David Bernstein is a native of Queens, N.Y. After attending Brandeis University and Yale Law School, he joined the faculty of the George Mason University School of Law in 1995, where he is now Foundation Professor. His books include Only One Place of Redress: African Americans, Labor Regulations and the Courts from Reconstruction to the New Deal, You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws, and the forthcoming Rehabilitating Lochner. David lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife and two daughters. He blogs at The Volokh Conspiracy.
Why do you blog? > I'm opinionated, and like to share my opinions with others. It's also a good way to publicize my academic work, and to disseminate academic ideas for which a lengthy article would be inappropriate or impractical. But beyond that, I started to blog in part because of what I saw as a global wave of genocidal anti-Semitism that accompanied the Second Intifada. Not that I thought that I would individually turn the tide, but I didn't want to be like the Holocaust generation, and have my grandchildren ask, 'Why were you silent?' This was quite a turnabout for me, because I was quite optimistic about the state of the Jewish world post-Oslo.
What has been your best blogging experience? > To watch Human Rights Watch gradually self-destruct as a result of a chain of events that began with my post, reprinted in the Wall Street Journal online, 'Human Rights Watch Goes to Saudi Arabia'.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Seeing how nasty, dishonest, and illogical some of our well-educated (but anonymous) commenters can be. If I ran the blog, or any blog, I'd probably restrict comments to individuals with verified identities.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Find your niche.
What are your favourite blogs? > Instapundit.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Milton Friedman, Ludwig Von Mises.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Philip Roth's The Counterlife.
What is your favourite movie? > Love Affair, the original 1930s version. I rarely get sentimental at movies, but this one makes me teary-eyed.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > On the Arab-Israeli conflict, I've gone from being somewhat 'right-wing' in the 80s to somewhat 'left-wing' in the 90s, to a position of exasperated moderation. I've also become much less sympathetic to criminal prosecutors as a result of my research on their misuse of scientific evidence, which has led me to the more general literature on the abuse of prosecutorial powers.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Don't harp on/seek to avenge the harm done to your ancestors; if their history had been any different, you wouldn't exist to be outraged by it.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > That good intentions trump bad outcomes, a thesis implicitly held by many, many people.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman. For years, I would come up with an 'original' idea, only to discover, and re-reading this book, that Friedman had thought of it first, and that I probably got the idea from him.
Who are your political heroes? > George Washington, for establishing the principle of peaceful, democratic succession, and for establishing the principle that the president is a civilian, not above the law. And Frederick Douglass, for his brave fight against slavery.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.'
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > If we're talking about a realistically achievable change, I'd go for term limits for Congress, which were sweeping the nation until the Supreme Court held them unconstitutional by a 5-4 vote in 1995.
What would you do with the UN? > Replace it with a coalition of free nations, but maybe I'd retain the World Health Organization.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Technological advances that may allow small groups of terrorists to gain relatively easy access to weapons of mass destruction.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Don't worry about things that you have no control over. And if you're upset about money issues, think about how a resident of some Third World hellhole, wearing rags and living in a hovel, would laugh at your privileged self.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Integrity.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Hypocrisy.
What is your favourite proverb? > Government is 'that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else'. (Frederic Bastiat)
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Watching spectator sports. Even worse, talking/debating about spectator sports that you've watched. Also, following the details of the lives of celebrities. Why do people care about the latest ups and downs in Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's marriage? Or who Tiger Woods has been bedding? Don't they have enough to worry about in their own lives?
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Mostly my children.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I think it's logically true that if one did any minor thing differently, everything thereafter would change. Since I'm rather happy now, I guess I'd change nothing.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > A younger Larry David, with much more hair.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > San Diego for the weather.
What talent would you most like to have? > I used to take some improv classes, and I'd love to be good enough to perform with a professional troupe.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > I think being a law professor is my ideal job, but if I hadn't gone into that, I think I would have liked working as an investment analyst or in advertising, or perhaps as a screenwriter.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > P. J. O'Rourke.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > To be around to see my great-grandchildren.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I'd probably hire a team of research assistants, and additional child care.
What animal would you most like to be? > Elephant. I find elephants fascinating.
[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.]