John Palmer was born and raised in Muskegon, Michigan. He attended Carleton College (Northfield, MN) where he majored in economics and barely avoided failing out. He then attended The Chicago Theological Seminary, but upon realizing he didn't belong there (and that he really liked economics), went to graduate school in economics at Iowa State University. John has taught economics at The University of Western Ontario since 1971. He is a former president of the Canadian Law and Economics Association, an actor, a musician and a photographer. He is married, has three children, and five grandchildren. He blogs at EclectEcon.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Meeting people I probably would not have met otherwise. To name just a few: Phil, Alan, Rebekah, Bill and Kip. And reconnecting with others: John, Sparky and Brian (through his comments on my blog), in particular.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Changing blogging platforms several times.
What are your favourite blogs? > I am absolutely devoted to the writings of Arnold Kling at Econlog; he is both brilliant and sensitive. The other blog I read regularly is Newmark's Door by Craig Newmark; Craig links to all sorts of interesting pieces and has a world view that I really appreciate. Beyond those two, there are so many blogs I follow that it is hard to keep up with them all and still do my day job.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Fred Barra (an undergrad roommate, who made me think more deeply about myself than I ever imagined possible); Charlie Stuart (a former colleague who taught me to question everything all the time and to have fun doing it); and Robert Fogel, who taught economic history courses at Chicago – he inspired me to go on in economics.
What are you reading at the moment? > Some unspecified novel from some unknown website.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Leonard Bernstein, a great conductor, composer and educator. And maybe Ian Klymchuk.
What is your favourite poem? > Aside from my wife's poetry, which I enjoy because it is so much her, I don't much care for poetry. Or does this qualify - 'There once was a man from Nantucket...'?
What is your favourite movie? > When I was younger (i.e. middle-aged), I liked Animal House and On Golden Pond. But I've tired of Animal House, and On Golden Pond just rings too true now that I'm nearing that demographic cohort. Nowadays, the movie I watch repeatedly is Three Days of the Condor.
What is your favourite song? > Vivaldi's Concerto for 4 Violins (Op3, No10), which I had the pleasure of conducting a few years ago. More recent? Cole Porter's 'In the Still of the Night'. More recent than that? 'Turn, Turn, Turn' by The Byrds. Am I showing my age? When hiking I seem to enjoy most the album 'Time Out' by Dave Brubeck on my iPhone. My ring tone is Peter Mennin's 'Canzona for Band'.
Who is your favourite composer? > A toss-up between Vivaldi and Mozart. But I'm also frosty over Shosty (Shostakovich, especially symphonies #1 and #9).
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > There are so many (makes me feel wishy-washy)! I used to be a pacifist, but was drifting away from pacifism even before 9/11; that event had a major impact on me. Also, like so many of us, in my early 20s I was a supporter of elitist interventionist planning, but I quickly drifted toward libertarianism when I realized I didn't trust politicians or the incentives they face.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Two of them: (1) The only meaning in life comes from living it; ain't life grand! (2) People respond to incentives.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Religious fundamentalism, but especially Islamofascism.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom. I had been taught by my undergraduate economics professors (mostly from east coast liberal grad schools) that Friedman was all wrong about everything. I couldn't really follow their arguments and figured there was something wrong with me. Then I read his book while I was in seminary, and it altered much of my thinking. It is possible to care about what happens to people, but gubmnt policy must take incentives into account if it is to be effective.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > When the gubmnt taxes people to spend the money on something, there are zillions of bureaucrats in the middle and zillions more people wasting scarce resources, trying to convince the bureaucrats they are the most deserving.
What would you do with the UN? > I am SO tempted to say nuke it (figuratively), but I think a better strategy would be to marginalize it. More countries need to follow Canada's lead and vote against the anti-human-rights positions taken by so many of its members.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Do as I say, not as I do.
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? > Like so many of the others profiled here, I am! We don't vote because we know our votes will cancel each other.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > As others have pointed out in various ways, it is probably not a good idea to answer this question. I'm tempted to say 'none' and let people infer what they will from that.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > If it isn’t already apparent, I'm not too keen on social workers, anyone who uses the phrase 'social justice', and people suffering from planning hubris.
What is your favourite proverb? > I dropped out of seminary before taking the Old Testament course, so I don't know that I know any Proverbs. How about, 'You're never too old to have a happy childhood.'
What, if anything, do you worry about? > The health of my wife, a cancer survivor. Beyond that I sometimes have panicked concerns about the well-being of my children and grandchildren. On a broader scale, I'm really concerned that nut-case dictators (or other politicians) will continue to make life increasingly difficult and/or dangerous for my children and grandchildren.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > You bet! Most of it has to do with will power and self-discipline. But given that I didn't exercise those virtues as much as I seem to think I should have the first time around, I really doubt I'd do much better the second.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Geocaching, hiking, watching tv (sports, mystery, and science shows) with Ms Eclectic, acting, doing music in local groups.
What is your most treasured possession? > If the house were on fire, I'd want to get my family out first, but they're not possessions. After them, my laptop. It's backed up on a regular basis, but I'd hate to have to start re-installing everything.
What talent would you most like to have? > The ability to read faster and write better.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > I would love to conduct a major orchestra. I conducted the Blyth Festival Orchestra, a small community chamber group, for a couple of years and thoroughly enjoyed it. But as an almost serious option, I tell everyone that I want to be a Wal-Mart greeter after I retire from academia.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > (1) My dad, who died in 1959; there are so many things I want to ask him. (2) Milton Friedman – such a brilliant expositor. (3) My children and grandchildren.
[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.]