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Leaving Athens

Posted By George Selgin On June 18, 2014 @ 11:52 am In Uncategorized | 6 Comments

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Well, that's that. I've made up my mind to leave Athens. It wasn't that hard, actually: thanks to John Allison and a number of generous contributors, Cato is establishing a new center for monetary studies (the formal name has yet to be determined), and I'm going to direct it. The idea is one that John and I have been talking about since before he came to Cato, so it amounts to having had the opportunity to write my own job description. You can't ask better than that! I'll also be affiliated with GMU and Mercatus, so as to be able to occasionally teach and otherwise get involved with graduate students working on monetary topics, which is something I haven't been able to do at all lately here at UGA. Larry White, on the other hand, has more students up there than he can shake a stick at, and so could use some help!

Yet the occasion isn't without a fair measure of melancholia. Twenty-five years is a long time to get settled into a place--longer by far than I've ever spent elsewhere. When I contemplate the tangle of roots I've put down during that time, it brings to mind the long battle I waged with the paper mulberries in my back yard at 460 Meigs, whose roots (OK, rhizomes) seemed as sturdy, and also as long, as power lines.

I eventually won that battle, more-or-less, and fought and won countless others besides, making my old house and garden conform to my personal (OK, eccentric) idea of what a home should be. Now there's scarcely an inch of the place that I haven't altered according to my whims. And, my friends here will assure you, that's not hyperbole.

Of course those friends also make departing bittersweet, as does the fact that my brother, Peter, now lives less than two hours from Athens, in Milledgeville. (The back route there is, incidentally, just the thing for a 450cc motorcycle, adding to the regret.)* Luckily for me its easy to travel between DC and Atlanta (itself not all that far from Athens), and DC has plenty of attractions, so I can plan on returning often, and also on having my former companions remain just as close, if not quite so constant.  It also helps to have many friends, and a half-sister, awaiting me in DC. That gives me plenty to look forward to, even if it can't quite make up for the sadness of having to say adieu to my buddies here.

And I'll miss my UGA colleagues, starting with our little group that's been meeting for lunch every Monday for some years now. Not the same group, mind you: others have left before me, and new ones have taken their place. But it seems there's always been enough to take up a table for four, if not five or six, at the good old Globe--one of several pubs here where the staff and I have long been on a first name basis. I will miss them, too.

One thing I've known all along is that, when you move from one town to another very different one, you mustn't try to recreate the sort of life you've been experiencing--or rather, your favorite bits. The challenge is to figure out the best brand new life to make out of the new materials. Its like a sculptor working first with one, and then with another very different hunk of marble. If of the first he makes a fine bust of Voltaire, it doesn't follow that the second isn't better suited for Pericles. Being happy in Athens has meant taking long bike rides (and, lately, longer motorcycle rides) on quiet back roads, playing interior-decorator with a Victorian house, and taking Penelope for long walks at Lake Herrick. In DC, I'm thinking, it might mean joining the Alliance Française, or visiting museums, or attending some black-tie event. (Perhaps I had better buy a little cocktail dress for Penelope [2]!)

All of this, by the way, may help explain why I've done relatively little blogging here lately. It's not just that I've been busy first negotiating the new job, and then actually preparing to move--though both things are true. There's something else that's kept me from blogging, or for that matter from doing much ordinary work of any sort. It is that I've been "busy" living my usual life--hanging out with friends; spending time at home with Penelope; riding my bike; riding and toying with my Honda; hanging around my favorite bars. Although I've tried, I just can't seem to concentrate on business of any kind. Now and then I feel a twinge of guilt about it. But then, in the back of my mind, I have this voice telling me I'll end up feeling even guiltier if I quit goofing off. Yeah, I know: its dangerous to heed voices in one's head. But I'm doing it anyway. Call me crazy. Call me sentimental, even. I'll get over it.

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*What one does with a 450cc motorcycle in the heart of DC is a good question--one of many on my long and ever-lengthening list of "things I'll have to figure out all over again."


6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "Leaving Athens"

#1 Comment By W.E. Heasley On June 18, 2014 @ 12:17 pm

Very cool home!!

#2 Comment By Kevin L On June 18, 2014 @ 1:11 pm

I don't know about DC motorcycle laws and fees, but Blue Ridge Parkway, West Virginia, Loudoun County, and western Maryland all seem like pleasant riding regions.

#3 Comment By Larry White On June 18, 2014 @ 1:13 pm

One chapter ends, but a new an hopefully even better chapter begins!

#4 Comment By will.luther On June 18, 2014 @ 1:26 pm

Great to hear, George. I'm excited to see what becomes of the Cato project.

#5 Comment By Richard Schulman On June 18, 2014 @ 2:34 pm

This will be a premier opportunity to raise the profile of free banking and monetary reform in our national capitol. I'd be surprised if the Obama-Yellin-Fed team doesn't soon bring us an unwanted bout of 1970s style inflation as they try to limit the electoral damages to their friends in 2014 and 2016. Voices of sanity at Cato will be much appreciated.

Good luck!

#6 Comment By RamblinRedNeck On June 27, 2014 @ 9:29 am

Best wishes,
I enjoyed being a student of yours sometime around the Jim Donnan era. I think you shaped my brain perhaps more than any other Professor. My mouth is a bit of a loose cannon at times given only a bachelor's degree but I'm trying to become wise. Sometimes, in heated debate, it's best for me to shut up. Doing so, I often just close my eyes, point at my counter and exclaim, "Hayek"!...or, "Von Mises"! "Go read them", I say! Now, I shout, "Selgin", in a similar fashion. You are leaving a small fan club from Hall County behind. We will not forget and will linger and spit free banking concepts at one another as time moves forward.
Thank you and I wish you well!


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[2] a little cocktail dress for Penelope: https://www.etsy.com/listing/85664315/dog-cocktail-dress-black-with-pearls

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