Henry Farrell is Assistant Professor at George Washington University in Washington DC. He's previously been assistant professor at the University of Toronto, and a senior research fellow at the Max-Planck Institute in Bonn. Henry blogs with others at Crooked Timber (a general 'academia meets everything else' blog) and at The Monkey Cage (a blog focusing more closely on political science).
Why do you blog? > To write about the issues that interest me but that don't fit well into 8-10,000 word articles written in dull, careful prose for academic journals.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > If you want to build up a profile, find topics and materials that are relevant to broader debates, but undercovered or badly understood. Link in a friendly but argumentative way to better-known bloggers when they get issues that you understand better wrong. If your arguments are good, and they are worth their salt, they'll link back to you.
What are your favourite blogs? > Since a lot of my research is on blogs, I try to keep up with 150 or so of them through an RSS reader. Three blogs that I love and that don't get enough attention are Cosma Shalizi, Tom Slee's Whimsley and Lane Kenworthy's Consider the Evidence.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > C.L.R. James; Randall Jarrell.
What are you reading at the moment? > Ronald Findlay and Kevin O'Rourke's Power and Plenty, a fascinating history of the relationship between trade and politics; and Paul Park's The Hidden World, a beautiful novel by an underappreciated writer.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > My favourite novel (whether the best or not) is a toss-up between Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities and John Crowley's Little, Big.
What is your favourite poem? > Randall Jarrell, 'A Country Life'.
What is your favourite song? > My Bloody Valentine, 'Soon'.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > That rational choice models of human behaviour by no means necessarily imply right-wing political conclusions.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > The pernicious commingling of garbled ideas, smug assumptions and just-so stories that go to make up 'Econ 101'.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > The books that Jon Elster wrote between the late 1980s and early 1990s, which gave me a way to think about economics, politics and society.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'Our quarrels with the world are like our quarrels with God: no matter how right we are, we are wrong. But who wants to be right all the time?' - Randall Jarrell (yet again).
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Since I'm now a US resident, get rid of the electoral college.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Nuclear weapons (not only future proliferation of, but present possession in large numbers by great powers).
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I suspect that there's better to come eventually, but likely worse before.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Be aware that early choices which seem arbitrary or contingent (university degree, first job or whatever) are likely to have profound and long-lasting consequences.
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? > Depends on how radical. When I was unmarried, I could have had a relationship with a smart conservative, but not with a smart neo-Nazi.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Kindness.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Dishonesty.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Profound detestations of mayonnaise, pickles and marzipan.
What is your favourite proverb? > My favourite translation of a proverb is a friend's take on 'In vino veritas' as 'Many a true word/Is slurred'.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Golf.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Missing trains/planes etc - the subject of a substantial percentage of my dreams.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I'd spend a year tooling around the world before I acquired responsibilities.
What would you call your autobiography? > Like Frank Kermode, Not Entitled.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > San Francisco.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Nine months in a good library with no fixed responsibilities, projects requiring urgent attention, etc.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Reading, engaging in silly fights in comments sections when I have time to waste (not often these days).
What talent would you most like to have? > Better organizational skills.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Intellectual of independent means.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > P.G. Wodehouse.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Angela Carter, Vladimir Nabokov and Bruno Schulz.
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