Jack Wenders brought to Amherst a love of outdoor activities like hunting, hiking and trapping, forged from a small-town boyhood in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. He took from Amherst a love of economics and a dawning realization that economics could be integrated with the values he associated with the outdoors and
become a lifelong vocation.
His son, John III, says that economics explained human nature in a way profound enough to change his father’s life. “For him economics was the greatest advocate of freedom, and he dedicated himself to explaining that advocacy in a way he thought everyone could understand.”
Jack married days after graduation, taught school briefly in Hawaii and received an MA in economics at the University of Hawaii, and then a PhD from Northwestern. He taught economics at Middlebury from 1963-1970, at the University of Arizona from 1970-1981 (where he became a full professor in 1976) and at the University of Idaho after 1981.
A prolific writer of more than 100 published articles and books, Jack was an expert on the economics of telecommunications and regulated industries and a highly respected witness in regulatory and antitrust hearings and litigation.
He published seminal articles on industrial organization and regulatory economics. He was a frequent contributor on popular topics in economics, natural resources and wildlife in local newspapers and The Wall Street Journal. In retirement, he focused on improving public education.
Even a brief perusal of this large body of work reveals a withering yet graceful humor, the total absence of political correctness and opposition to almost all of what moderates of whatever political persuasion regard as sensible. He was focused on the problems and dangers of government and the importance of individual freedom.
My own view of democracy is that of Milton Friedman: one person, plus the truth, equals a majority.”
Jack wrote in 2001, for example, of his “evolving disenchantment with democracy as both a logical and practical institution. From my viewpoint, democracy merely means you get to vote on who steals from you… I saw a history professor on television argue that the primary benefit of the abolition of slavery was that it gave blacks the right to vote. My own view of democracy is that of Milton Friedman: one person, plus the truth, equals a majority.”
Jack retired from Idaho in 1998 to pursue his three passions – trapping, hunting and writing about economics and economic policy. He had a hunting cabin (most thought it was a house) in Alpine, Arizona and he now planned trips with guides to hunt caribou, sheep and exotic game in the Northwest Territories and Argentina.
R. Ashley Lyman was Jack’s economist colleague at Arizona and Idaho, constant hunting companion and closest friend for 33 years. Lyman remembers him as complex. “He was an introvert, he was gruff and, in defense, he would pull up his drawbridge. He was one of the most caring and generous people I have ever known or met. He went out of his way to help – but without letting others in on the secret. He was easy to hurt – but you would never know it. He was loyal and would do anything for a friend. At the same time, his wit was entertaining, and he wrote with the same passion and energy that he applied in trapping and hunting. He was larger than life.”
One letter to the editor Jack wrote in the 1990s concerned a requirement that hunters wear glowing orange jackets to protect themselves from other hunters. He was outraged: “No thank you. One of the reasons I hunt is to get away from the trappings of civilization, and I will accept all the risks. I’ll do others the favor of presuming that they know what’s best for them. I will support their right to wear macho hunter orange. I only ask in return that they support my right to accept the risks of not doing so.”
Jack’s first wife died during the Arizona years. His second marriage ended in divorce.
John Thomas Wenders Jr. died in Moscow, Idaho, Nov. 28, 2006, of complications from esophageal cancer.
|Jack, where he most liked to be||An earlier Jack, heading where he wanted to be|