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Jerome Tuccille, Author of It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand and More, RIP

The historian, biographer, activist was 80 years old. The libertarian movement has lost one of its greats with his passing.

Dan Hayes, ReasonDan Hayes, ReasonI'm saddened to announce the death of Jerome Tuccille, the best-selling biographer of Donald Trump (among others) and author of the single-best political memoir in existence, It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand. He was 80 years old.

Jerry's son, J.D. Tuccille, is a columnist for Reason and we extend our deepest condolences to him and his family. The libertarian movement has lost one of its greats with his passing, a phenomenal writer and thinker whose intellectual curiosity was only outmatched by his energy and honesty.

Jerry's professional home page is here and his Amazon page is here. An investment manager by day, he wrote more than 30 books over the course of his career, on topics ranging such as his quixotic run for governor of New York on the Libertarian Party ticket; biographies of Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Barry Diller, and Rupert Murdoch; and histories of the Gallo wine empire and black "buffalo soliders" who fought with distinction in the Spanish-American War even as they faced institutional racism in the Army. There were also novels such as Gallery of Fools (about inept art-heist criminals inspired by shady family members), analyses of "radical libertarianism" and futurism, investment-strategy books, and important contributions to the critical literature on Ernest Hemingway.

At Reason, we were lucky and honored to interview Jerry many times over the past decade. Here's our interview with him about The Roughest Riders: The Untold Story of the Black Soldiers in the Spanish-American War, a book which showcases his talent for finding lost pockets of history that never should have been forgotten.

Jerry was also the first person to publish a biography on Donald Trump, doing so back in the mid-1980s as the future president was beginning to make his mark on the New York real estate scene. We talked with him in the fall of 2015, as the billionaire's bid for the GOP nomination moved from comic sideshow to serious business. This interview is a reminder of one of the great things about Jerry: If you had a sharp insight, you can be pretty sure he had beaten you to it by a couple of decades.

Other interviews with him include a discussion of Gallo Be Thy Name, his history of the world's greatest wine-making empire, and the reissue of 1972's It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand.

Jerry wrote for Reason magazine over the years (read his archive) and here's an excerpt of his bracingly caustic 1983 takedown of books by Alvin Toffler and Isaac Asimov. From "Spare Us These High-Tech Utopias!":

Asimov seems totally oblivious to economic principles... He blames just about everything, including inflation, on overpopulation: too many people means too much demand and, hence, rising prices. He overlooks all the inflationary evils of big government, including the fact that we actually pay farmers not to produce food in this country. If too many people cause inflation and economic depression, why is Hong Kong, literally teeming with people, so prosperous while socialistic, underpopulated countries stagnate?

Asimov makes an eloquent case for getting government off the back of science. He believes in free, unregulated scientific research, unhampered by governmental restriction. His field he would decontrol, while imposing Draconian controls over just about everything else.

What arrogance! What a pity he didn't extend his case for freedom to the whole arena of economic and social relationships. Alas, when reading Asimov, it pays to be discriminating. The man is witty, and he's a charmer. The Roving Mind is chock-full of stimulating, well-stated ideas. It's just that some of the ideas happen to be dangerous.

Farewell, Jerome Tuccille. You made the world a better and more interesting place and you left everyone you touched through your writings smarter and excited to change the world.

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  • Voros McCracken||

    Condolences, J.D.

  • Acosmist||

    RIP.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Aw, hell.

  • Sevo||

    I know what sympathy is worth, J.D., but that's all I can offer here.

  • ||

    Deepest sympathies, J.D.

  • Pro Libertate||

    RIP and condolences.

  • B.P.||

    Sympathies as well, 2-Chili. Your father had amazing range.

  • Jordan||

    So sorry to hear this. My condolences.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Sorry to hear this.

  • Not a True MJG||

    Damn, sad news. My condolences to you and your family, JD.

  • AblueSilkworm||

    So sorry to hear this. My condolences to you and yours, JD.

  • ||

    Condoglianze.

    RIP.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Condolences Tooch.

  • Bacon-Magic <3 Hayek||

    My condolences, J.D.

  • Zeb||

    I somehow didn't realize that Jerry Tucille and JD weren't the same person. Now I'll have to catch up on the elder Tucille's writings.

    All the best to the Tucilles who seem to be the awesomest family around.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Sorry for your loss, J.D. My condolences to you and your family.

  • GILMORE™||

    Sad to hear it.

    Feel like i should have paid more attention to this guy before.

  • John||

    That is a shame. Always bad to lose an interesting thinker. There are so few of them.

    His comment about Asimov is true of about every Scifi writer outside of Heinlein. I remember reading the beginning of second Rama books. In it, Author C Clarke explains how in the time since the end of the first book man's presence in space has all but ended because of a huge recession caused by series of irresponsible tax cuts. All I could think reading it was how amazed I was that someone as admittedly brilliant as Clarke could really be that ignorant about taxes and economics.

    The main flaw in about every space opera I have ever read, other than the Heinlein ones is that the authors never really understand or attempt to explain the economics of space travel. They never seem to realize that you can't just go live in space or travel space because you feel like it. You can once or twice for national vanity projects. But you can't have a real space faring civilization without the economics of it making enough sense for people to be able to produce enough value to justify sending them there. That concept is beyond much of the SciFi community from what I have seen.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    His comment about Asimov is true of about every Scifi writer outside of Heinlein

    You've not encountered Neal Asher then, i take it. Or Eric Frank Russell. For that matter, the economics of survival in an extraterrestrial setting drives the entire plot of Ian McDonald's Luna stories.

  • John||

    I said about. I don't read that much sci fi and would not claim anything approaching complete knowledge. My only point was that Asimov isn't the only one who doesn't understand economics.

  • Eman||

    I thought dune was very realistic. In all seriousness though, sci fi author is a profession that's pretty uniquely attractive to head-in-the-clouds nerds, and economics being, at heart, about how humans interact with each other, I'm not surprised they tend not to be interested in or "get" it.

  • croaker||

    Heinlein wasn't the first to realize this. He got it from his Mentor, Edward Elmer Smith, PhD. You should recognize that name if you're old-school SF.

  • Alcibiades||

    A true pioneer of space-opera and donut mixes...

  • Stormy Dragon||

    All I could think reading it was how amazed I was that someone as admittedly brilliant as Clarke could really be that ignorant about taxes and economics.

    Since Reagan's tax cuts, income tax cuts have not helped the economy. Since then every time income taxes have been cut the economy has gotten worse and every time they've been raised the economy has gotten better. For anyone basing their opinions on empirical reality rather than tax cuts as article of faith, we've clearly reached a limit where further cuts are not beneficial.

    The focus should be on reforming the tax code to reduce crony capitalism and government social engineering rather than continuing to cut overall rates.

  • John||

    Sure. But that has nothing to do with what Clarke was talking about. And if tax cutes haven't helped the economy, that is because they haven't been accompanied by reductions in the size and share of the economy government takes. Replacing taxes with debt is often a zero sum game.

  • XenoZooValentine||

    Clarke, Asimov, and other "Futurist" writers believed and promoted a lot of incredibly ignorant nonsense.

    I used to be a fan of them when I was younger, but I look back on that period and cringe pretty hard now.

  • DesigNate||

    if you reduced spending at the same time you reduced taxes, it might work better.

  • The Bearded Hobbit||

    Heinlein's For us, The Living contains some horrible economics which he passes off as gospel. Granted, this was very early in his career but there was still some statements in there that made my head hurt.

    ... Hobbit

  • The Bearded Hobbit||

    "were still"

    stupid fingers

    BH

  • Citizen Nothing||

    One of the first libertarian books I ever read was "It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand." So I guess for me it began with Jerome Tuccille. RIP.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    TD needs to write a sequel: "It Usually Begins with 'It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand'"

  • DEG||

    RIP Jerome.

    My condolences J.D.

  • waffles||

    A great man who has undoubtedly educated and influenced me. Sleep well.

  • ||

    Pour one out for a truly good man.

    :(

  • Trigger Hippie||

    Condolences, 2chili.

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    My most sincere condolences, J. D.

  • ||

    Sorry for your loss, J.D.

  • croaker||

    Condolences to you and yours, JD.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Condolences, J. D.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Echoing everyone else here. Condolences to JD and the rest of his family

  • Free Society||

    Condolences Two-Chillies

  • Tundra||

    I'm very sorry, JD.

    My best to you and your family.

  • ||

    RIP Indeed.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    RIP and condolences to 2Chilis.

  • Curt||

    I'm sorry for your loss, JD.

  • LibertarianJRT||

    Respect. J.D., 80 is a good run. Please try to be happy about what you have had, and not bitter for what you have lost. Because of his example, we have you. If the only my daughters follow in my libertarian footsteps, then that enough is a life worth living. That your father was such an inspiration to others is truly a treasure for the ages. Very sorry for your loss.

  • But Enough About Me||

    That SUCKS.

  • I see wood chippers||

    They're late, but my condolences too.

  • wingnutx||

    I'm sorry for your loss, JD.

  • XenoZooValentine||

    You have my sympathy.

  • Detroit Linguist||

    Like many others here I read 'It usually begins...' shortly after it came out. Since I became a libertarian by reading Atlas Shrugged when the Nathaniel Branden Institute was still giving lectures, I was both horrified and amused by it. Also like others, I had thought his son writing here was him. Guess I didn't do some basic arithmetic. Still, he was a fascinating guy and will be missed.

  • Bob Meyer||

    I met Jerry about 50 years ago and despite arguing with him a lot, I liked him. I haven't seen him since but am still sad to hear of his death. My condolences to his family.

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