The Bitcoin Luminary Series is an ongoing feature of Real Virtual Currency in which we reach out to the individuals who are making a splash in the digital currency pond. The purpose of the interview is to ask roughly 50% Bitcoin questions and 50% personal questions, and as such, the tagline of the Bitcoin Luminary Series is: “More interesting than Bitcoin itself, are the people it attracts.” Today we speak with Jeffrey Tucker. Jeffrey is the executive editor of Laissez Fair Books; a Distinguished Fellow of the Foundation for Economic Education, an adjunct scholar with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and an Acton University faculty member. He is past editorial vice president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and past editor for the institute's website, Mises.org. A quick convert to the wonders of Bitcoin, Jeffrey has been busy writing about ways to educate new users on how to use Bitcoin securely and interviewing fellow Bitcoiners about their experiences. We thank him for joining us.
1) Tell me about your childhood, where you grew up, and what your hobbies were.
My family has been in Southwest Texas since the 1830s and I spent most of my childhood in El Paso but we were always visiting family in that region which is now serious oil country. The people there have a strong independent streak, and my extended family was certainly that way. My father was an academic, historian, and musician. I spent most of my childhood cultivating music skills, and I was forever transcribing music from LPs, mostly from jazz and classical records. For reading, I found nothing as exciting as encyclopedias actually.
2) Were there any defining moments in your youth that lead you to pursue a career in writing, editing, and think tanking?
I was sure I was going to be a musician until my senior year in high school. We were all kind of required to be in marching band, but I hated this aspect of things. One day I walk off in personal protest of the conformism that was required in that sector. I just turned around in rehearsal and walked away. I marched straight into the registrar and said “what do I need to do to graduate” She said I had enough hours already. I said, then I want out. That was it. It was a great feeling to just toss away something that you hated. I felt completely free.
That was a big moment for me because it made me realize how much most people accept their lot on life and how liberating it can be to suddenly decide: hey I have the right to make a decision on my own and I can go a different direction. Two months later, I was in college and studying economics.
Another thing that shaped me were the endless string of jobs I had in the commercial world: roofing, digging wells, moving pianos, tuning organs, working maintenance, busing tables, selling furniture and clothing, washing dishes, whatever. I learned so much in these jobs, and I fell in love with commerce.
3) What are your three greatest strengths?
Well, I’m a pretty fast writer. I can process information pretty quickly. And I’m told I have a wild imagination.
4) What are your three greatest weaknesses?
I’m bad at fitting into other people’s plans for my life. I can get careless about details. And I’m really, really bad about taking breaks and relaxing. The only way I can really enjoy vacations is to think of of them as work.
5) When did you adopt your iconic bow-tie getup, and do you wear one when sleeping at night?
I never really thought that the bow tie was anything important. I started wearing one when I was about 16 or so because it kind of stays out of the way. As for dressing up all the time, it’s just what makes my comfortable.
6) You were already a high-profile character in the libertarian movement when you discovered Bitcoin, and you have told me that your existing views on capitalism and freedom were in large part responsible for your interest in the new currency. However, quite a few hard-money advocates have not shown such enthusiasm, even though they share many of your philosophical ideas. Why do you think this is?
The most beautiful thing about markets is that they are constantly surprising us with new possibilities. Intellectuals aren’t always comfortable with that, not even pro-market intellectuals. Bitcoin challenges many entrenched theories about how the world of money and banking are supposed to work. Bitcoin invites everyone to be a student. Not everyone wants to be relegated to that status.
7) Are you actually as pleasant and optimistic as you appear in your videos?
Ha, well, I’m not sure I am always pleasant in my videos. I’m always rather surprised by how people describe me.
8) What are your personal goals for the next 10 years?
Mostly I want to be part of social change, to be involved in the birth and development of a new world. Every day I’m grateful that I’m alive in our times so I can see it, and I’m so honored that anyone cares what I have to say about it. I hope I can continue to make sense out of things in a way that helps people.
9) When was your first "aha!" moment with Bitcoin?
I think I had three. The first was getting my first transfer in. It felt real. The second was selling my first thing for Bitcoin. I realized what was possible. The third was buying something with Bitcoin. I got up and did a dance for about 10 minutes. I will never forget these moments.
10) What are your three favorite Bitcoin properties?
The speed thrills me. The cyptography is dazzling. The ease of use and its mathematical purity is beautiful. Mostly I admire how it is a pure market creation, something so implausible that has become so wildly successful. It shows how people thinking creatively can solve the world’s problems.
11) What are the top three Bitcoin weaknesses that you can identify?
Not sure that this is a weakness but it is troubling that it is difficult to talk to “normal people” about it. The words are too complicated. The concepts are too abstract. It seems too geeky. And there is no real user-friendly interface as measured by normal standards. It will be a while yet before it can become accessible to the person on the street.
12) You have boldly claimed that Bitcoin has the potential to actually end nation-states. If a particular government felt threatened by Bitcoin, how would you expect it to react?
Satoshi seems to have thought of everything. I don’t worry too much about a “crackdown” or regulation because the whole protocol builds in as much invulnerability as one can have in this world. Honestly, I think banking establishments and states are just going to have to deal with that change. It will continue to grow as a parallel currency, and the state’s systems are going to gradually die.
13) You've been making lots of new friends. How would you describe the average Bitcoin user?
I just love Bitcoiners. They’ve seen things others have not seen. They imagine future possibilities others do not imagine. They contemplate beautiful worlds in the immediate future. They embrace change. They are forward thinking. They see how liberty works in the real world. These are very pleasant personality traits.
14) Do you think that using Bitcoin helps to improve people's financial knowledge?
It’s a wonderful way for young people to embed themselves into the real world of finance and economics, not just as observers but participants.
15) Finish the sentence: For 1,000 BTC I would ________________.
Give up Twitter for a month!
16) Have you considered starting or becoming a part of any Bitcoin-based companies?
I have and I’ve talked to several. I think I might be of more use on the outside.
17) While the price of Bitcoin isn't the most important factor, it is certainly a proxy for overall adoption. Make a prediction for the price of Bitcoin in 2023.
Wow, that’s hard but we all know where this seems to be headed. With a fix quantity, it can only grow in purchasing power. I think I’ll just say $10,000.
18) Tell us something about Jeffrey Tucker that most people wouldn't know, but may find interesting.
I live a pretty open life. But most people might be surprised how much time I spend studying Gregorian chant.
RVC: Thank you for your time!