Thank You, Jazz Fans, and the Wisdom of Monk

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Jazz fans, take this big THANK YOU as response to your e-mails, and I read them all and find much to appreciate in them.

Someone wrote to me “Jazz is how the brain works.” That reminded me of what Thelonious Monk once said “All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians”.

Asked about the future of jazz, Monk replied

“I don’t know where it’s going. Maybe it’s going to hell. You can’t make anything go anywhere. It just happens.”

To me, that is a prime and profound libertarian statement.

A profile of Monk has such comments as “Monk has the kind of personal freedom that very few people have. He can keep his inner self apart from outside influences.” And “To say that Monk is doggedly individual becomes something of an understatement when one considers the whole man.”

This is not meant to downplay arranged music in jazz. Monk was influenced by Duke Ellington, who made such beautiful music. Ellington had an orchestra that expressed his extraordinarily creative song-writing and orchestration talents, while at the same time providing ample scope for the individual talents of the members of his orchestra. With Ellington, individuality and group creativity came together remarkably and always beautifully in a big band context, and of course the same was true of the Basie band, in a very different way. There, the entire band sometimes participated in creating head arrangements. In smaller group contexts, we are blessed with creative groups too numerous to recount that combine arrangements, solo improvisations and group improvisations.

It is this meshing of individual and group efforts and creative talents that I think of when I think of how people can live together without government. It is actually very easy for people to replace central directives and controls by free markets that integrate individual and group efforts with the help of prices and a stable currency or two.

But people have to understand what Monk is saying. You don’t know where such freedom will take you, or what arrangements will transpire. It can go wrong, but then there is always error correction and trial and error. Most importantly, only is there an illusion that with government can you make things go in a generally desired direction. As Monk says, “You can’t make anything go anywhere. It just happens.” As far as satisfying health demands, Obamacare has illusion at its basis.

With freedom, the overall or global outcomes happen beyond control of any one or few persons, even though many people plan, experiment, and make things happen. Government is the illusion of control over matters that are fundamentally beyond control. Because of this illusion, government thwarts what otherwise would just happen based on the voluntary individual creativity embedded in a peaceful market context.

1:56 pm on November 21, 2013