Culture

Henry Kissinger Rollins on Statecraft

|

Yarn version of Henry Rollins

The punk answer to multi-untalented showman Steve Allen, Henry Rollins, is asked political questions at The Onion's A/V Club. I'm no fan of Rollins' various multifarious efforts (I especially disliked his appearance in the Drug Enforcement Administration's intellectually dishonest and audience-insulting piece of drug war propagana, "Targeting America: Drug Traffickers, Terrorists, and You"). But anybody who invokes Paul Stanley in a discussion of politics can't be all bad.

Q: Did you ever notice how really, every system of government/economics would work in a perfect world containing nothing but skilled, driven, and competent people? People are the flaw in everything from communism and anarchy to democracy and capitalism. So why is it that every single proponent of any given system completely ignores the important fact that incompetent people will always find a way to screw things up? -EMStoveken

HR: I think the power of the individual and the need to separate oneself from the pack has something to do with it. Like Paul Stanley of Kiss once said to a woman who asked him if he was in a band. He said, "Honey, I'm not in a band, I'm in THE band." I think sometimes it's the competent people who do the screwing-up: Those who know better and can do better, those with all the power in any given situation, often go for themselves over the team. It seems as if tyranny is only a matter of time with any society. I would hate to think that's the way people are, but it very well could be.

More here.

NEXT: Haha, IEDS!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I’d argue that libertarianism explicitly gives people license to screw up, then seeks to limit the damage to the screwer-upper.

    The first three sentences in his response make zero, if not negative, sense.

  2. People are the flaw in everything from communism and anarchy to democracy and capitalism

    Yes, and soccer would be a great sport if it weren’t for those soccer players.

  3. I never thought I would see refrences to both Henry Kissinger and Steve Allen in the same place at the same time.

  4. Personally, I think Henry is very smart, entertaining, articulate and totally wrong regarding the WO(s)D. I like his Rollins Band and feel like I got my money’s worth when I saw him in concert. Even when I don’t agree with him, I like to hear what he has to say.

  5. Libertarianism is the only system that actually tries to account for the fact that everyone is a potential screw-up.

    Every system that calls for a greater degree of state control relies on the unstated assumption that the elite wielding power is populated solely by “skilled, driven, and competent people”.

    But a libertarian society accounts for the fact that every position can and eventually will be filled by a potential megalomaniac/idiot, by ensuring that no position so occupied can do all that much damage.

  6. I doubt Rollins is 100% on board with the whole War on Drugs agenda. The thing to keep in mind here is that he was originally part of the early 80s straight-edge hardcore scene. So yes, he probably thinks drugs are a waste of time, and not a positive influence. Then again, there are plenty of stories about how he was a total acid-freak when he was in Black Flag, so whatever. But I don’t think he agrees with throwing people in jail for doing drugs.

  7. I never was a big Hard Core fan, especially the whole straight-edge thing. I like drugs in my pop music :). But I did get into Fugazi quite a bit (damn those guys are fabulous musicians!), but even that came with the price of ignoring the message of the music.

    Anyway, Rollins will always have a special place in my heart for his little Dear Anne Coulter bit.

  8. Rollins’ contention that Paul Stanley and the rest of KISS are competent was the trigger for me to stop listening to him. For a while there I found him entertaining, and he certainly had a point of view. But if you’re going to insist that your view is the only correct view, and all those that disagree are pathetic losers, it needs to be a little more well informed.

  9. But if you’re going to insist that your view is the only correct view, and all those that disagree are pathetic losers, it needs to be a little more well informed

    Na, you just need a chin dimple, some big muscles and a good scowl.

  10. I’ve been an HR fan since I was 12 and discovered, through Black Flag, that there were people as seethingly pissed off as I was. That was a real revelation. So, I’m a bit biased. I will admit that any collaboration with the DEA is essentially unforgivable.

    That being said, Rollins comes off in the interview as intelligent and thoughtful-certainly more so than most professional pundits. He’s certainly not a libertarian, but it would take remarkable arrogance to pretend that only libertarians hold intelligent, well thought-out positions.

    Check out his response to Sailor E. HR’s rebuke is calm, intelligent, and humane.

  11. “But a libertarian society accounts for the fact that every position can and eventually will be filled by a potential megalomaniac/idiot, by ensuring that no position so occupied can do all that much damage.”

    Poetry–could not have said it better myself.

  12. Rollins does come across as thoughtful and articulate.

    Too bad Rollins approaches his interviews as to prove his thoughtfulness and articulation, often at the expense of having anything interesting to say.

  13. Put me in the camp that likes Rollins, despite disagreeing with him on a bunch of stuff.

    And his “Dear Ann Coulter” bit was hilarious.

  14. Remind me again, RC, what libertarianism does to ensure that Standard Oil or Union Carbide won’t do too much damage.

  15. Remind me again, RC, what libertarianism does to ensure that Standard Oil or Union Carbide won’t do too much damage.

    It ensures that they won’t have an omnipotent state to play with.

  16. Rollins’ spoken word stuff is sublime. The punch line in his story about meeting Tom Waits is hands-down one of the funniest things I have heard in my entire life.

  17. Geeze, what has the guy done to be compared to Steve Allen?

  18. “Libertarianism is the only system that actually tries to account for the fact that everyone is a potential screw-up. ”

    Except for all the others, but keep telling yourself that.

    The US constitution addresses this issue quite nicely.

  19. Remind me again, RC, what libertarianism does to ensure that Standard Oil or Union Carbide won’t do too much damage.

    It enabled them to be consumed by other entities, change their name, and divest themselves of never-ending liability.

    But I am not saying that’s a bad thing.

  20. Nick, the assertion that Steve Allen was untalented damages your credibility past the point of ignoring the rest of your opinion. From David Wiegel I expect adamant immaturity, not you.

  21. “Honey, I’m not in a band, I’m in THE band.”

    Paul Stanley was never in The Band.

    The Band 1967-1977
    Robbie Robertson…..guitar
    Levon Helm…………drums, vocals
    Richard Manuel……..piano, vocals
    Rick Danko………….bass, vocals
    Garth Hudson……….organ

  22. Take two (damn the server squirrels, etc.)

    I told this one before, but my favorite Rollins moment was when he was on the old Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, back when it was on Comedy Central. The topic was drug legalization, and professional asshole Joe Queenan was there to boot him in the nuts pretty good.

    (Paraphrasing from memory)

    Rollins: This is the one area where I’m going to be the big bad cop, and keep drugs out of everyone’s hands, because drugs are so destructive of people’s lives. Drugs kill people.

    Queenan: Well, I think there are a lot of useless people milling around, breathing air, getting in the way, etc. If drugs can end some of these lives and make it easier for me to get a parking space, so be it.

    Rollins (in a pompous rage): A few years ago, a dear friend of mine was found three-days dead in his apartment of a heroin overdose. His name was Hillel Slovak, guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Are you happy that he’s not still around, breathing your air and taking up your parking space?!

    Queenan: Well, last year, the singer for the NY band (insert unheard-of band name here) died of a drug overdose, and the band broke up. That band was horrible, so I think that was a good thing.

    (Pan to Rollins with bugged-out eyes, jaw on ground; cue commercial)

  23. Glenn Danzig in a pantsuit.

  24. I passionately hate punk/indie-rock music, and yet I’ve always had a fondness for Rollins just because of his pure freakiness. His soft spot for the WoD is quite sad to see, and rather at odds with other parts of his personal philosophy. But hey, we all have our quirks.

  25. joe – So what do you think of RC’s answer to your question?

    In a similar vein, I have a question for you that is also often asked: why do people on the left fear corporations as evil & too powerful, while ignoring the fact that it has traditionally been gov’t – which leftists tend to support as the answer to all problems – that kills and oppresses people, while corporations tend to merely provide goods and services to those willing to buy them voluntarily?

  26. Never a big Rollins Band fan, but I did enjoy one rant about Coulter he made, and of course his portrayal of a standard issue street soldier in “The Chase” was powerful and nuanced, bringing the poignancy of the officer’s dilemma to life with grace I never would have expected.

  27. Like Paul Stanley of Kiss once said

    I knew there was a reason I preferred the pre-Rollins Black Flag.

  28. The US constitution addresses this issue quite nicely.

    Huh? The Constitution is one of our greatest hits.

  29. Dez Cadena was the best Black Flag singer.

  30. Except for all the others, but keep telling yourself that.

    Keep reading, NM, until you get to the part where every statist/authoritarian system requires you to accept on faith that the people wearing the jackboots are better in every way than the people under the jackboots.

    The US constitution addresses this issue quite nicely.

    Agreed. By limiting the power of the national government so that no matter who’s in charge, they can’t do much damage.

    Its a shame that we’ve “outgrown” the Consitution’s antiquated ideas about enumerated powers, isn’t it.

  31. Information overload, man! As a society we’re drowning in a quagmire of vid-clips, e-mail, and sound bytes! We can’t absorb it all! There’s only one sane solution: BLOW IT UP!

  32. People are the flaw in everything from communism and anarchy to democracy and capitalism. So why is it that every single proponent of any given system completely ignores the important fact that incompetent people will always find a way to screw things up?

    I think it goes one step farther in centralized systems, in that they create the flawed people.

    Such governments start with the presumption that individuals are incapable of running their own lives, and thus centralize power so individuals’ lives can be properly managed.

    In a self-fulfilling process individuals who are raised in a centralized government never learn to run their own lives, therefore becoming people who must rely on the centralized government. About the time the third or fourth generation grows up the only people available to run the government are people who cannot run their own lives.

    Meanwhile the government, which has to run more and more, becomes more and more complex as it runs out of individuals competent enough to run a complex system. If individuals can’t run their own lives obviously they aren’t capable of running everyone else’s lives.

    About then the wheels fall off of the economy, and the centralized government engages in a downward spiral of increasingly authoritarian and increasingly stupid reactions to crises the people running the government no longer have the competence to deal with.

    The libertarian philosophy, by forcing individuals to be self-reliant, ends up with a surplus of people who are more than competent enough to run the very limited government necessary if it doesn’t have to manage everyone’s life.

  33. Henry Rollins doesn’t have a low enough SO.

  34. Libertarians

    “The Constitution is one of our greatest hits.”

    If by us you mean the US, but it is not accurate to call it a libertarian document.

    RCDean

    “every statist/authoritarian system requires you to accept on faith that the people wearing the jackboots are better in every way than the people under the jackboots.”

    Not an accurate description of democratic systems of government. It is just not.

    Jackboots as in jackbooted thugs? You weren’t in a right wing militia in the 80’s were you?

    “Its a shame that we’ve “outgrown” the Consitution’s antiquated ideas about enumerated powers, isn’t it.”

    Last time I checked we still had an rule of law based on the constitution in this country. It’s been a bit of a rough patch of late, but I do think the system will self-correct according to the flexible mechanisms written into the old girl.

  35. If by us you mean the US, but it is not accurate to call it a libertarian document.

    Please enlighten us further.

  36. rob,

    Given the complete absence of an “omnipotent government” in the Bhopal disaster, I find his answer inadequate.

    “In a similar vein, I have a question for you that is also often asked: why do people on the left fear corporations as evil & too powerful, while ignoring the fact that it has traditionally been gov’t – which leftists tend to support as the answer to all problems – that kills and oppresses people…”

    Liberals support all sorts of limits on government power. The ACLU? Liberals. Every anti-war movement in the last half-century? Led by liberals. Destroyers of Jim Crowe laws? Liberals. Resistance to the Military Commissions Act? Liberals. Opposition to Gitmo? Liberals. Repeal of the ban on internet gambling? Liberals. Restraints on the police power, from Miranda to the Innocence Project? Liberals. Repeal of the draft? Liberals. Defense of abortion rights? Repeal of sodomy laws? Anti-electronic eavesdropping? Liberals, liberals, liberals. Although it’s been nice to have liberarians along as a junior partner of many of those. There really are a lot of areas of agreement between our philosophies.

    Liberals are concerned with restraining both government power AND corporate power. You might not agree with us about how government power is a threat to freedom, and how that threat needs to be restrained, but your pretense that liberalism is unconcerned about the threat of government power is absurd.

  37. “If by us you mean the US, but it is not accurate to call it a libertarian document.

    Please enlighten us further.”

    The US constitution pre-dates libertarianism, even if it and the underlying political theories that motivated its form embody much that the libertarians subsequently used to order their political philosophy, it is not really a libertarian document.

    Enlighten.
    Nice word play.
    Classic liberals are sooo witty.

  38. Libertarianism is a term that first came into the lexicon in the middle 1800’s, several decades after the US constitution. Proudhon or D?jacque, iirc. Of course, they were really more anarchists, but the term was not around when the constitution was being written.

  39. Rob,

    “gov’t – which leftists tend to support as the answer to all problems”

    That’s just silly. When did the hippies start seeing THE MAN as the solution to all problems?

  40. NM,

    rob is falling into the trap of assuming that his opponents’ philosophy is the polar opposite of his own.

    Since his primary ideological position is to have a smaller government, he assumes that his opponents’ primary ideological position is to support a larger government.

    It’s no different than those liberals who believe that everyone who opposes affirmative action is a racist – since they are primarily motivated by opposition to racism and racial inequality, they assume that their opponents are primarily motivated by racism and a desire to maintain racial inequality.

  41. The US constitution pre-dates libertarianism, even if it and the underlying political theories that motivated its form embody much that the libertarians subsequently used to order their political philosophy, it is not really a libertarian document …

    Libertarianism is a term that first came into the lexicon in the middle 1800’s, several decades after the US constitution. Proudhon or D?jacque, iirc. Of course, they were really more anarchists, but the term was not around when the constitution was being written.

    But the term for the philosophy is not the same as the philosophy itself. The US Constitution is libertarian in the broad sense, in that it (mostly) embodies the principle of limited government that is a defining feature of libertarianism. However, this was considered a principle of what was known as the “liberal” philosophy at the time. But the term “liberal” was eventually usurped in the USA by social democrats, and when a reconstituted “classical liberal” movement needed something to call itself to distinguish itself from the left-liberals, it had to pick a new term, that imperfect choice being “libertarianism.” Different label, essentially the same philosophy.

  42. So, that’s all you meant? That the word, libertarian, wasn’t around back then?

  43. I’d say the Founders’ willingness to commit the government to defending property rights as they were defined at the time, without questioning the moral underpinning of those rights, marks them as libertarian.

    Yes, I’m talking about slavery.

  44. It’s no different than those liberals who believe that everyone who opposes affirmative action is a racist – since they are primarily motivated by opposition to racism and racial inequality, they assume that their opponents are primarily motivated by racism and a desire to maintain racial inequality.

    We won’t tell your liberal friends that you admitted that. Your secret is safe with us.

  45. So, NM is confusing signifier and signified? 🙂

  46. Oh, come on, joe. We know from your past posts that you’ve studied your history. You know that many of the Founders were questioning the morality of slavery. You’re just being a disingenuous troll, again.

  47. Morality, yes. Legality, no.

    Read what I wrote again – “without question the moral underpinnings of…” refers to the property rights slaveowners had in their slaves, not to slavery itself. Even those founders who did question slavery also believed that slaveowners had legitimate rights that had to be honored, one way or another.

    A little too quick to press the “troll” button, dude.

  48. Dude, are you seriously trying to make a distinction between questioning “the moral underpinnings of” and questioning “the morality of”. That hair don’t split.

  49. “I’d say the Founders’ willingness to commit the government to defending property rights as they were defined at the time, without questioning the moral underpinning of those rights, marks them as libertarian.”

    Joe is perfectly aware that there would not have been a United States if the Constitutional Convention had tried to abolish slavery.

    He’s often more interested in scoring rhetorical points than in any real discussion.

    Still, unlike me, he’s occasionally entertaining.

  50. No, I’m trying to draw a distinction between the legal regime that enforced and authorized slavery, and the property rights that certain Americans held over their slaves under that system.

    The anti-slavery founders grappled with this issue, and some came up with solutions such as abolition-with-compensation.

  51. The anti-slavery founders grappled with this issue, and some came up with solutions such as abolition-with-compensation.

    I could see some of us modern-day libertarians being so concerned about property rights that we would see abolition-with-compensation as the only viable solution.

    Very cool. You made an interesting point, joe.

  52. Without Apostate, H&R would be so much less inebriat^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hinvigera^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H fun.

  53. “So, NM is confusing signifier and signified?”

    Nope.

    Are you confusing the inspiration with the end product?

  54. I could see some of us modern-day libertarians being so concerned about property rights that we would see abolition-with-compensation as the only viable solution.

    Or “concerned with achieving abolition without civil war”, if we had to live with the fallout.

  55. Notice this…

    “The US Constitution is libertarian in the broad sense, in that it (mostly) embodies the principle of limited government that is a defining feature of libertarianism.”

    Broad sense, mostly embodies…

    Claim it if you want, but the constitution is not a libertarian document in the narrow sense, and that was the sense I intended with my point…

    It is like Mensa claiming Isaac Newton as a member.

  56. Or like Islam claiming the new testament.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.