Gil's Libertarian Mix Tape

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When I was in high school, it was all the rage to make a mix tape for a friend, especially a girlfriend or boyfriend. Today’s high-schooler knows them as playlists. Some of the unwritten rules of making a mix tape are:

  • songs must be good
  • tapes are limited to about 90 min running time
  • try to pick songs that are unlikely to have been heard by the listener
  • tell a story or pick a theme
  • track sequencing is important — must have good flow
  • the selections should reflect your personality

Doing my best to adhere to these rules, I present my own libertarian mix tape below. The point is to demonstrate and explain libertarian ideas, so I will comment on or explain each song. All lyrics are appended at the end of this article.

Economics

One could rightly say that all of politics begins with production and distribution – that is, economics.

  1. The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn (itunes/amazon, bluegrass, lyrics) is a short tale of lazy man who gets his just deserts.
  2. Conversation with a Mule (amazon, country, lyrics) is a fun spoken song about who, between a mule and a man, does the work, and where the fruits of that labor go.
  3. Pirate Radio (amazon, shanty, lyrics) rails against regulation by the FCC. Money quote: What we need is liberty, not no stinkin' laws / Freedom from the FCC and its money-grubbing paws!
  4. Wabash Cannonball (amazon, country, lyrics) is an unabashed tribute to the majesty and triumph of modern engineering and business in its creation of the train and rail system.
  5. Ammonia Avenue (itunes/amazon, pop, lyrics) Ammonia avenue is a metaphor for modern intellectual and industrial achievement. We are told to be humble in our approach to criticism of that which we do not understand. And who are we to justify the right in all we do? / Until we seek, until we find ammonia avenue

Fight the Man

Libertarians are not anti-war in the strict sense. Indeed, wars of political independence are just causes, as some of these songs relate.

  1. Bright Sunny South (itunes/amazon, bluegrass, lyrics) tells the story of a boy leaving home to fight for the Southern cause in the War to Prevent Southern Independence. It’s historically representative of why men fought on the Southern side. I especially like the advice his father gives him: Son, be brave but show mercy whenever you can.
  2. Bonnie Blue Flag (amazon, traditional, lyrics) is a marching song from the War to Prevent Southern Independence. Its popularity rivaled that of Dixie, and its performance was banned during Reconstruction. See wikipedia for more. As with many songs older than ~50 years, there is a lyrics controversy.
  3. Jesse James (amazon, country, lyrics) was a folk hero of sorts, as this song attests. To understand why, you might read wikipedia’s entry, as well as articles by Ryan McMaken and Scott Trask.
  4. The Foggy Dew (itunes/amazon, traditional, lyrics) chronicles the Easter Uprising of 1916 in Ireland, where Irish separatism was combined with anti-conscription sentiment in a failed attempt at independence. This traditional song, with libertarian consistency, calls conscription and political subjugation what they are: slavery. The lyrics were written by Peadar Kearney, and are exceptionally poetic.

Omnipotent Government

  1. Red Right Hand (itunes/amazon, alternative, lyrics) could be an allegory for the lure and diabolical nature of the modern all-embracing state. As the lyrics state, some would say of the modern state, he’s a god, he’s a man, he’s a ghost, he’s a guru. The red right hand is the bloody, coercive nature of government. You're one microscopic cog in his catastrophic plan, designed and directed by his red right hand.
  2. Everybody Loves Me, Baby (itunes/amazon, pop, lyrics) is a fun number sung from the viewpoint of a totalitarian leader who just can’t understand dissent. And, it explicitly mentions anarchists — how cool!
  3. The Grave (itunes/amazon, pop, lyrics) is the story of a young man who volunteers for the Vietnam war.
  4. Reĝoj de Cindro (musicexpress/vinilkosmo, pop, lyrics) is one of two Esperanto songs on this mix tape. I have translated the lyrics into English below. This song addresses a warrior, asking him to put away [his] thirsty sword and not serve those kings of ashes.
  5. La Bonaj Vortoj (musicexpress/vinilkosmo, hard rock, lyrics) is an angry song about the death, broken promises, deceit, and end of freedom that come with war and occupation.

The Promise of Freedom

  1. Right Here, Right Now (amazon, pop, lyrics) is a song that came out a couple of years after, and in response to, the spontaneous destruction of the Berlin Wall that started in Nov 1989. It is stunning that the world could change at the blink of an eye through the power of ideas, and he proclaims there is no other place [in history] I want to be. Right Here, Right Now. What an optimistic message for all times! Beautiful.
  2. America (itunes/amazon) (folk, lyrics) is about the promise and reality of freedom that America was and still is for immigrants that only want to be free. In conversations over the years with immigrants to the US from Uzbekistan, Russia, China, even the UK, and other countries, the same theme has come up time and again: they can just "smell the freedom" here.
  3. Philadelphia Freedom (itunes/amazon, pop, lyrics) brings to my mind Benjamin Franklin. I will never forget the passage in his Autobiography where he describes coming to Philadelphia for the first time, and experiencing the wonder of a huge city and the promise of finding his fortune.
  4. Kilted Yaksmen Anthem (amazon, parody, lyrics) is set to the tune of My Country u2018Tis of Thee. I rather like My Country u2018Tis of Thee as far as patriotic songs go, but I also love the fact that parodying a patriotic song is both legal and socially acceptable. It's an expression of freedom, and subtly undermines state legitimacy. But mainly, it's a silly song. I love silly songs.

Lyrics

The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn

Tell You a little story and it won’t take long, ‘Bout a lazy farmer who wouldn’t hoe his corn. The reason why I never could tell, For that young man was always well. He planted his corn in the month of June, And by July it was up to his eye. Come September, there came a big frost, And all the young man’s corn was lost. His courtship had just begun. Said: “Young man, have you hoed some corn?” “Well I tried and I tried, and I tried in vain, “But I don’t believe I raised one grain.” He went down town to his neighbor’s door, Where he had often been before. Sayin’: “Pretty little miss, will you marry me?” “Little miss what do you say?” “Why do you come for me to wed? “You can’t even make your own corn grain. “Single I am, and will remain. “A lazy man I won’t maintain.” He turned his back and walked away. Sayin’: “Little miss, you’ll rue the day. “You’ll rue the day that you were born “For givin’ me the devil ‘cos I wouldn’t hoe corn.”

Conversation with a Mule

Old Mule, you’re the son of a donkey, and I’m in the image of God, Yet here we work, hitched together, toilin’ and tillin’ in the sod. I wonder if you work for me, or I work for you, old Mule – At times I think it’s a partnership between a mule and a doggone fool.

When plowing, we go the same distance, but I work harder than you. You skim the ground on four good legs, and I hobble along on two. So, Mule, mathematic’ly speaking, your four legs ‘gainst my two, I do twice the work per leg; I do twice as much as you.

Now soon we’ll be making the corn crop: that crop will be split three ways: A third for you, a third for me, and a third for the landlord’s pay. You take your third and eat it. You’re getting the best, and how; I split my third amongst a wife and eight kids, a banker, six hens, and a cow!

And right here, Mule, I might mention, that you only plow the ground. I shuck the corn and husk it, while you’re hee-hawin’ around. All fall and part of the winter, old Mule, you know it’s true, I break my back with a cotton-sack, tryin’ to pay off the mortgage on you.

The only time I’m your better is when elections come. A man can vote, and a mule can not, but that don’t worry you none. Because you’re a wise old donkey; you know what to worry about. You knew politics wouldn’t help you none, and I’m just finding it out.

So, Mule, confidentially speaking, would you change places with me? Would you take up all my worries, and still contented be? Would you swap places, I’m asking; of course you know we couldn’t, But would you if you could – now tell the truth – you’re doggone right you wouldn’t!

Pirate Radio

The pirate ship’s a-sailin’ along the stormy seas There’s radio free america, just for you and me The big radio stations are stinkin’ up the air Their pusillanimous plot: it’s a real nightmare

Sing: Aye-aye mateys, ho! Come on the pirate radio Land of the free and home of the brave FCC crawl in your grave.

The Coast Guard’s a-comin’ to shut the pirates down They don’t believe in free speech: the FCC’s in town Their hacksaws and their hammers: they’re smashing all the beds They won a little battle, but the war’s not over yet.

Sing: Aye-aye mateys, ho! Come on the pirate radio Land of the free and home of the brave FCC crawl in your grave.

I want a ????? of freedom that we might tell the truth We might play something good, and it wouldn’t be a goof. What we need is liberty, not no stinkin’ laws! Freedom from the FCC and their money-grubbing paws!

Sing: Aye-aye mateys, ho! Come on the pirate radio Land of the free and home of the brave FCC crawl in your grave.

(spoken) Crawl in there you perverts!

The pirate flag’s a-waving, to fight the FCC! Lilly-livered scalawags for the mendacity! It’s fifty on the airways, we’re sculling lots of rum We’ll make them walk the plank! We’re havin’ lot’s of fun.

Sing: Aye-aye mateys, ho! Come on the pirate radio Land of the free and home of the brave FCC crawl in your grave.

Aye-aye mateys, ho! Come on the pirate radio Land of the free and home of the brave FCC crawl in your grave.

Sing: Aye-aye mateys, ho! Come on the pirate radio Land of the free and home of the brave FCC crawl in your grave.

(spoken:)

Crawl in there, you stinking, slimy swogs!

Aye, keel haul them!

Make them walk the plank!

Forty lashes!

Gouge their eyes out!

Chop their legs off!

(etc.)

Wabash Cannonball

From the great Atlantic Ocean to the wide Pacific shore, from the green ol’ flowering mountains to ice-bound Labrador, oh, she’s mighty tall and handsome and, oh, quite loved by all she’s the modern combination known as the Wabash Cannonball.

Now listen to the jingle, the rumble, and the roar as she glides along the woodlands, through the hills, and by the shore. Hear the mighty rush of the engines, hear that lonesome hobo’s call, As she travels through the jungles on the Wabash Cannonball

Now here’s to daddy Claxton may your name forever stand And always be remembered in our courts throughout our land His earthly race is over and the curtains round him fall We’ll carry him home to Dixie on the Wabash Cannonball

Now listen to the jingle, the rumble, and the roar as she glides along the woodlands, through the hills, and by the shore. Hear the mighty rush of the engines, hear that lonesome hobo’s call, As she travels through the jungles on the Wabash Cannonball

Well she came down from Birmingham one cold December day As she pulled into the station you could hear all the people say She’s from Tennessee she’s long and she’s tall She came down from Birmingham on the Wabash Cannonball

Now listen to the jingle, the rumble, and the roar as she glides along the woodlands, through the hills, and by the shore. Hear the mighty rush of the engines, hear that lonesome hobo’s call, As she travels through the jungles on the Wabash Cannonball

Ammonia Avenue

Is there no sign of light as we stand in the darkness Watching the sun arise? Is there no sign of life as we gaze at the waters Into the strangers eyes?

And who are we to criticize or scorn the things that they do? For we shall seek and we shall find ammonia avenue

If we call for the proof and we question the answers Only the doubt will grow Are we blind to the truth or a sign to believe in? Only the wise will know

And word by word they handed down the light that shines today And those who came at first to scoff, remained behind to pray And those who came at first to scoff, remained behind to pray

When you can’t hear the rhyme and you can’t see the reason Why should the hope remain? For a man will be tired and his soul will grow weary Living his life in vain

And who are we to justify the right in all we do, Until we seek until we find ammonia avenue?

Through all the doubt somehow they knew And stone by stone they built it high Until the sun broke through A ray of hope, a shining light: ammonia avenue.

Bright Sunny South

From the bright sunny south to the war I was sent, Ere the days of my boyhood, I scarcely had spent. From it’s cool shady forests and deep flowing streams, Ever fond in my memory and sweet in my dreams.

Oh, my dear little sister: I still see her tears. When I had to leave home in our tender years. And my sweet gentle mother, so dear to my heart, It grieved me sincerely when we had to part.

Said my kind-hearted father as he took my hand: "As you go in defence of our dear native land, "Son, be brave but show mercy whenever you can. "Our hearts will be with you, ’til you return again."

In my bag there’s a bible to show me the way, Through my trials here on earth and to Heaven some day. I will shoulder my musket and brandish my sword, In defence of this land and the word of the Lord.

Bonnie Blue Flag

We are a band of brothers, And native to the soil Fighting for our property We gained by honest toil. And when our rights were threatened, The cry rose near and far; Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag That bears a single star!

Hurrah! Hurrah! For Southern rights, Hurrah! Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag That carries a single star!

As long as the Union Was faithful to her trust, Like friends and brothers, kind were we, and just; But now, when Northern treachery Attempts our rights to mar, We hoist on high the Bonnie Blue flag That bears a single star.

Hurrah! Hurrah! For Southern rights, Hurrah! Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag That carries a single star!

Jesse James

Jesse James was a man Who killed many a man He robbed the Glendale train And he stole from the rich And he gave to the poor With a hand and a heart and a brain

Oh Jessie had a wife, to mourn for his life Three children they were brave But that dirty little coward Who shot Mr. Howard Has laid poor Jesse in his grave

It was brother Frank who robbed the Galton bank and carried the money from the town it was in the very place that they had a little race for they shot Captain Sheets to the ground.

Poor Jesse had a wife to mourn for his life Three children they were brave But that dirty little coward Who shot Mr. Howard Has laid poor Jesse in his grave

Oh Jessie had a wife, to mourn for his life Three children they were so brave But that dirty little coward That shot Mr. Howard Has laid (poor) Jesse James in his grave

The Foggy Dew

As down the glen one Easter morn To a city fair rode I. There armed lines of marching men In squadrons passed me by.

No pipe did hum, no battle drum did sound its loud tattoo. But the Angelus Bells o’er the Liffey swells rang out in the foggy dew.

Right proudly high in Dublin town Hung they out a flag of war. ‘Twas better to die ‘neath that Irish sky than at Sulva or Sud el Bar.

And from the plains of Royal Meath strong men came hurrying through While Brittania’s huns with their long range guns sailed in through the foggy dew.

Their bravest fell and the requiem bell rang mournfully and clear For those who died that Eastertide in the springing of the year.

While the world did gaze with deep amaze at those fearless men but few. Who bore the fight that freedom’s light Might shine through the foggy dew.

And back through the glen I rode again. And my heart with grief was sore. For I parted then with valiant men Whom I never shall see more.

But to and fro in my dreams I go And I kneel and pray for you. For slavery fled our glorious dead when you fell in the foggy dew

Red Right Hand

Take a little walk to the edge of town and go across the tracks Where the viaduct looms, like a bird of doom As it shifts and cracks Where secrets lie in the border fires, in the humming wires Hey man, you know you’re never coming back Past the square, past the bridge, past the mills, past the stacks On a gathering storm comes a tall handsome man In a dusty black coat with a red right hand

He’ll wrap you in his arms, tell you that you’ve been a good boy He’ll rekindle all the dreams it took you a lifetime to destroy He’ll reach deep into the hole, heal your shrinking soul But there won’t be a single thing that you can do He’s a god, he’s a man, he’s a ghost, he’s a guru They’re whispering his name through this disappearing land but hidden in his coat is a red right hand.

You don’t have no money – he’ll get you some. You don’t have no car – he’ll get you one. You don’t have no self respect, you feel like an insect, well don’t you worry buddy, ’cause here he comes through the gallows and the barrio and the valley and the slums. His shadow is cast wherever he stands, stacks of green paper in his red right hand.

You’ll see him in your nightmares, you’ll see him in your dreams, He’ll appear out of nowhere, but he ain’t what he seems. You’ll see him in your head, on the TV screen, hey, buddy, I’m warning you to turn it off. he’s a ghost, he’s a god, he’s a man, he’s a guru You’re one microscopic cog in his catastrophic plan designed and directed by his red right hand.

Everybody Loves Me, Baby

<SPOKEN>: One, two, three, four!

Fortune has me well in hand, armies wait at my command My gold lies in a foreign land buried deep beneath the sand The angels guide my ev’ry prayer, my enemies are sick or dead But all the victories I’ve led haven’t brought you to my bed

You see, everybody loves me, baby, what’s the matter with you? Won’tcha tell me what did I do to offend you?

Now the purest race I’ve bred for thee to live in my democracy And the highest human pedigree awaits your first-born boy, baby And my face on ev’ry coin engraved, the anarchists are all enslaved My own flag is forever waved by the grateful people I have saved

You see, everybody loves me, baby, what’s the matter with you? Won’tcha tell me what did I do to offend you?

Now, no man is beyond my claim when land is seized in the people’s name By evil men who rob and maim, if war is hell, I’m not to blame! Why, you can’t blame me, I’m Heaven’s child, I’m the second son of Mary mild And I’m twice removed from Oscar Wilde, but he didn’t mind, why, he just smiled

Yes, and the ocean parts when I walk through, and the clouds dissolve and the sky turns blue I’m held in very great value by everyone I meet but you ’cause I’ve used my talents as I could, I’ve done some bad, I’ve done some good I did a whole lot better than they thought I would so, c’mon and treat me like you should!

Because everybody loves me, baby, what’s the matter with you? Won’tcha tell me what did I do to offend you? <whoo, yeah!>

Everybody loves me, baby, what’s the matter with you? Won’tcha tell me what did I do to offend you?

Yeah, everybody loves me, baby, what’s the matter with you? Won’tcha tell me what did I do to offend you?

The Grave

The grave that they dug him had flowers Gathered from the hillsides in bright summer colors, And the brown earth bleached white at the edge of his gravestone. He’s gone.

When the wars of our nation did beckon, A man barely twenty did answer the calling. Proud of the trust that he placed in our nation, He’s gone, But eternity knows him, and it knows what we’ve done.

And the rain fell like pearls on the leaves of the flowers Leaving brown, muddy clay where the earth had been dry. And deep in the trench he waited for hours, As he held to his rifle and prayed not to die.

But the silence of night was shattered by fire As guns and grenades blasted sharp through the air. And one after another his comrades were slaughtered. In morgue of marines, alone standing there.

He crouched ever lower, ever lower with fear. "they can’t let me die! the can’t let me die here! I’ll cover myself with the mud and the earth. I’ll cover myself! I know I’m not brave! The earth! the earth! the earth is my grave."

The grave that they dug him had flowers Gathered from the hillsides in bright summer colors, And the brown earth bleached white at the edge of his gravestone. He’s gone.

Reĝoj de Cindro

Marŝas glora armeo,

estas la Eternulo kun vi.

Subkalkane krakasiĝas la ostoj

de via malamik’.

Ĉar vi amas la landon,

vin ĝin savas per mort’ kaj teror’,

forbruligas vilaĝojn kaj urbojn.

Sed mi petas vin:

Ho, demetu la glavon soifan.

Ĝi jam tiris vin multe tro for.

Vi ne servu la reĝojn de cindro

kaj de plor’.

Ĉu vi sentas fieron

kreinta dezerton sen viv’?

Ĉu vi certas ke la historio

vere dankos al vi?

Via koro krias por sangxo kaj por venĝ'.

Sentoj kaj instinktoj vin pelas al batal’.

Kie estas nun viaj pensoj kaj prudent’?

Ĉu ili ne aǔdeblas tra la bruo de la ŝtal’?

A glorious army marches,

God is with you.

Underfoot are broken the bones of your enemy.

Because you love the land,

You save it by means of death and terrorism, you burn villages and cities to the ground.

But I ask you:

Oh, put away your thirsty sword.

It has already pulled you much too far.

Don't serve the kings of ashes and of crys.

Do you feel pride having created deserts devoid of life?

Are you sure that history will truly thank you?

Your heart cries for blood and for vengance. Feelings and instincts impel you to battle.

Where now are your reason and your prudence?

Are they not able to hear through the sound of the steel?

La Bonaj Vortoj

La bonaj vortoj ne revenigos la filojn,

la bonaj vortoj ne plenumigos viajn promesojn,

la bonaj vortoj, tiuj de militestro via,

sanon ne donos al mia popol’,

grundon nek donos al mia popolo.

Nun, malamas mi bonajn vortojn, kaj

freneziĝas mia koro pro tiomaj promesaj rompitaj.

Troaj la vortoj de l’homoj sen la parolrajt’,

troa trompado, troaj miskomprenoj.

Vi povas esperi retrofluon de ĉiuj riveroj,

kvazaŭ libernaskito ekŝati povus vivi en malliberejo.

Nice words will not bring back my sons,

Nice words will not fulfill your promises,

Nice words, those of your military leader,

Will not restore health to my people.

Now I hate nice words, and my heart launches into a frenzy over those broken promises.

Too many words by people with no right to speak, too much deceit, too much misunderstanding.

You can hope for all rivers to reverse their course, as well as you can hope that a freeborn person would become happy to live in a prison.

Right Here, Right Now

A woman on the radio talked about revolution When it’s already passed her by Bob Dylan didn’t have this to sing about you You know it feels good to be alive

I was alive and I waited, waited I was alive and I waited for this Right here, right now There is no other place I want to be Right here, right now Watching the world wake up from history

I saw the decade in, when it seemed The world could change at the blink of an eye And if anything Then there’s your sign… of the times

I was alive and I waited, waited I was alive and I waited for this Right here, right now

I was alive and I waited, waited I was alive and I waited for this Right here, right now There is no other place I want to be Right here, right now Watching the world wake up from history

Right here, right now There is no other place I want to be Right here, right now Watching the world wake up from history

Right here, right now There is no other place I want to be Right here, right now Watching the world wake up…

America

Far We’ve been traveling far Without a home But not without a star

Free Only want to be free We huddle close Hang on to a dream

On the boats and on the planes They’re coming to America Never looking back again They’re coming to America

Home, don’t it seem so far away Oh, we’re traveling light today In the eye of the storm In the eye of the storm

Home, to a new and a shiny place Make our bed, and we’ll say our grace Freedom’s light burning warm Freedom’s light burning warm

Everywhere around the world They’re coming to America Every time that flag’s unfurled They’re coming to America

Got a dream to take them there They’re coming to America Got a dream they’ve come to share They’re coming to America

They’re coming to America They’re coming to America They’re coming to America They’re coming to America

Today, today, today, today, today My country ’tis of thee Today Sweet land of liberty Today Of thee I sing Today Of thee I sing Today

Philadelphia Freedom

I used to be a rolling stone You know if the cause was right I’d leave to find the answer on the road I used to be a heart beating for someone But the times have changed The less I say the more my work gets done

`Cause I live and breathe this Philadelphia freedom From the day that I was born I’ve waved the flag Philadelphia freedom took me knee-high to a man Yeah gave me peace of mind my daddy never had

Oh Philadelphia freedom shine on me, I love you Shine a light through the eyes of the ones left behind Shine a light shine a light Shine a light won’t you shine a light Philadelphia freedom I love you, yes I do

If you choose to you can live your life alone Some people choose the city Some others choose the good old family home I like living easy without family ties Till the whippoorwill of freedom zapped me Right between the eyes

Kilted Yaksmen Anthem

Our country reeks of trees Our Yaks are really large And they smell like rotting beef carcasses

And we have to clean up after them And our saddle sores are the best We proudly wear women’s clothing And searing sand blows up our skirts

And the buzzards, they soar overhead And poisonous snakes will devour us whole And our bones will bleach in the sun

And we will probably go to (loud farting noise) And that is our great reward For being the-uh Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen!

January 6, 2007