Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Libertarian Songs?

Sandefur is making a list of songs with a libertarian bent. So far he has listed It’s My Life by Billy Joel, My Way by Frank Sinatra and I Hear My Train Coming by Jimi Hendrix (which I haven’t heard), and readers have suggested three songs: Welcome to the United States by Frank Zappa and The Boys from Alabama by The Drive By Truckers. I haven’t heard either of those either, but another reader suggest The Trees by Rush and that’s very much a libertarian song. You’ll find a lot of Rush songs with a libertarian theme because drummer Neil Peart, who writes all of their lyrics, is himself a libertarian. One of their early albums was even named Anthem after the Ayn Rand book. I actually have an old copy of Liberty magazine with an interview with Peart about his libertarian views. The title song from that album includes these lyrics:

Live for yourself…there’s no one else
More worth living for
Begging hands and bleeding hearts will only cry out for more

Well, I know they’ve always told you
Selfishness was wrong
Yet it was for me, not you, I came to write this song

The allusions to Rand’s influence are pretty clear. The entire opus of 2112 is an argument for asserting individuality in the face of oppression, while Witch Hunt is a powerful statement against mob rule. The Libertarian Party magazine a few years ago actually had an article listing the top 25 “liberty songs” based on recommendations from readers. Among my favorites on that list: Get up, Stand up by Bob Marley and Copperhead Road by Steve Earle.


  1. #1 DannyNoonan
    April 29, 2005

    I’m not sure if it’s what he was thinking when he wrote it, but I’d say “Empty Cans” by the Streets. This Album (A Grand Don’t Come For Free) has been on heavy rotation in my cd player since it came out. If you’re not familiar with The Streets, it is (or he is rather) a british rapper. The album tells a story from start to finish so all of the songs are related. It’s about a guy that loses 1000 quid, blames his friends, meets a girl, breaks his TV, loses friends, loses girl, patches things up with friends, fixes TV, finds money. The last song is “Empty Cans.” In it he sort of has an epiphany. You have to listen to the whole album to get it but the end is:

    “About 2 this afternoon the last of the people left my house, Coz they never stop chattin’ til all the rackets gone. I really feel like things clicked into place at some point, Or maybe its the fact that me and Alison really got on.
    Or maybe its that i realised that it is true;
    No-ones really there fighting for you in the last garison. No-one except yourself that is, no-one except you. You are the one who’s got your back ’til the last deeds done. Scott can’t have my back til the absolute end, Coz hes got to look out for what over his horizon. He’s gotta to make sure he’s not lonely, not broke.
    It’s enough to worry about keeping his own head above. I shut the door behind me, huddled up in my coat, Condensation floating off my breath, squinted out the sun. My jeans feel a bit tight, think i washed them a bit too high; I was gonna be late, so i picked up my pace to run…”

  2. #2 spyder
    April 29, 2005

    the whole Ramones oeuvre was one long ode to the individual–“i wanna be sedated” to “touring the USA.” Singer songwriters have to have a natural ego orientation to their craft, it is after all their ability to get an audience to pay attention solely to them that earns the dollars. How can Sympathy for the Devil not be an opus to the purely libertarian? I do notice that Anarchy in the UK, and its US variations doesn’t appear anywhere on the top 25. Must be an oversight, right??

  3. #3 Timothy Sandefur
    April 29, 2005

    If I recall correctly, the Liberty article is by Scott Bullock, attorney at the Institute for Justice, who argued the Kelo case.

  4. #4 Phillip J. Birmingham
    April 29, 2005

    A bit of pedantry here: Anthem was the lead track on Fly By Night actually.

  5. #5 Phillip J. Birmingham
    April 29, 2005

    Oops, and sorry for double-posting, but I’ve always liked I Ain’t Gonna Piss In No Jar by Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper.

  6. #6 Duck
    April 30, 2005

    The Hendrix track is called “Hear My Train A-Comin'”, and I think it’s actually a cover (if so, I’m not sure who did the original – Howlin’ Wolf maybe??). The Clash in general seem pretty anti-authority, but of course that’s not exactly the same thing. Try “Clampdown” though.

  7. #7 Sean
    April 30, 2005

    Dude, an entire post about libertarian songs that mentions Rush, and yet leaves out Free Will? What were you thinking?

  8. #8 Jeremy Henty
    April 30, 2005

    Two more from Zappa: Oh No (did anyone else write a skeptical anthem?) and You Are What You Is (dissing conformism and pretension).

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    April 30, 2005

    That’s a good point, Sean. There are several Rush songs, perhaps even most of them, but none so clear as Free Will.

  10. #10 386sx
    May 1, 2005

    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

    So true…

    In the showbiz wrangling sweepstakes of 2004, liberals had Leonardo DiCaprio, the Dixie Chicks and the Boss. The right had Bo Derek, Pat Boone and Jessica Simpson, who, upon meeting the secretary of the interior, Gale Norton, congratulated her for doing “a nice job decorating the White House.” Ms. Simpson may be the last performer in America who can make Whoopi Goldberg seem like the soul of wit.

    So true…

  11. #11 Guitar Eddie
    May 2, 2005

    Acturally, I think Jimi Hendrix’s song “If 6 was 9” would be more appropose as a Libertarian song that “Hear My Train A’Comin'”

  12. #12 GeneralZod
    May 13, 2005

    WOW! Tell us more about these weight loss supplements! Fascinating.

  13. #13 Dave S.
    May 13, 2005

    I like the ones that have text that sorta looks like they’re actually offering a non-robot response to the thread – “That was really an excellent point you made there. I think we should all sit back and cogitate on that for a spell. Perhaps kick up our feet and have a nice big glass of weight loss supplement.”.

  14. #14 GeneralZod
    May 13, 2005

    It appears the spam about weight loss supplements has been deleted. Now my post makes no sense. Please trust me: there WAS a weight loss supplements ad here before! I swear it!!
    Or did I just imagine it?? I read that too much stress can lead to hallucinations about weight loss supplements, rediculously low mortgages, and/or penis-enhancement products. I fear I have fallen victim to this syndrome!

  15. #15 Ed Brayton
    May 13, 2005

    LOL GeneralZod. Yes, I deleted the spam before I’d noticed that two people had responded to it. Rest assured it was there, Zod and Dave have not taken leave of their senses.

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