Jeffrey Tucker’s Interview on The Merchant Class
Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “Quite frankly, I think we’re going to have to start learning to live without the State. All of its systems are failing us, the educational system, the monetary system. People used to think that the government was going to help out, just our enemies spying on us and eluding us all over place. Nothing works anymore. This is why I think the merchant class offers a way out for us. Businesses work all the time to serve us.” Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Say hello to our old friend, Jeffrey Tucker, from — where are you from these days, Laissez Faire Books, right?
Jeffrey Tucker: Yeah, I’m still with Laissez Faire, but I’ve got this new company, Liberty.me. That’s the exciting thing. I think you’re really going to like your hands on it. I’m calling you from Washington, D.C., by the way. That’s where I am right now for the International Students for Liberty Conference and it is really snowing outside, actually.
Mike: I hope you’re in Mordor on the Potomac, as I call it, for good reason.
Tucker: We’re here to make trouble.
Mike: You’re good at that. You’re really good at that. You know what I did the other day? I dug out your “Show Some Love to the Merchant Class” essay from 2011, which is still one of my favorite essays that I have ever read.
Tucker: Thank you.
Mike: It’s great. It hits the point. I elaborated on it, but why don’t you elaborate on the idea here that if you really oppose government or the State in most of its manifestations, what is the opposite of the State?
Tucker: Right. I think this is an important question. Quite frankly, I think we’re going to have to start learning to live without the State. All of its systems are failing us, the educational system, the monetary system. People used to think that the government was going to help out, just our enemies spying on us and eluding us all over place. Nothing works anymore. This is why I think the merchant class offers a way out for us. Businesses work all the time to serve us. I was up last night at midnight with the snow coming down and I noticed all the merchants were already shoveling their sidewalks. This was at midnight. Government is not doing anything, but the merchants are out there cleaning up and trying to keep the sidewalks clear.
The merchant class is a beautiful thing. It’s like a mutual gift-giving society all based on voluntarism and exchange and mutual benefit, hard work, innovation, creativity. It’s the thing htat really ultimately built civilization, not government but the merchants. They’re the people that give us all the cool stuff. They’re the reason I’m able to carry a computer around. I was on the airplane doing a video chat with people in real time on the flight over here. All these things come to us because of free enterprise and the merchant class. I think it’s time that we recognize that and learn to develop a love and affection for this sector at large.
Mike: That example of what’s going on on the East Coast today is one that millions and millions of people are going to be able to tap into, and are probably going to rely on. You might have to rely on government to get I-85 and I-95 open and the interstates and some of the roads, but to get somewhere to go buy coffee or whatever it is you want, you’re going to rely on the guy you were just talking about that is going to go over and above, and that’s going to be the shop owner.
Tucker: Those are the people. The people that manage these highways, did you hear what happened in Atlanta a few weeks ago during the last snow storm? The government made these catastrophic decisions. They let out, simultaneously, all the public schools. We had a very light snow in Atlanta and everybody hit the highway at one time. There was a catastrophic — I don’t know if you read about this. People were trapped on the highways and in ditches for 18 hours, sleeping in their cars. It was a calamity, the most egregious example of mismanagement. Of course, everybody makes mistakes, right? There’s never any accountability with government. They just do stupid things and then life goes on and they expect us to forgive and forget.
You know what? I’m tired of that, actually. I’m just fed up with all these public systems of so-called service that are really just robbing us and looting us and spying on us all the time and screwing up all the time. The merchant class is not perfect, they don’t create a perfect world, but at least they’re always trying to improve. There’s some accountability there, some incentives and mechanisms for bringing us progress instead of dragging us back all the time. I’m sitting here smoking an e-cigarette. That’s a good example. The private enterprise came up with an amazing little innovation that gives you a great nicotine blast with just water vapor, totally healthy, a great alternative cigarette. They’re very cool, very fun. What does government do? They’re desperately trying to tax it, regulate it, ban it. That’s the way it always works. Free enterprise gives us cool stuff and then government tries to take it away. That’s basically the story of our lives, isn’t it?
Mike: Isn’t Bloomberg trying to ban the sale of the e-cigarette in New York City?
Tucker: There are a ton of these guys out there, these little Nazis all over the country trying to get rid of this stuff, for no reason. It’s just water vapor. It’s totally harmless. The wonderful thing is it helps people get off cigarettes and they’re kind of cool. That’s all government does these days. It ruins our home appliances, takes away our e-cigarettes, taxes the stuff we want, tries to take away our light bulbs. This is essentially what government is dedicated to now, just basically promoting human misery, as far as I can tell. If you think back to things like the New Deal, it wasn’t about promoting human misery. They did promote a lot of human misery, but that wasn’t their intention. They actually tried to build bridges and make people happy.
Government doesn’t do that stuff anymore. It just hectors us and takes away the things we want, prevents us from doing the things we want to do and taxes things when we do it. This is what government now does; it makes life worse for everybody all the time. Regulators wreck our dishwashers, our clothes washing machines, our toilets, our water heaters. You can’t even get a decent iron in this country. Did you know that? I was traveling recently in Australia and I used an iron, the best iron I had ever used. This thing was unbelievable, like a blast of steam like you couldn’t believe. I came back to the states and thought I have to get one of these irons. Turns out regulations forbid these kinds of irons from being sold in this country, all this from the meddling bureaucrats. Can you believe that, Mike?
Mike: We have to protect people. These mad and crazy irons are out there. Somebody might drop one and break a toe, Jeffrey.
Tucker: Mike, do you know what’s happened to the gas can, just to give another example? Five years ago, maybe three years ago, federal regulations prevent there from being a vent on the other side of the gas can so when you pour the gas it comes out easily. Now if you buy a gas can, the gas doesn’t come out. It takes forever and it’s gurgling. Now you have to hack your gas can to get it to work right. This is a true story, look it up. You just can’t believe it. I’m telling you, you can’t get a decent gas can at the store anymore. You see what I mean? It’s like they’re dragging us back. What regulator thought it was really important to wreck our gas can. Congress doesn’t vote on this stuff, by the way. All this stuff I’m mentioning is all passed by the regulatory agencies, just some no-name bureaucrat out to make us miserable, I guess. That’s how they validate their role in life. I don’t know.
Anyway, their systems aren’t working anymore. We’re having to hack all of our lives. This is the way of the future. I guess we have to get used to it. If we want freedom, we’re going to have to take active steps in our lives. We’re going to have to avoid the public schools. We’re going to have to start generating our own power like a lot of corporations are doing right now. We’re surrounded by some beautiful innovations from the private sector. I’m really excited about monetary alternatives to the dollar like bitcoin. This is exciting stuff. It’s like the private sector is having to reinvent life or actually sustain civilization and drive it forward, but they’re fighting the whole time against this gigantic leviathan regulatory apparatus that’s just out to ruin everything for us.
Mike: Jeffrey Tucker from the Mises Institute, and Jeffrey Tucker from Laissez Faire Books, and what was the other website you said?
Tucker: Liberty.me is my new company. It’s a kind of digital city dedicated to this idea that if we want freedom we’re going to have to reach out and grab it and make it ours. That’s the whole point.
Mike: I like it. Let me switch gears for just a moment. This is something that is a recent addition here to this show, or at least in the last year and a half or two years, and that is the introduction of authors like Christopher Ferrara and Brad Birzer and others. To delve a little outside the realm of pure economics and conservatism — even though we really don’t have much conservatism anymore, or libertarianism — and into the affairs of the spirit and of the heart. Because I read you a lot, I know that you are very faithful and very devout in practicing your faith. Do you see a revival of that as well? Is that part of your liberty.me experiment?
Tucker: I think that’s a good insight. In so many ways, government has ruined the culture and ruined that side of life. After a century of war and leviathan, a lot of what we used to take for granted in the 19th century is gone. Civic institutions, institutions of faith and manners, morality, etiquette, this kind of apparatus that’s essential to the social order. I think you’re right. This is one way that we can personally fight back against the State, by embracing these codes in our own lives and practicing them ourselves. I think I many ways, to be a civil, decent, polite person is a revolutionary act these days.
Mike: That’s a bold statement. Just being polite?
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Tucker: Just being polite. There are five rules that guys should adhere to in life. If they just do those things, they will massively upgrade their lives and seem very impressive to those around them. Those rules are basically forgotten now. They extend out of religion. It’s not just religion. It’s a social order. It’s rules that emerged from within society. Many of them have been displaced by this overweening government power. In the 20th century, we began to rely on government so much, and government betrayed us. It stole our money, it looted our savings, it slated our dollars. In so many ways, government institutions have failed us. I think the best way to fight back is by bolstering these civic institutions and these codes of manners and morality and things. This is what we have to get back to. We have to restore that in our own lives. I think you’re exactly right. It’s not just a matter of getting away from government. It’s a matter of building a robust, beautiful form of liberty that’s civil and lovely, that can sustain our lives and our families and our communities and civilization.
End Mike Church Show Transcript