.
What are you reading at the moment? > I always have at least half a dozen books going at once; I have the attention span of a toddler. Currently working on Galatea 2.2 by Richard Powers, Consumed by Benjamin Barber, The Plague by Camus (in English), Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata, the complete Edgar Allen Poe, Scoop by Evelyn Waugh, The Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane, The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb, and probably several others I've forgotten.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > It's a toss-up between Anna Karenina and Heart of Darkness. I can't imagine what that says about me, but something awful, I'm sure.
What is your favourite poem? > 'Musée des Beaux Arts' by W.H. Auden.
What is your favourite movie? > My current obsession is the work of Robert Bresson, but I can't watch it too often. For comfortable happy movies, I like American pastoral sentimental movies, like A River Runs Through It or Witness; I can watch those over and over.
What is your favourite song? > Right now, 'Boléro' by Maurice Ravel, but it's not a longstanding romance.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Aside from my public about-face on the Iraq war? I moved from left to libertarian while in college. Though I'm still a social liberal and an environmentalist, and my assessment of the importance of equal opportunity and sustainability hasn't changed, my ideas about how to achieve them (and the limits on the ability to achieve them) have. I've also become considerably more moderate about abortion, though I still consider myself pro-choice; I now believe the fetus has rights that should be weighed against those of the mother.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Like almost everyone else who has moved from left to right, I was immensely influenced by Friedrich Hayek. A friend gave me a copy of The Road to Serfdom, which awed me when I first read it. I suppose other things of his are meatier, but that was my first inkling that there was another way to think about things, so it probably had the biggest influence.
Who are your political heroes? > My only political heroes are dead: that way they can't embarrass me by going wrong. First, George Washington, who was no policy genius, but whose boundless personal integrity established the character of the American presidency without turning into either a king or a figurehead. And second, Abraham Lincoln, who did the right thing for the wrong reasons to the very best of his ability.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > From P.J. O'Rourke's Parliament of Whores: 'Every parliament is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us.'
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be President, who would you choose? > I've never had much of a gift for picking out who would be well trusted with power; having voted for Bush in 2004, I'm unwilling to trust my judgement again.
What would you do with the UN? > About what has been done with it already: make it into a sort of glorified Student Council where everyone can talk seriously about what should be done without having any responsibility, or power, to actually do it. It's a nice place for everyone to issue solemn declarations when they basically agree, and I'm not offended by its existence, or its anti-Americanism, particularly. But no institution can have a serious mission when the gap between the de facto and de jure power of the various members is as large as it is at the UN.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The widespread dissemination of nuclear weapons. The more people have them, the more likely it is that they will eventually be used.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > Mathematically, it is likely that we are near the peak of human population. On the other hand, I'm encouraged by the incredibly rapid economic change going on now. I think that getting richer has made us more moral - more careful about human life and suffering. So if we keep getting richer, I expect that we will also get better, with more morality, more art and culture, and more of almost every other good thing.
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? > As long as their views had a coherent intellectual and moral foundation, absolutely; I'm not that convinced I'm right. But I couldn't live with anyone whose political views are an excuse not to think.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'The wheel of life goes round and round, and sooner or later, the fly on top will be the fly on the bottom.'
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > VH1.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Unhappiness.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I would have done all of the things I was afraid to do.
What would you call your autobiography? > Suddenly, and For No Apparent Reason...
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > I'm told I look like Ally Sheedy, but I think she might be dead; at any rate, her career is. I'd like to be played by someone like Julia Roberts, but undoubtedly some comic actress I hate would be more accurate.
What would your ideal holiday be? > A sailboat with all my best friends on it, and time enough to see the world.
What talent would you most like to have? > I'd like to be athletic. I'm absolutely hopeless at anything physical.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > P.J. O'Rourke or Mark Twain, depending on my mood.
Which baseball team do you support? > The Yankees. I was with them through their last long dry spell; it looks like I'll be living through one again.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > To be happy.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I'd buy an apartment big enough to have one room filled with bookshelves floor to ceiling; buy a car; and travel more. I'd have clothes made that actually fit me (I'm 6' 2 and a size 8; this is a largish problem in my life). I'd sign up for classes at the best universities near to where I live. And I'd give a lot more to charity (anonymously so I wouldn't have to go to dinners). The rest I'd put in trust and disburse the interest to charity once a year. I don't want to have much more stuff - houses, or what have you; they're too much work. And I don't want to give up my job, or even be tempted to give up my job. Everyone I know who has been given enough money to live on has seen it ruin their lives.
What animal would you most like to be? > A falcon. More than almost anything, I'd like to be able to fly.
[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.]