Wednesday, September 12, 2012

David Gordon on the Dead

David Gordon is quickly becoming my favorite obituary writer.

Sadly a number of important scholars have recently passed away and remarkably Gordon seems to have been in close personal contact with all of them (Gordon was also close personal friends with Robert Nozick and Murray Rothbard). Because of this, he has written some joyous tributes to these men, recounting jokes they have told in the presence of Gordon that provide a good sense of their wit and wisdom.

Oh, to die and have David Gordon comment on the passing.

There are now a few people, who I suspect are in contact with Gordon, whose passing I am now somewhat looking forward to, so that I can read Gordon's account of the best jokes they told during their lives.

Most recently, Gordon has beautifully commented on the passing of

Father James A. Sadowsky

and my favorite, his comments on

Ronald Hamowy

BTW, sometimes these guys are telling jokes that are way over my head.

In the Sadowsky commentary, Gordon writes:
 I knew I would get along with him at that conference when he said to a small group of people, "I may not look like a cup of coffee, but I certainly feel like one." I was the only one who laughed, and he said to me, "You have a discerning sense of humor."
Now, keep in mind that Gordon instantly laughed at this joke, which means he is certainly thinking on levels that I'm not. After spending time attempting to understand the joke, I still didn't get it and emailed David to explain. He wrote back:
Many people don't find the coffee joke funny. The point of it is that we have expressions like, "This doesn't look like silk, but it feels like silk." We also can say, "I feel like a cup of coffee", but this means, "I want a cup of coffee". Sadowsky's remark," I may not look like a cup of coffee, but I certainly feel like one" deliberately mixes up these senses of "feel(s) like".
But I can't leave this post on such a complex joke. Here's a David Gordon joke that I got right away.

During a phone conversation with him just after my interview with Gary Johnson, he teased me by saying he would never come on my show.

I replied that I already had my tough question ready for him when he did come on the show. Now, David is one of the few people who has lived in Los Angeles his entire life but who has never learned to drive, so I thought, he's never going to know the answer to the question about how far away from a hydrant you must park.

So I said to him, thinking I would get him stopping and stuttering, "I am going to ask you how far away from a fire hydrant you must park a car?"

Without missing a beat, he replied, "Far enough away so a dog can pee comfortably."


  1. I think more people would get the joke, if it were phrased in reverse:

    "I feel like a cup of coffee, even though I may not look like one."

    But then it wouldn't be such a powerful indicator of discerning senses of humor. :)

  2. In Spring 2011 I attended an event with Ronald Hamowy moderating a panel (Soros, Epstein, Caldwell) discussing The Constitution of Liberty by F. Hayek, edited by Hamowy. Per the obits I am now reading, he seemed to have a sense of humor. I ran across another good life item about him at

  3. Let's hope that David Gordon is around to write the obituary for Keynesianism. Maybe he can do something with the "in the long run we're all dead" quip. Actually, it's already dead but the establishment VIP's pretend not to notice. Is something dead if the VIP's refuse to notice the corpse? Maybe the economy would be stimulated with a variant of Keynes's famous suggestion if someone was paid to dig a hole, a second person was paid to toss in the corpse of Keynesianism and a third to fill the hole back up. So many Austrians would volunteer for this chore that a lottery would need to be held to select the workers. But then the economy wouldn't be stimulated because the Austrians would gladly do the digging, tossing and filling for free.

    1. Haha. This is very good. You also have a discerning sense of humor. And there is great truth in humor.

    2. It would stimulate the economy. All the jobs would be in concessions for the Austrians who wanted to watch.

    3. It would stimulate the economy. Think of all the concessions jobs to service the Austrians who wanted to watch.

  4. And Thomas Szasz, I remember someone pointing out how long the great men of liberty lived. Mises and Hazlitt, and Hayek into their 90's, Sadly not Rothbard

  5. Computer programmers have a joke, "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana." I guess that is a similar use of different meanings of words.

  6. Leave Lord Keynes alone already. He has the fine distinction of being the only economist to ever have earned money on the markets - not by describing how those who manipulate them want them to be seen by hoi polloi.