Bryan Caplan  

Punk Songs for Classical Liberals

Insurance versus Charity... Mixed Signals: Why Becker, Cow...

Russ Roberts gives me the lead-in I've been waiting for:

I was talking to my students last night about inspirational education—writing or music that not only informs but inspires. And I wondered out loud with them about why there isn't an economics or free market folk song.

Wouldn't it be nice to have one?

I'd sing it all day. I'd play it on the guitar. I'd teach it to my children.

I can't recommend any applicable folk songs, but if Russ is willing to play electric guitar for his kids, he could teach them the songs of my latest obsession, the punk band Tsunami Bomb. Here are all the lyrics of all their songs. A few highlights for Russ:

5150, a plea to make the most of your life by ignoring sunk costs:

Forget your torment,
What should have been,
What's expected of you.
Face your fears,
Face your open future,
And remember the way that you shine.


Be grateful that you have a brain for thinking
And legs to take you places.
You can do what you dream about,
Just believe in the way that you shine. 

20 Going On... adds Julian Simonesque mockery of doomsayers:

Tired at 20 years old
Memory collecting before his time
Recall the old stomping ground
I see a tear welling up in his eye
No, you can't cheat time, don't let that control your life
Hold your breath, close your eyes, just jump in, the water's fine

Russ speculates that the scarcity of classical liberal songs "has more to do with the seen and the unseen." Tsunami Bomb rises to the challenge with a devastating attack on drunk drivers in Headlights on a Handgrenade:

She drinks away her pain
As she takes your life into her hands
Her memories remain
As she takes your life into her hands
Losing control
Bits and pieces scatter like small toys
She'll never know
The lives she has taken and destroyed

The point, of course, is that the victims' lives are "unseen" to the drunk driver, but just as real as the lives of the people she personally knew.

That's almost as cool as Bastiat - and if you play it at full blast, it might be even cooler.

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TRACKBACKS (3 to date)
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The author at In Lehmann's Terms in a related article titled Libertarian Showtunes writes:
    Russ Roberts is on the hunt for free-market folk songs, and is having difficulty finding any. Bryan Caplan, meanwhile, takes up the call by pointing to some excellent punk rock for classical liberals. Let me, then, swing this discussion toward [Tracked on February 4, 2006 12:25 PM]
COMMENTS (7 to date)
Charles Evans writes:
There’s nothing wrong with capitalism
There’s nothing wrong with free enterprise
Don’t try to make me feel guilty
I’m so tired of hearing you cry

There’s nothing wrong with making some profit
If you ask me I’ll say it’s just fine
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to live nice
I’m so tired of hearing you whine
About the revolution
Bringin’ down the rich
When was the last time you dug a ditch, baby!

- Oingo Boingo, "Capitalism," Only a Lad


If there's one thing that makes me sick
It's when someone tries to hide behind politics
I wish their time could go by fast
Somehow they manage to make it last

- Ramones, "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg," Animal Boy


Happiness is something you've gotta earn
You gotta fight to make your love into returns

- The Ramones, "Learn to Listen," Brain Drain


And, let us not forget conservative punk lyrics, for those who like that sort of thing.

She was a girl from Birmingham
She just had an abortion
She was a case of insanity
Her name was Pauline she lived in a tree
She was a no one who killed her baby
She sent her letters from the country
She was an animal she was a bloody disgrace

- Sex Pistols, "Bodies," Never Mind the Bollocks

(The song gets even more graphic. This could have been the anthem of the anti-abortion movement.)

Kyle writes:

I am not an expert in the genre, but there's a lot of Filk (What Sci-Fi fandom when they found folk music) that fits the parameters.

larrydj writes:

The 80s group Rush had many libertarian songs. They were disciples of Ayn Rand.

Zac writes:

I'm a little surprised.. I've known Bryan a while and I would have never pegged him a fan of punk rock.

They say we're born to lose, we got the right to choose
Do what we wanna do.
Be what we wanna be
They say we're out of touch.
Well their opinions don't mean that much to me
Give me liberty or give me death
Give me freedom to my very last breath
Give me liberty or give me death today

They say we're out of time.
We'll read between the lines
We don't believe the propaganda that's told
They say we're out of line that we got left behind
Yeah we don't wanna be nothing like YOU!

They say we're born to lose
We've got the right to choose
We'll do what the f@#$ we want today

"Tax Man"
Let me tell you how it will be
There�s one for you, nin'teen for me

Cause I'm the tax man
Yea I'm the tax man

Should five percent appear too small
Be thankful I don't take it all

Cause I'm the tax man
Yea I'm the tax man

If you drive a car-car I'll tax the street
If you try to sit-sit I'll tax your seat
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat
If you take a walk I'll tax your feet
Tax man

Well I'm the tax man
Yea I'm the tax man

Don't ask me what I want it for
If you don't want to pay some more

Cause I'm the tax man
Yea I'm the tax man

Now my advice for those who die (tax man)
Declare the pennies on your eyes (tax man)

Cause I'm the tax man
Yea I'm the tax man

And you're working for no one but me
(Tax man)
--The BeaTles

Scott Peterson writes:

The band Rush's great political songs include:

Bastille Day-rock out anthem to overthrow of the aristocracy

The Trees-"Animal Farm"-like narrative of class struggle

Closer to the Heart-criticism of Western political structure

Jim Glass writes:

It's not punk, but I always thought
God Bless The Child That's Got His Own had a sound message.

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