I have often heard complaints from true patriots and freedom advocates about the difficulty of finding pleasant, powerful, and lyrically compelling music that examines the world from a libertarian or even just individualist perspective. Indeed, statism is rampant in contemporary songs on the radio, despite shallow claims by many artists that they are anti-authority. Celebrities are notoriously leftist, and their idea of being anti-authority typically has more to do with spewing hatred for nameless cultural enemies than addressing the real, coercive institution of politics. The only genre of music that has remained largely immune to leftist childishness is country, but that has all its own problems. Very few country singers dare to confront the authority of the state for what it truly is. Moreover, a sizable portion of them happily and fiercely wave the flag of imperialism for Uncle Sam whenever he calls upon them to denounce war skeptics as anti-patriotic and anti-freedom. Indeed, for those of us who can envision a truly voluntary society and understand that freedom does not come from preemptive violence and collectivist class warfare, appropriate entertainment options are limited.
What’s particularly bothersome, though, is that there doesn’t appear to be any good reason why this is so. The power of individual choice and the beautiful achievements of free people are among the most awe-inspiring of potential song topics. The oppressive instruments used by the state and its sympathizers to obstruct individual creativity and prosperity are angering in the extreme – and they affect everyone! Libertarian music ought to invoke at least as much emotional response as any class warfare or false patriotism. Why, then, is there frustratingly little of it?
I don’t know, but I’m not willing to give this one to the Man. So in the interest of promoting the great, if few, artists of our time who have taken a stand for freedom in their music, I’ve compiled a list of five of my favorite contemporary songs that portray a mature and explicit pro-freedom message, along with links to lyrics and recordings.
1. Twisted Sister – We’re Not Gonna Take It
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This song is a classic among anti-state and anti-authority types across the board due to its motivating, revolutionary tone. Poetically, it was released in 1984 (haha) and goes a step beyond the played-out and dull expression of teen angst about controlling parents and controlling schools and controlling what-have-you. From the start, the use of the phrase “right to choose” reveals that Twisted Sister is concerned specifically with political freedom. The enemy whose abuses “we’re not gonna take” appears to be governmental, not cultural. Then, in a second verse that sounds suspiciously like a rejection of cradle-to-grave nanny-statism, the song accuses authority figures: “You’re so condescending; your gall is never-ending; we don’t want nothing, not a thing from you.” That might still be open to a little interpretation, but the deal is sealed immediately afterward when the enemy’s “life” is called “confiscated.” It’s hard to imagine that refers to anything except the state, whose existence is based on confiscating from others only to give (less) back again.
Twisted Sister’s not-so-subtle rebuking of abusive state control worked, too. At least, it made the statists angry and scared enough that one year later the United States Senate called the lead vocalist, Dee Snider, in to testify on behalf of heavy metal and explain why it shouldn’t be banned from America. That was a mistake, as this video shows. Snider harshly criticized the Senate for its attempts at censorship and even said a few beautifully derisive words about Al Gore’s wife when the Senator himself accused metal music of harming her poor, sensitive mind.
2. Linkin Park – No More Sorrow
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Released in the anti-war fury of the late Bush administration, “No More Sorrow” is among the most vicious attacks on statism I’ve heard. After a musical opening with a clear marching beat reminiscent of revolutionary soldiers preparing for battle, the song’s incendiary lyrics denounce all aspects of the rise of fascism in America. Every single word is intensely political, from identifying the Terror Wars with, “your crusade’s a disguise,” to summarily rejecting the whole administration as “liars and thieves,” and the sentiment to which we can perhaps most directly relate, “I’ve paid for your mistakes.” Linkin Park promises that “you will pay for what you’ve done” and chants “thieves and hypocrites” in a shouting tone that is angry to the point of being disturbing. In spite of its obvious connections to George Bush, the message of the song is essentially timeless. As long as there is a state, it will consist of liars and thieves who will wage false crusades at the people’s expense. The solution is clearly stated at the end: “Your time has come to be erased.”
3. Hank Williams, Jr. – A Country Boy Can Survive
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Well, what to say? This country classic is just basically one of my favorite songs of all time. Written and performed by Hank Williams, Jr., it shows a truly independent country spirit – not blind, flag-waving nationalism, but simple, individualistic Americanism. Hank opens by describing a national crisis – a decline in the economy which has resulted in rising crime rates and civil unrest. But Hank is not too worried, because he has “a shotgun, rifle, and a four-wheel drive, and a country boy can survive.” He goes on to describe the pragmatic independence which allows him to live apart from industrialism and the larger national economy – eating, of course, good old “organic” food as the environmentalists tell us is proper.
Then, Hank tells a story about his friend from New York, whom he clearly respects, being killed on the city streets by a common thief looking for some cash. In a stroke of pure, unadulterated Americanism, Hank says outright, “I’d love to spit some beach nut in that dude’s eye and shoot him with my old .45!” (Wow!) There’s no political correctness to be found here. In fact, there’s no politics at all. There’s only justice, delivered by a concerned and well-armed citizen with no reference whatsoever to any permission from an authority figure. Hank’s simple lack of regard for unnecessary institutions of all forms is rare and refreshing.
4. Econ Stories – Fear the Boom and Bust
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If you want explicit libertarianism in a song, this is as good as it gets. Russel Roberts, an economist from the Institute for Humane Studies, worked with media director John Papola to try to bring a knowledge of economics to the general public, and the Ke$ha-endorsed rap “Fear the Boom and Bust” was the result. It tells a fictional story of world-renowned economists John Maynard Keynes, who advocated heavy government interventionism, and Friedrich Hayek, who favored freer markets, meeting in New York city during the financial crisis of 2007-2010. Using real quotations from their most famous books, Roberts constructs an argument between the two over what caused the crisis and how it can be fixed. Topics include the on-going collapse of the American housing market, the worldwide credit crunch which has proven to be immune to quantitative easing, and the chronically depressed aggregate demand by consumers which persists in spite of Keynes’s prescribed stimulus spending. That Hayek wins the argument is as clear as it is inevitable. His ground-up constructed philosophy triumphs over the flawed Keynesian model of aggregate variables and interventionist dogma.
5. System of a Down – Cigaro
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I must give fair warning here: By the standards of my blog’s usual content, “Cigaro” is quite obscene, so click the links at your own peril. I’ll avoid commenting too much on the gruesome details in text, but let it suffice to say that this song ridicules the immaturity of state rulers in a most overt way, accusing them of engaging in useless power struggles that harm innocents around them. The video, especially, depicts a group of arrogant buffoons – the governors of the world, of course – trying to force activity in their countries and comparing their relative strengths in a scene reminiscent of the build-up to the World Wars. System of Down condemns this crowd as “cruel regulators” and “the propagators of all genocide,” continuing with the World War theme. An explicit identification of the close historical ties between heavy economic regulation and mass murder is quite rare these days, as public schools have taught us that national socialism is good, but National Socialism is terrible. Perhaps there is hope for the future after all.
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