June 02, 2006
50 Greatest Libertarian Songs

As Bob Lawson noted a few days ago, John Miller of National Review has run a piece on the 50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs. Click the link for the whole list, but here are the top 5:

1. The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again
2. Beatles - Taxman
3. Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil
4. Lynard Skynard - Sweet Home Alabama
5. Beach Boys - Wouldn't it be Nice

You can read Miller's article for commentary on why he chose the songs he did. Several of them are libertarian in orientation (e.g. the aforementioned Taxman, Rush's The Trees and Red Barchetta), but many are more traditionally conservative. Some of those songs, though, such as the Raiders anti-drug anthem Kicks (#19), dwell heavily on the idea of personal responsibility. But The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (#37), or Wake Up Little Suzie (#40) are more about traditional conservative values.

Omitted entirely from the list is my favorite libertarian pop hit,

Billy Joel's My Life. Have more libertarian lyrics ever crept into a pop song?

I don't need you to worry for me cause I'm alright
I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home
I don't care what you say anymore, this is my life
Go ahead with your own life, and leave me alone

I never said you had to offer me a second chance
I never said I was a victim of circumstance
I still belong, don't get me wrong
And you can speak your mind
But not on my time

They will tell you, you can't sleep alone in a strange place
Then they'll tell you, you can't sleep with somebody else
Ah, but sooner or later you sleep in your own space
Either way it's okay, you wake up with yourself

Another song with excellent libertarian lyrics that didn't make Miller's list is The Greatest Love of All, by Linda Creed. This was a minor hit for George Benson in the late 1970s, before Whitney Houston did her typically melodramatic version a decade later.

I decided long ago
Never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, If I succeed
At least I lived as I believed
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity

So what are the 50 greatest libertarian songs? You can sponge some libertarian stuff from Miller's list - for example, how can you not have at least a couple songs by Rush, or of course Taxman on the list? But what else?

I've enabled comments.

Posted by Brad Smith at 05:02 PM in Culture


Depending on how comfortable you are equating objectivists with libertarians (we know the objectivists aren't comfortable with it!), Rush's "Anthem" could qualify as libertarian. It's definitely objectivist. Rush's "Witch Hunt" might also qualify as libertarian (no objectivist caveat necessary).

Posted by: Mike Hammock at June 2, 2006 08:55 PM

I'd like to nominate "Won't Get Fooled Again." As far as I can tell, it warns against politics in general.

Posted by: pkeets at June 2, 2006 09:12 PM

The LA band Oingo Boingo has some blantantly libertarian songs which is pretty odd considering their setting (1980s LA).

Their first album, Only a Lad, has two very explicity examples: Capitalism and the title track Only a Lad.

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!
If it ain't one thing
Then it's the other
Any cause that crosses your path
Your heart bleeds for anyone's brother
I've got to tell you you're a pain in the ass
You criticize with plenty of vigor
You rationalize everything that you do
With catchy phrases and heavy quotations
And everybody is crazy but you
You're just a middle class, socialist brat
From a suburban family and you never really had to work
And you tell me that we've got to get back
To the struggling masses (whoever they are)
You talk, talk, talk about suffering and pain
Your mouth is bigger than your entire brain
What the hell do you know about suffering and pain . . .
(Repeat first verse)
(Repeat chorus)
There's nothing wrong with Capitalism
There's nothing wrong with Capitalism
There's nothing wrong with Capitalism
There's nothing wrong with Capitalism

The next song I'll post in excerpts
~Only a Lad
Johnny was bad, even as a child everybody could tell
Everyone said if you dont get straight
Youll surely go to hell


The lady down the block
She had a radio that johnny wanted oh so bad
So he took it the first chance he had
Then he shot her in the leg
And this is what she said
Only a lad
You really cant blame him
Only a lad
Society made him
Only a lad
Hes our responsibility
Only a lad
He really couldnt help it
Only a lad
He didnt want to do it
Only a lad
Hes underprivileged and abused
Perhaps a little bit confused


Hey there johnny you really dont fool me
You get away with murder
And you think its funny
You dont give a damn if we live or if we die
Hey there johnny boy
I hope you fry!

The song goes through various bad deeds Johnny has done as well as all the apologists that back him up and claim it was not his responsibility. The very last stanza is sung in a vicious tone and ultimately states that his defenders dont know what they're talking about and responsibility is up to the invididual.

Awesome album by the way.

Posted by: Nacim Bouchtia at June 3, 2006 09:37 AM

I'd nominate "Minutes to Memories" by John Mellencamp. And I'd also nominate a song by Rush Jr., better known as Triumph, "Fight the Good Fight". Also The Police "Murder by Numbers" and Pink Floyd's "The Fletcher Memorial Home."

And there is PLENTY of Rush you can add to this list too. For those who don't know, I'm also a HUGE Rush fan: http://it.stlawu.edu/shor/Rush/rush.htm . I also have a scholarly article about them: http://it.stlawu.edu/shor/Rush/JARS.pdf

Posted by: Steve Horwitz at June 5, 2006 08:38 AM

The Billy Joel song is a great choice, but I'd nominate Marcy Playground for saying it in fewer words in "Dog and His Master:"

You can be any way that you wanna be
But how I'll be, that's up to me.

And as for Rush . . .

Something For Nothing

Waiting for the winds of change
To sweep the clouds away
Waiting for the rainbow's end
To cast its gold your way
Countless ways
You pass the days

Waiting for someone to call
And turn your world around
Looking for an answer
To the question you have found
Looking for
An open door

You don't get something for nothing
You can't have freedom for free
You won't get wise
With the sleep still in your eyes
No matter what your dreams might be

What you own is your own kingdom
What you do is your own glory
What you love is your own power
What you live is your own story
In your head is the answer
Let it guide you along
Let your heart be the anchor
And the beat of your own song

You don't get something for nothing
You can't have freedom for free
You won't get wise
With the sleep still in your eyes
No matter what your dreams might be

Posted by: Max at June 5, 2006 09:08 AM

Isn't it so that George Bush was the new boss after Clinton?

Won't get fooled again a conservative song? Not at all! This nomination is an very weak and desparate attempt from rightwingers to make 'anschluss' music they don't belong and it proves that they have no musical person of importancy except the country rednecks who still live in the 19th-century. You can't say that of The Who

Long Live Rock! Up the rebels.

Posted by: René at June 6, 2006 06:05 AM

The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it. -Adam Smith

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