Thebeerchaser’s recent visit (and last blog post) to the Cheerful Tortoise on the edge of the Portland State University campus brought back memories from the late 1970’s. While a loyal OSU Beaver alum, I received an outstanding graduate education in the PSU Masters in Public Administration program. When my wonderful adviser, Dr. Walt Ellis, chided me that since it had been seven years, I needed to finish my MPA within the next three terms or they would start taking credits away.
Like most good procrastinators, I had saved the toughest courses until last – to wit:
Public Finance Statistics and Data Analysis (2 terms)
While thebeerchaser’s new spouse – a fellow MPA graduate – pulled me through Data Analysis, I faced Dr. John Walker‘s course on public finance with trepidation given the prof’s reputation for being a tough grader and his challenging tests on complex topics.
Besides, how interesting could three-hour evening lectures be by a guy who published a paper entitled, “Long Run Aggregate Supply Verticality: Fact or Fiction,” in the American Economist. To my surprise, however, I learned a great deal from Dr. Walker – enjoyed his lectures immensely and, in part, based on my study partner’s (former Oregon Department of Human Resources Director, Jean Thorne) discipline, even aced the course.
John Walker would start each lecture with a monologue, of sorts, railing against government policies, politicians and institutions. With his dry and sarcastic wit, these were humorous and conveyed his point vividly. He also peppered his lectures with these comments.
Enjoying this type of humor, I “collected” these witticisms – listed them in a section of my legal pad and filed them away – until two weeks ago while going through old files. It was refreshing in 1977 to listen to a very intelligent person who disdained political correctness. So while trying to absorb the Law of Variable Proportions or comprehend the intricacies of the marginal rate of transformation in lecture, I would gleefully jot down comments such as:
“Taxing the rich isn’t always a good idea. It’s very easy to think of a group of very nice rich people and really crummy poor people.”
“Government being run like a business means that it should raise taxes while concurrently lowering services.”
Dr. Walker had the flu during the term and one of the students subsequently asked him how he was feeling and his reply was “Relative to what?”
I determined that others should be able to share in some of the gems that he conveyed although for obvious reasons, deciding to eliminate the names of specific politicians in the quotes such as “The combined ability of ______ and ______ is a negative number.” or “Governor ______ wants to be just. The problem arises because his version of what is just is wrong.”
We start with my favorite: “It’s much more economically efficient to bury people vertically rather than horizontally.” (He does have a point…)
“I went to testify before the Oregon Legislature as an expert witness, but there was no precedent for expert testimony.”
“Do fish mind swimming through crud if there is enough oxygen? No, but we have no reason to believe that fish know anything.”
“It is my opinion that we could lower the defense budget to zero and the Russians would not attack….However the Mexicans would.”
“Under the Oregon fraternal organization statutes, something has to be given to charity each year to be exempt from property taxes. The law doesn’t say how much — all you have to do is give $1 to any deserving midget once per year. When the Department of Revenue conducts an audit and asks what your charity is, the organization simply replies, ‘Marvin.'”
“I prefer diversity. It’s bad enough that I have to look at you each week, but think how bad it would be if you all looked the same.”
“School boards are elected to make people’s kids smart and beautiful. Three years later, when they’re still dumb and ugly, the board members are not re-elected.”
“The great general cause of poverty is the absence of money.”
Although it has taken thirty-five years, here’s a toast to Dr. John Walker as Thebeerchaser of the Month – just as we toasted his humor after class at Sam’s Hoffbrau in 1977. Similar to a previous recipient, Dr. Harry Frankfurt (Beerchaser of the Month for September) of Princeton University, the author of the brilliant book, On Bullshit, Dr. Walker used his wit and creativity to educate — effectively.
It also seem appropriate to end with a citation (also used in a prior beerchaser post), but one which I think Dr. Walker would approve:
Therefore education at the University mostly worked by the age-old method of putting a lot of young people in the vicinity of a lot of books, hoping that something would pass from one to the other –while the actual young people put themselves in the vicinity of inns and taverns for exactly the same reason.
I’ll be using some of these hilarious quotes; he is indeed worthy of this fine award, Don!
P.S. I can only hope that we can learn to teach as well and as wittily as Walker and Frankfurt!
Dr. Hall, (Eric) – given your new university teaching position, I’m only sorry that you will be on the East Coast and I won’t be able to audit your courses. Anyone who appreciates the wisdom of Dr. Harry Frankfurt and Dr. John Walker has the approval of thebeerchaser.
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