Mike Rowe contests woke shibboleths with real-world wisdom and ethics - at FreedomFest in Memphis

 Mike Rowe (host of TV's "Dirty Jobs") interviewed by Mark Skousen at FreedomFest Conference in Memphis, Tennessee.

FreedomFest organizer, Mark Skousen, interviewed "Dirty Jobs" and podcast host, Mike Rowe before a large audience at the 2023 edition of the Libertarian convention last week. In this video excerpt, they discuss how society has become overly concerned with health risks and eliminating all possible dangers. Mr. Rowe questions the excessive use of vaccines and the increasing prevalence of allergies. Rowe believes that instead of eliminating risks, we should focus on mitigating them. He shares personal experiences of maintaining natural immunity and attributes his good health to his work in sanitation. He concludes by sharing a story about his survival camp, highlighting the importance of facing and overcoming challenges.

Mike Rowe is concerned about how our society has become more safety-conscious and aware of health risks. He mentions the prevalence of advertisements for pharmaceutical products addressing previously unknown ailments. While he acknowledges the importance of vaccines, he questions whether we have gone overboard with them. Rowe believes that we have become too focused on eliminating all risks and that mitigating risks is a wiser approach. He also discusses the increase in allergies and expresses curiosity about the causes, whether it be diet, lack of exercise, environmental factors, or genetics. Despite these concerns, Rowe shares that he has not had a cold in decades and attributes it, in part, to natural immunity and his experiences working in sanitation. He concludes by sharing a story about his survival camp in the Uinta Mountains. 

In this second segment of the interview, host Mark Skousen dares Mike Rowe to share a can-you-top-this extreme experience. Rowe recounts this controversial story from his show, Dirty Jobs, which calls into question the conventional wisdom of authorities. 

On an earlier Dirty Jobs episode, attempting to demonstrate where we get our food, Mike shot a cow and butchered it. Protests from PETA animal rights activists nearly caused the show to be cancelled.

In an upcoming episode, an expert would demonstrate shepherds' castrating (i.e., docking)  of sheep. Hoping to avoid further problems and ensure that he handles the process gingerly, Rowe consulted with PETA. They recommended showing the method of tieing-off the testes. However, once he arrived in Colorado, the shepherd switched to a method which involvesd cutting off the lamb's tail and snipping off the lamb's testicles, which animal activists imagine to be less humane.

Though it may be imagined as unpleasant, Rowe came to learn how the traditional cutting method was actually less painful and unsanitary than the PETA-preferred, pinched-til-dried alternative method. He decided to showcase the truth of the process - and received backlash - but he stood by his evidence as reason to question the authority of progressive thinkers. This shift in focus on work and the experience of regular people on the front lines is what contributes to making Dirty Jobs successful and still on the air.

In this third video excerpt, Mike Rowe discusses the concerning state of the American workforce, where millions of people between the ages of 25 and 54 are not working and not even actively seeking employment. At the same time, there are 11 million open jobs that many people are not interested in, despite not requiring a four-year degree. Amidst this, there is a staggering $1.7 trillion in student loan debt, with no real plan for borrowers to pay it back. Rowe emphasizes the need for more focus on practical trades, such as welding, plumbing, and carpentry, which have a high demand for skilled workers. He expresses his worry about the generational shift towards spending excessive hours on screens instead of pursuing meaningful work and contributing to society.

From 5 - 10minutes in, Mr. Rowe expresses his concern about the skyrocketing cost of college education and the burden it places on students through loans. He worries that if nothing is done to address this issue, universities will have no incentive to lower their tuition fees. He also expresses skepticism towards experts who rely solely on their credentials to command trust, emphasizing the need for them to earn the public's trust through persuasion and transparency. Rowe believes that the public's trust in institutions has been broken and that it is the responsibility of elected officials and the media to restore it. He suggests that alternative platforms, such as Substack, may gain more influence if the mainstream media fails to regain public trust.

In last section, Mike Rowe and Mark Skousen discuss the importance of persuasion in economics. They acknowledge that while history can provide insights, it is crucial to continue making points and fighting for what they believe in. Mark Skousen's dedication to writing books and newsletters demonstrates his determination to keep the fight going. Despite the high stakes, they also value taking breaks, like watching a spring training game, before proceeding with the Q&A session.

In the first segment, Mike Rowe emphasizes the importance of skilled trades and the need to confront the stigmas and misperceptions surrounding them. He discusses the detrimental effects of removing shop classes from high schools, which not only deprived students of opportunities but also erased the visibility of these jobs. Rowe urges for a change in mindset and the need to highlight success stories of individuals who have found fulfilling and well-paying careers in trades. He calls for a shift in focus from the distinction between blue-collar and white-collar work to the mastery of in-demand skills and the value of hard work. He also mentions the need for better marketing and public relations to promote the trades industry.

Between 5 and 10 minutes in, Mike Rowe discusses the impact of "Dirty Jobs" on changing people's perceptions about work. He compares it to the "Keep America Beautiful" campaign that successfully changed people's behavior towards littering through PR efforts. Rowe believes that a similar campaign is needed to change our relationship with work. He also shares a personal story about losing all his savings due to a financial scam, which led him to take on a steady paycheck and eventually led to the opportunity for "Dirty Jobs." He emphasizes the importance of financial education and mentions influential authors such as John Bogle and Burton Malkiel.

From 10 minutes onward, Mike Rowe shares his personal experience with investing and how he became a disciple of low-cost mutual funds and diversification. He emphasizes the importance of taking ownership of one's investments but also acknowledges the benefits of having professionals look after them.

However, before he can answer Rob Strong's question, the atmosphere suddenly takes a strange turn when a barbershop quartet called The Times invites Mike to join them in singing a song.

Despite the unexpected situation, Mike puts on a straw hat and prepares to sing with the group. Video highlights both the amusement and talents of Mike Rowe at the live FreedomFest'23. 


As he steps on stage, it becomes evident that his costume has suffered a mishap, with his flies noticeably down. However, Rowe's ability to entertain prevails as he continues to captivate the audience. Affectionate lyrics like "I love you" and "Sweet and Lovely" further showcase the playful atmosphere and Rowe's pleasant demeanor. Overall, his costume malfunction added an entertaining twist to an already enjoyable performance.

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