The Excellent and Admirable Alex Tabarrok
By Bryan Caplan
Here’s my speech delivered Friday at the fiftieth birthday of the noble Alex Tabarrok
Today we celebrate Alex Tabarrok’s fiftieth birthday. Alas, fifty years is far too short a time to live alongside such an excellent and admirable hobbit!
If you’re here, you’re nerdy enough to know I’m borrowing the words of Bilbo Baggins from chapter 1 of The Fellowship of the Ring. Which is fitting, because we’re all here to celebrate a stupendous nerd. Think about his descriptors!
Husband of a professor.
Father of two future professors.
Pharmaceutical regulation expert.
Still, Alex is hardly the biggest nerd I know. Once in a while I step inside his office to remind him, “I’m a way bigger nerd than you.” But while the competition is tight, Alex is definitely the most lovable nerd I know.
How lovable is Alex Tabarrok? Well, I barge into his office an average of… five hundred times a day. Why? One time in five hundred, I want his professional opinion on my research. The other 499 times, however, I’m bored, and require him to amuse me. And he always does! This man is busy being a professor, husband of a professor, father of two future professors, economist, blogger, online educator, textbook author, libertarian, pharmaceutical regulation expert, and Rush fan. And he sets all ten hats aside, dumps the pile of junk off his guest chair, and welcomes me. He welcomes me!
And what a joy his welcome is. Alex converses insightfully on any subject nerdy enough to fit in my head. Better yet, he converses with unfailing good humor. When I open up my mouth and blurt my thoughts, I don’t know if Alex will think I’m right, or even sane. But I know he’ll never speak an angry word to me.
Why, though, must I barge in on Alex five hundred times a day? To totally misuse a textbook concept, Alex has the Winner’s Curse. Tyler has repeatedly stated that out of everyone we know, Alex is the best truth-tracker. He is, quite simply, the most likely to be correct on any given issue. Which means, by the Laws of Magical Thinking, that I can make anything true by convincing Alex. Since I believe many outlandish things, I’m lucky that he’s conveniently located thirty feet away from me.
But Alex isn’t just a delightful polymath. He is my big brother, who watches out for me and assures me everything will be okay. A few times in my life, I have been so distraught, I didn’t know where to turn. Then I remembered that Alex was only thirty feet away, and has never let me down.
One of my personal rules is: Never make people bend the truth at your funeral. Alex, the economist with a heart of gold, goes much further. He doesn’t even make me bend the truth at his fiftieth birthday party! I love you, Alex. If you love him half as much as I do, please raise your glass to this excellent and admirable Tabarrok.