Monday, May 30, 2022

RIP John Clark

 I recently learned that my old friend and co-author, John Clark, died in late January from COVID-related complications that he fought for over a year. 

John was a super-interesting and smart guy. In 1990, he and his dissertation supervisor, Aaron Wildavsky, co-authored a terrific book, "The Moral Collapse of Communism: Poland as a Cautionary Tale." I read that book several months before I met John, who moved from Berkeley to take up a research position at the Hudson Institute, which was then headquartered in Indy. Somehow, he found out that I was working on a book about the failure of environmental protection under communism in Poland, and he called me one day. I failed to recognize his name, so when he told me about his research interests, I recommended he read his own book. We became fast friends (as did our spouses), and started working on projects together, most notably a conference that led to a jointly edited book, "Environmental Protection in Transition: Economic, Legal and Socio-Political Perspectives on Poland" (Ashgate 1998).  

John also introduced me to my dear friend and frequent collaborator, Peter Grossman, shortly after he moved from Wash. U., in St. Louis to Butler U. in Indy. I have very fond memories of the reading group John, Peter and I started, along with a couple other economists then at Ball State Univ., Eric Helland and Alex Tabarrok, both of whom had, like Peter, been students of Doug North. Eric later served as Chief Economist on G.W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisors and Director of Research at the RAND Corp, before joining the faculty at Claremont McKenna College. Alex is well-known as co-founder of the Marginal Revolution blog. He's been on the Econ faculty at George Mason Univ. since 1999 and has served as Director of the Independent Institute.  

It was a wonderfully contentious reading group, with John mostly on the left, Peter and I more or less surrounding the center, and Alex outflanking Eric on the right. They all had great academic pedigrees; I was a mutt. I learned SO much from those guys, especially about economics and political-economy, which I never studied in school. 

Several years later, after the Hudson Institute moved back East from Indy, John started working for other think tanks and policy organizations in Indy. Eventually, we lost touch. I think the last time I talked to John was at a conference I organized at the law school in Indy a couple years before I moved down to Bloomington. 

John was a real intellectual. But he was also a very kind, unassuming, and gentle person. It was a real honor for me to be associated with him.


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