A refugee from New Orleans, I am sitting at my desk in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, doing a bit of writing, as is my wont. When the words just won’t come, I sometimes play solitaire, just to let my mind rest, or allow my subconscious to kick into gear, until I get that next burst of creative energy. (This is one of the things I have in common with Ayn Rand [Branden, Barbara. The Passion of Ayn Rand. p. 301]).
But what really gets me going, what inspires me apart from looking at my Murray Rothbard mouse keypad courtesy of the Mises Institute, is listening to music while I write. My favorites, in order: Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Georg Friedrich Handel, Ludwig van Beethoven and Antonio Vivaldi are my top five. (My daughter is named after the first of these, only Hannah was shortened from Johannah. My son’s middle name is Amadeus. This was a compromise. I wanted Wolfgang for his first name, but my wife nixed that). After that, my "B" team includes Albinoni, the other Bachs, Boccherini, Cimarosa, Corelli, Dittersdorf, Donizetti, Geminiani, Hadyn, Leopold Mozart, Pachelbel, Pergolesi, Purcell, Salieri, Scarlatti, Schubert, Stamitz and Telemann. The "bench" features Brahms, Chopin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rossini and Tchaikovsky. (For a slightly different ranking, see here and here.) My tastes in music are now laid bare. On this, I differ from the Rand (Walker, Jeff. 1999. The Ayn Rand Cult. Chicago: Open Court); music quality is subjective, not objective, in my view.
I have little doubt that there is a strong correlation between the quality of my publications and the rank of the music, in my subjective ratings, I am listening to while writing. (In my view, Mises and Rothbard are the Mozart and Bach of economics and political philosophy, and I am not sure of who is who in this regard.) Whenever I hear these two composers, I am particularly inspired; lifted above my ordinary abilities.
What, then, are the practical obstacles to attaining a musically non-hostile environment? What are the possible solutions? The problem with tapes is that they have to be changed every 30 minutes or so. The difficulty with disks (and tapes and records too) is that I have heard all the ones I have in my possession, over and over again, and it would be nice to listen to new material from time to time. Classical radio supplies variety aplenty, but they can’t be trusted to stick to my beloved composers. Then, too, they are continually talking, and I don’t get off on discussing good music, only the music itself. The classical station in New Orleans offers, would you believe it, plays, ughh, jazz!, seemingly half the time, although I suppose it is actually less than that. When I am in Canada, I tune into the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). This station is dedicated to classical music and thus offers jazz only rarely; instead, they are interminably filling the airwaves with discussion. And what verbiage! They are forever offering "arts reports" which most of the time consist of interviews with handicapped native Indian lesbian or other racial ("visible" in Canadian speak) minority sculptors, or some such. If they stand for anything, it is for more government grants to the "arts" (see above), and indeed, for more government involvement in practically everything else. They are staunch supporters of the reigning Liberal government, and the centralized state, reports to the contrary notwithstanding.
However, the Canadian Media Guild, the union composed of CBC employees, has been on strike — lock out lo these many weeks. The work stoppage has been ongoing ever since I arrived in Vancouver as a refugee from New Orleans. (No, I am not an evacuee, as I managed to escape from Katrina under my own steam. I do not understand why the word "refugee" should apply only to international escapees from natural or man-made tragedies. I took refuge in Vancouver, and will soon be doing the same at the Mises Institute in Auburn AL, from October to mid December.) And what does this radio station play during this labor dispute when the regular workers are no longer on the premises, and the facilities are manned by a skeleton crew of managers? Music!, that’s what. Solid music, glorious music, virtually all of it compatible with my tastes, almost completely uninterrupted by talk. Yes, during the day there are five minutes of news hourly, but I write mostly at night in any case, and when not, these newscasts are perfect breaks for me. No reports on the doings of homosexual artists. No discussions of poetry written by female minority members. No whining complaints about limited subsidies (read "welfare") for self-declared artists who have never earned an honest penny from their "art" in the private sector from a willing buyer. No calls for more socialism. Just glorious practically non-stop wall-to-wall baroque and classical music. They don’t even announce the pieces, nor give the composers’ names. Heroic!
The entire idea of the CBC is unknown to Americans (except perhaps to those who live right on the border of the two countries.) This is a television and radio broadcasting company operated as if it were completely owned by the government of Canada. It is as philosophically independent of the Canadian government as is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Post Office or Air Canada, the airline run by the Canadian government, claims to the contrary of "independence" notwithstanding. This is no less than a national disgrace for a country such as Canada that thinks of itself as free.
Think of PBS on steroids, with the entire weight and power of the U.S. government behind it. Roughly as Izvestia was to the USSR, as is al-Ahram to Egypt, so is the CBC to Canada. Imagine the chief focus of an entertainment and news conglomerate in the U.S. which promoted, almost entirely, the perspective of President George Bush and his administration, supported with tax dollars, and you will have some idea of the role played by the CBC in Canada.
There is something truly horrific about the central government with its own radio and TV empire, and throwing such amounts of money at it that it pales into insignificance expenditures by its "private" counterparts and competitors, the latter of whom are heavily regulated by the self same government in any case. In Canada, this is done by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). In countries that impose this sort of thing, independent commentary is to that extent limited. If this is not a step toward totalitarianism, then nothing is.
All I can say is that the narrowly selfish and short-run part of me hopes that this strike lasts for a long, long time. I am now listening to Vivaldi’s the "Four Seasons" and the irrational part me wants to say that no institution providing this sort of thing can be all bad. Of course, my rational persona kicks in and says something to the effect that if government were not directly commandeering half of our GDP, and regulating away a goodly part of the rest of it, we would have wealth aplenty to provide all the baroque music anyone could want.
There are some people, fools, they, who consider me a bit of a fanatic. Uncompromising in my adherence to the twin libertarian axioms of non-aggression and private property rights based on homesteading. Not so, not so. Actually, I am a bit of a moderate. Of course I still favor anarcho-capitalism. But there will be several exceptions to this political economic system in my ideal world: it will also feature compulsory listening to my favorite composers (as well as required reading in the literature of Mises and Rothbard). So, you people out there who enjoy other kinds of music, enjoy them while you can. Come the revolution, they will all be forbidden. Okay, okay, I’ll make an exception for Elvis. I am nothing if not a liberal. But that’s it.
After reading this, but before sending it to Lew, I showed this to my son (if you can’t embarrass your own kids, who can you embarrass?) He acquainted me with all sorts of radio offerings via the computer. See here, or, do this: go to u201Cstart program,u201D click on u201Call programs,u201D select u201Cwindows media player,u201D and then hit u201Cradio.u201D Another option is xm satellite radio. Amazing. There will still be life for me after the CBC strike is over.
Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans. Currently he is the Steven Berger Visiting Professor at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Defending the Undefendable.