Popular Culture

Capitalism for Punks

Malcolm McLaren, RIP

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Arguably the most anarchist force ever unleashed by pop culture (their bitter, funny "God Save the Queen" was redacted from the top of the U.K. pop charts because it defamed Elizabeth II), the great punk band the Sex Pistols were managed by impresario Malcolm McLaren, who died of mesothelioma at age 64 on April 8. Whatever his ostensible cultural inclinations and artistic pretensions, McLaren was always first and foremost a capitalist—often to the horror of the notoriously cynical band he unleashed.

The first (very forced) rhyme yelled on the very first Sex Pistols single is "I am an Anti-Christ/ I am an anarchist." But the subtler, more ironic, and far less angry McLaren was prone to more effete, Wildean pronouncements such as, "Stealing things is a glorious occupation, particularly in the art world." He cycled quickly between projects, including managing a few famous rock acts such as Adam Ant and Bow Wow Wow, but he would never again accomplish anything that seemed as raw and powerful—and looked as little like silly dilettantism—as did the Sex Pistols.  

In a reminder how short a span passed between the peak of the hippie era and the dawn of punk (wide as that temporal and cultural gulf seemed at the time), McLaren went quickly from watching the riotous events of May '68 and admiring the absurdist-anarchist antics of the Situationists to opening a clothing store in 1971, soon making it the springboard for the entire punk movement. By selling clothes, he was remaining in the family business, since he'd grown up in the rag trade before drifting through art school, but unlike his adoptive mom, he would use clothes to shock. Even while arguably turning music into a mere subset of fashion, he would push music in a more rebellious direction. 

Repeatedly changing the store's name—from Let It Rock to Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die and eventually to SEX—McLaren made it an outlet for sadomasochist fetish clothing, an aesthetic that, for good or ill, would have a huge influence on punk (with its leather, studs, chains, and violent tears) and on the dark, vampiric tone of the goth subculture. Bourgeois society is adept at absorbing any ostensibly radical blow and selling it back to us partly tamed. This clothing, like punk itself, was meant to be a slap in the face of mainstream culture, but it was also meant to sell.

The Marquis de Sade (and, more recently, Camille Paglia) might argue that after a period of liberationist optimism (such as the hippie episode), a more aggressive period of negativity is inevitable, as people remembered that unfettered human nature is not all sweetness and light. There's a sense in which de Sade was conservative relative to Rousseau simply because de Sade was more pessimistic, more aware of our potential for violence. The same is arguably true of the punks relative to the hippies. And perhaps even of those Republican bondage fans recently reimbursed by the Republican National Committee relative to, say, mellow residents of a free love commune.

Punk toyed with dark and brutal forces, yet McLaren was mainly looking to make a buck, get famous, and have fun. Always eager to glom onto the potential Next Big Thing, McLaren did a short, unsuccessful stint managing the proto-punk band New York Dolls, then took the lessons he learned on Manhattan's Lower East Side back home to England, where in 1975 he recruited a teenaged John Lydon and helped turn him into Sex Pistols lead singer Johnny Rotten, the real anarchist genius behind the band's snarling energy. After that, McLaren was less ringmaster than a man holding a tiger by the tail. His greatest creation would break up three years after it began, transforming rock 'n' roll—spawning all the punk, New Wave, alternative rock, and indie bands that have followed—but not becoming the lasting cash cow McLaren had hoped for.

McLaren would go on to dabble in everything from rap to painting, occasionally finding some small measure of success remixing a song or putting on an art show, making the odd TV appearance or co-producing a film, but never again capturing anything like the dark magic of the Sex Pistols.

My friend and fellow libertarian Dave Whitney, who managed the alternative-rock station WBRU in Providence back when we were in college in the early 1990s, says of McLaren: "He kinda got credit for creating the Sex Pistols and marketing them to fame—or infamy, really.  But when you step back and look at the bigger picture, I don't think he was really that successful. He touched on the lives of creative people who went on to greater glory, like Johnny Rotten and [fashion designer] Vivienne Westwood. But once the Pistols flared and fizzled, he tried like hell to keep the fires burning unsuccessfully—and sort of cynically and sadly. And the things he did afterwards never really took off. Compare the Pistols to the Monkees, as many people have—both fabricated bands that outgrew their roots…at the end of the day, the Pistols were bigger than McLaren."

Poor McLaren would even end up being depicted as the money-grubbing villain in the book adaptation of the first documentary about the Sex Pistols—in typically anarchic Sex Pistols fashion, the book version of The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle was done in sci-fi novel form by left-anarchist author Michael Moorcock, and the band members were depicted mournfully seeking back pay from McLaren while fighting machine gun battles in the ruins of London.

Still, as much as the reflexively negative Rotten might hate to admit it, there is an obvious McLaren influence on Rotten's major post-Pistols project, the band Public Image Ltd. "We're not a band, we're a corporation," Rotten insisted, in a very McLarenesque fashion, to American TV host Tom Snyder when the band was first being unveiled—to the profoundly awkward befuddlement of the straight-laced Snyder. Rotten wanted to seem monstrous and, for a time, acting like Malcolm McLaren seems to have been the darkest thing he could imagine. That's no small tribute, really.

Todd Seavey's blog's slogan is "conservatism for punks," and his essay by that title will appear in a conservative anthology out later this year.

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  1. “Arguably the most anarchist force ever unleashed by pop culture, the great punk band the Sex Pistols…”

    [citation needed]

    The Sex Pistals were an act. And. Nothing. More.

    1. Anarchy, whether political or artistic, can never last as a movement, but these 30+ years after the Sex Pistols self destructed it’s still fun, once in a great while, to hear what the final death shriek of rock ‘n’ roll sounded like.

      1. It sounded like the Bee Gees.

    2. There was an element of contrivance, but they were legitimately poor, nasty young kids. Lydon was knifed at 19 because of “God Save the Queen.” People who call them a boy band are just trying to be cool and contrary.

      The Clash, who were 1000 times better, would not have existed without the Pistols. Like em or not, they made an impact.

      1. “The Clash, who were 1000 times better, would not have existed without the Pistols.”

        And both got their start after watching the Ramones

        1. And the Saints and Radio Birdman in Australia were doing it well before the Ramones.

          As Clinton Heylin’s “Babylon’s Burning” makes clear, this “who did it first” thing is nonsense; the truth is that small groups of people all around the world were sick of the hippie dinosaurs, and independently set about “sending rock’n’roll back to the garage to unlearn the bullshit” (in the words of Clinton Walker).

      2. Yeah, I had to cross the room in 1979 to turn that godawful crap down. That’s what I call an impact. I’m very lazy.

    3. Sid Vicious wasn’t acting.

  2. I know that this is going to stir a whole pot of trouble, but I really do not see why this website lionizes popular music (and specifically punk) the way it does. Aesthetically, it’s utter crap. It’s rhythmically repetitive, harmonically monotonous, and melodically insipid. Compared to even minor composers like Hummel or Bortkiewicz it is like a child’s fingerpainting compared to a Caravaggio. Compared to masters like J.S. Bach or Brahms it is a speck of dust. Vociferous protestations in 3, 2, 1…

    1. You’d have to see that one American dude singing “Anarchy in the UK” at a North Korean karaoke bar to appreciate the sentiment of the ditty, I think. It had an impact on the stunned patrons that no number of renditions “My Way” would have had.

      1. Not even Sid’s?

    2. Because punk is libertarian music. Classical music is favored by other political movements. Kind of a tribal thing, you understand.

      1. First, the politics of music really is irrelevant to its quality. I care about ordered tones played sequentially. That’s it. But if we were to talk about politics and music, I always considered classical music to be inherently capitalist. When you read the letters of Beethoven and Mozart, they were sure that they got paid for their compositions. Art is fine and all, but they needed money. Compare this with the many pop “artistes” (particularly punks) who claim that they are above all this money-grubbing, corporate B.S. I really don’t see punk (or any species of pop) as particularly libertarian. Beethoven selling his Op. 96 sonata for 60 ducats is more of a capitalist than the quasi-socialist Clash.

        1. First, the politics of music really is irrelevant to its quality.

          Perhaps irrelevant to it’s quality – but not incidental to it’s audience!

          I really don’t see punk (or any species of pop) as particularly libertarian. Beethoven selling his Op. 96 sonata for 60 ducats is more of a capitalist than the quasi-socialist Clash.

          Punk promotes the undermining of civil society and celebrates the arm-pit of life. So does libertarianism. That they’d appeal to the same audience shouldn’t be any surprise.

          I’ll leave you to draw your own inference as to the relationship between classical music and white nationalists.

        2. I always considered classical music to be inherently capitalist. When you read the letters of Beethoven and Mozart, they were sure that they got paid for their compositions. Art is fine and all, but they needed money.

          What does making sure you get paid for your work have to do with being a capitalist? It’s certainly doesn’t make someone a capitalist in the primary sense, i.e. owning capital, as a real capitalist might well have the leisure to produce music as a hobby. And it’s no proof of the second sense, describing a supporter of capitalism–as you pointed out, the composers needed money, and their philosophical belief in the most desirable form of political economy doesn’t bear on that fact.

          1. And punk bands had the benefit of working and thriving in a (fairly) free market, while the oligarchical economies of Western Europe required that musicians have patrons to truly thrive. Also, classical music at the time wasn’t exactly “music of the people”.

            Thirdly, listen to some Bad Brains or Misfits and you’ll see punk isn’t that awful.

        3. The original motivation behind punk was an opposition to the state rock music at the time, which was plagued with arena rock and over-produced god-awful psychedelic bands. The Ramones hated Journey, Foreigner, etc. The Pistols hated Pink Floyd. They purposefully played stripped down, simple music that was devoid of 8 minute, self-indulgent guitar solos. If you can’t appreciate that, and the appeal it has to a lot of libertarians, clearly, punk isn’t for you. As for music that is libertarian in its politics, I think Rush is probably closer than most punk bands, however.

        4. ?Our music was once divided into its proper forms…It was not permitted to exchange the melodic styles of these established forms and others. Knowledge and informed judgment penalized disobedience. There were no whistles, unmusical mob-noises, or clapping for applause. The rule was to listen silently and learn; boys, teachers, and the crowd were kept in order by threat of the stick. . . . But later, an unmusical anarchy was led by poets who had natural talent, but were ignorant of the laws of music…Through foolishness they deceived themselves into thinking that there was no right or wrong way in music, that it was to be judged good or bad by the pleasure it gave. By their works and their theories they infected the masses with the presumption to think themselves adequate judges. So our theatres, once silent, grew vocal, and aristocracy of music gave way to a pernicious theatrocracy…the criterion was not music, but a reputation for promiscuous cleverness and a spirit of law-breaking?

          Plato on music

          1. This coming from a guy who dialogued one of the first theories promoting a communist, military, police state “Republic”. Wouldn’t expect anything less from a Roman statist or shall I say sadist.

            1. 1) I read The Republic as highly ironic. Scholar disagree as to how ironic it was, whether it was meant to be a reductio ad absurdum argument, or whether it was sincere.

              Why do you believe it was sincere?

              2) Plato was Greek.

            2. 1) I read The Republic as highly ironic. Scholars disagree as to how ironic it was, whether it was meant to be a reductio ad absurdum argument, or whether it was sincere.

              Why do you believe it was sincere?

              2) Plato was Greek.

        5. What about the politics of dancing?

          1. Well, you can dance if you want to…

      2. Really, why is every latter day punk I know a fucking Obamanaut then?

        1. Because they’re posers?

          Seriously, though, I don’t know. I think the Che shirt brigade has invaded their brains and sucked out anything worthwhile. It wasn’t this way back when I was in it…of course, it was apolitical around here.

        2. You know the wrong punks.

    3. On an intellectual level, what you say is true. But music for many of us is about feeling.

      And no music has ever moved me the way punk has.

      And, of course, you’ve totally ignored the lyrics and the ideas and the ideals they represent in punk — something very germane to libertarianism.

    4. “It’s rhythmically repetitive, harmonically monotonous, and melodically insipid.”

      Yes it is. But that is not a defect; it possesses a power which is completely absent in the music which you, with your more refined taste, enjoy. Amazingly, it’s entirely possible for Skid Row, Minor Threat, Swervedriver, and Son House to peacefully coexist in one’s media player right next to Rachmaninoff, Greig, and Gershwin (preferably, Previn).

      Music is just math for your ears.

    5. I’m a musician (not sure if you are). I’ve performed many works by the composers you’ve listed. I’ve studied music composition, and jazz as well. Some of my favorite jazz musicians are John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Jaco Pastorius, and Woody Shaw. Still, I’m a die hard rock and roll fan with particular love for punk and heavy metal. I grew up in the burbs during the 70’s. I’m definitely a product of my generation (like the guys in Bonerama).

      I certainly would not call punk or metal high art. What makes it appealing to me is the raw, in your face, fuck you attitude (in both the music, and lyrics) it projects (like Dope, and Rage Against The Machine (not workplace safe)).

    6. Obviously you are not versed in punk. Actually punk is nowhere near as interesting as the new wave/post-punk era that followed immediately afterwards. There was such a wide range of sounds, styles and experimentation. I would argue it was taking the limitations of punk to the edge and scattering in all directions, the same way psychedelia did to early 60s mod and pop 15 years earlier. I’d say those are the two best eras in music history (Motown would have to squeeze in on there as well, though).

      The fact is that classical music has probably been stretched as far as it can go. It’s brilliant and moving, but it has already been taken to the absolute creative extremes with composers like Stravinsky and Henry Cowell. The greats of the past have already accomplished compositional perfection, and it’s very difficult a.) to be a composer and b.) to perform a composition with a full orchestra. Moreover, because of it’s mostly instrumental nature classical music lacks immediacy and context in our daily lives and requires a great deal of patience to fully appreciate.

      The beauty of punk, like rock n’ roll before it was that anybody and their friends could do it. The spirit of entrepreneurialism and D.I.Y. is why libertarians hold punk in such high regard. Sure many of the great bands were politically socialists, like Gang of Four and the Pop Group (in an environment with the fascist Thatcher government and swarms of neo-Nazis, they were just trying to be the polar opposite), but that’s not the point.

      The irony is they were actually exemplifying what makes capitalism so beautiful – that anyone with creativity and passion can accomplish great things, start their own businesses and make a living doing what they love. The socialists generally had to live uncomfortably with their contradictions. They didn’t need the government to help them put on shows, start records shops, clubs and labels. If anything, they had to avoid the government to partake in their lifestyle. Rebelling against systems and authority figures and shattering taboos is something you can only do in a free society.

      1. Ew. More power to ’em. So the fact that they were mediocre and people still listened to them is why we should like em? I mean Lady Gaga works within the free market system and she actually rocks. So. I mean. Kudos for not being communists, I guess? Even tho some of the punks are? Yeah, I’m still not understanding the punk love.

        1. You shouldn’t like them if you don’t want to. Whatever they said their politics were, in practice there was a DIY element that made them ‘natural libertarians’ for lack of a better term, especially in the second wave of punk that created their own labels, promoted shows etc. Black Flag started SST and immediately started signing bands they liked, most of which sounded nothing like them. They also toured the USA without any backing, just finding church halls, bingo parlors, and clubs to play. Other bands followed in their wake.

          Does anyone really have a political litmus test for music? I listen to Joan Baez, and her politics are the polar opposite of mine. I guess I’d have a hard time enjoying a song extolling the virtues of the North Korean political and economic system, but if it had a catchy melody, I’d give it a spin.

          1. Haha, word up, fair ’nuff. I guess my point was just that see plenty of other genres of music doing basically the same thing. And I guess I really don’t see why it’s better or more liberatarian to start up with nothing, rather than networking n convincing ppl to invest. DIY. ORRR DI with like rich ppl who can help. Right? Who cares?

      2. The socialists generally had to live uncomfortably with their contradictions. They didn’t need the government to help them put on shows, start records shops, clubs and labels. If anything, they had to avoid the government to partake in their lifestyle.

        Do you have any idea how many members of the original punk bands were on the dole? Do you know anything about Joe Strummer’s hisory as a squatter? Do you know what you’re talking about?

        1. Do you know what you’re talking about?

          “because of it’s mostly instrumental nature classical music lacks immediacy and context in our daily lives and requires a great deal of patience to fully appreciate.

          I would say no, he does not.

          1. Right – because all the teens these days are blaring Mahler and Wagner on their subwoofers.

        2. The fact that many took welfare money from the government and glamorized shoplifting is rather irrelevant to the point that the DIY spirit that fueled the movement epitomizes small scale capitalism.

          1. Explain to me how the fact that many took welfare money from the government is irrelevant to your claim that they didn’t the need government to help them.

            Punk would have been very different without Britain’s social welfare system (including socialized education funding for college and “art school” students). In fact, you can see this by looking at the difference between punk in the U.S. and the U.K.

            1. I’m saying they didn’t need government arts grants and subsidies to start their labels, record shops and clubs. The fact that some of the money supporting it was derived from welfare is not the “reason” for punk rock. Perhaps your point of “if they had to earn a living it might not have been the same instead of doing drugs and practicing” is true. But many punks did not go to subsidized art schools and not all of them took welfare checks. Factory Records, for example, was founded by a guy who actually earned his money. Malcolm McLaren did too. And also, I’m including America which likewise had a thriving DIY punk scene well into the 80s and in some parts the 90s, again mostly without government involvement at all.

      3. Lady Gaga rocks fucking sucks horribly. Seriously, how can anybody find that cloying ass shit good? In fact, pretty much everything of the past decade sucks horribly. To each his own.

        Sure, a lot of punk sucks too – in fact all of it has for quite a while now, but I could name a good 50+ bands in the original punk movement alone that were far better than anybody anywhere today (and far more from the post-punk/new wave era that most of the modern indie bands have been poorly trying to ape of late). Sex Pistols WERE mediocre, but they still changed the face of music forever. Buzzcocks, Magazine, The Clash, Wire, Gang of Four, The Ramones, Television, Talking Heads, Blondie, The Slits, The Homosexuals, The Raincoats, The Television Personalities, The Stranglers, etc. were in no way mediocre (at least not in their finest moments).

        1. I’d add Black Flag, the Minutemen, Minor Threat and the Dischord Gang, Mission of Burma, et al to that list, but you are spot on

          1. And think of all the local bands that never got widespread audiences that were great…in my town it was spazm 151, Riot Squad, Urine Trouble, Nuclear Addicts, etc. etc…

  3. Arguably the most anarchist force ever unleashed by pop culture

    As much as I like the Sex Pistols, I gotta call bullshit on this. Elvis is a better candidate, in terms of how he destroyed the limiting conventions of the current society.

    1. +1 Sex Pistols wouldn’t have existed without him.

    2. Fuck Elvis, as much as I love his work in the ’50s. Chuck Berry. The only bad thing about Back to the Future is that, once again, a white boy created rock ‘n roll.

  4. I’d have to add classicist anararchist Lindsey Anderson up their a notch above McLaren as both a mentor (from afar) and successive successful projects


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  6. What a welcome break from the early 80’s hair and glam R&R bands.

    Sex Pistols
    Stiff Little Fingers
    Germs
    Black Flag
    Dead Kennedy’s

    Ah, fun nights in Hollyweird!

  7. He wasn’t just ahead of curve on the Sex Pistols, what he did in the aftermath, takin’ the underground mainstream was impressive.

    Also, like some of other original punk icons, he was way ahead of the curve on rap.

    Captain Sensible, the Clash, Johnny Rotten (with Afrika Bambaataa) and McLaren were all way ahead of the curve on rap, all mixing rock and rap back when there really were some things that hadn’t been done before.

    It took the mainstream 15 years or more to catch up with them. The rap world owes a lot to McLaren.

    1. Blondie was there too, even if “Rapture” was an abomination.

    2. And don’t forget that in the West Coast punk scene, all those pre-fame hip-hop acts saw the punks doing the DIY thing – selling self-produced albums out of the trunks of their cars – and said, “Why can’t we do that?” No reason at all, Mr Cube.

      – Rick

      http://freedomphiles.blogspot……at-64.html

  8. As a general rule of thumb, I judge people who write about punk by whether they refer to Situationism; if they do, it’s usually a pretty good sign that they’re an effete w@nker.

    Unfortunately, this article buys McLaren’s self-aggrandizing bs, hook, line and sinker.

    To quote John Lydon, “you don’t ‘create’ me – I AM me”; the “Rotten” moniker was bestowed by Steve Jones, who also summed up McLaren perfectly: “Malcolm’s full of s**t, and he always has been”.

    McLaren may have imagined himself as some great Svengali, but the overwhelming opinion I’ve ever read or heard of everyone associated with him, is that he (like Vivienne Westwood) was simply a hanger-on, a clueless limpet who watched what the really creative people did, then made a hundred copies of it to sell.

  9. There are two recordings that got me to start thinking about what I wanted out of life: the first was Never Mind the Bollocks, and the second was Give ’em Enough Rope.

    RIP Malcolm, say ‘ello to Joe

  10. Even while arguably turning music into a mere subset of fashion

    Ahhhhh, I’d never quite been able to qualify why music just gets suckier and suckier.

    It’s because of my position on fashion. I’d wear a jute sack if it covered my bits, was comfortable in my climate, and wasn’t super itchy. I guess sweats are the modern equivalent.

    Same thing for music: if it gets my finger tappin or my head bobbin, then Mission Accomplished. Sadly, there’s just too much nowadays that doesn’t have that power.

    Get Off My Lawn (just turned 28, am i allowed to use that bit. I AM cranky about new music)

    1. I think that was a Stones song.

  11. I always thought he was a tool and very much an Andy Warhol wannabe for the punk scene (which isn’t something great to strive for). Granted, he deserves credit for some positive and negative influences he had over the ‘scene’ as it were, but mostly negative ones. The British scene, particularly as the patrons went, was completely engrossed in fad aesthetics.

    His naked ambition and winking contempt for those who ate up the more superficial and grandstanding tendencies he brought to the game are in their way amusing. They also relegate him to ringleader of the sideshow, which innit saying much. His impact on everything had been vastly overstated, by himself mainly. His biggest impact, with his partner, was on the ridiculous dress code some there felt obligated to live up to, such as the always-laughable bondage pants.

    In my estimation, the best thing he ever did was get the Pistols to play on that boat during the Queen’s Jubilee.

  12. Let’s not forget he convinced The New York Dolls to trade in their glam look for red leather and communist flags, in a head-scratching attempt to cause controversy by tweaking American anti-communist sentiment.

    Of course it failed miserably because their audience wouldn’t have given a fuck, and because their songs were about girls and drugs. They broke up shortly after.

    It goes to show that his “schemes” only worked when he found acts that they weren’t really schemes for, merely encouraging their basic tendencies into more overt, calculated acts to generate press.

    In other words, he certainly helped the Pistols in their notoriety, helped focus it, but in the end he was more a benefactor of who he managed than vice versa. After all, it was essentially some in-the-moment back-and-forth cussing on live TV that really squared the public eye on them.

  13. A lot of people seem to miss the point that punk isn’t for everyone, and was never meant to be. Some of us, however, happen to love it. It was punk rock that inspired me to quit my piano lessons at the age of 12, pick up a bass, teach myself to play and start a band. By the time I was 15 I was playing original music at local shows, and even managed to open for fairly well known touring bands on a few occasions. It was punk that allowed my friends and I to share something that was completely ours with hundreds of people while we were still in high school. We wrote and recorded our own admittedly simple music, booked and promoted our own shows, printed our own merchandise and generated a small but extremely loyal following, all with little to no outside assistance. Ten years later, I look back at it as one of the most fun and valuable experiences I had growing up. It was free enterprise that allowed us to do this, and I consider it an early influence on my libertarian views. Punk taught me at an early age to question authority and think about things that made me uncomfortable. No other musical movement that I’m aware of has ever been so willing to criticize it’s own and call bullshit on itself when it sees it. Regardless of the politics of a particular band, a continuous theme was to be principled and stand up for what you believed in. There was always a small conservative/libertarian minority in punk, dating back to Johnny Ramone and continuing in bands like FEAR, the Vandals, Guttermouth, Screeching Weasel etc. So, you may not care for punk or even consider it culturally valuable, but it has had a significant impact on a lot of lives and on the lives of many of us libertarians. Also, if you ever go to a live punk show, you’ll understand how after that, arenas and self-fellating guitar solos just don’t cut it.

    1. No, that’s not the point. It’s not a matter of taste. I’m waiting to be convinced that punk music is more libertarian than any other genre. I’m really curious. I ask and people tell me “It’s cuz they basically started from nothing and made money and went on to help other artists make money.” Okay, but that’s like most of the american rap industry, too. That’s KoRn. On TOP of that, punk music does seem to promote moocher behavior- squatting and stealing. Maybe that’s not SUPER relevant, and while I totally buy that one can enjoy music without believing every single view of the artist producing that music, it seems a strange idea that the libertarian theme song should be a punk song. That is all. Enlighten me.

      1. Agreed on the moocher behavior. Punk, to me at least, always seemed like ungrateful ravings of dole recipients. In my youthful high school days of the late 90’s, the punks always seemed to bitch and moan about not getting enough love from the state. It wasn’t just about the state propping up this corporation or that, it was about them propping up this corporation while not caring about “Me.” Punk always seemed to me like self-indulgant BS and its anti-social behavior always seemed more rooted in a romanticism for the foreign and an ipso facto loathing of one’s own roots.

        As for musical complexity, punk can be fast, but thats about it. The 80’s thrash metal manages I think a far better combination of a generally “libertarian” characteristics as people are defining here (the DIY aspect and desire to make money and live in accordance with one’s own desires {think Metallica’s “Escape”}) and the 80’s metal scene managed a far more intricate musical harmony. Personally, it has my aesthetic tastes closer so that could be a reason for my preference for that among pop culture influences.

        All of this said, I think underground hip-hop is the most raw and expressive form of music today, given its high lyrical content and its even greater accessability (no need to learn instruments, cheaper overall startup costs). Sadly, underground hip-hop seems to be mostly of a socialistic bent, with few exceptions.

    2. No, that’s not the point. It’s not a matter of taste. I’m waiting to be convinced that punk music is more libertarian than any other genre. I’m really curious. I ask and people tell me “It’s cuz they basically started from nothing and made money and went on to help other artists make money.” Okay, but that’s like most of the american rap industry, too. That’s KoRn. On TOP of that, punk music does seem to promote moocher behavior- squatting and stealing. Maybe that’s not SUPER relevant, and while I totally buy that one can enjoy music without believing every single view of the artist producing that music, it seems a strange idea that the libertarian theme song should be a punk song. That is all. Enlighten me.

      1. Is punk more libertarian than the symphonies that need state subsidies to keep their doors open? More libertarian than the jazz programs that require the same? Yeah

        The rap guys saw what the punks did with record labels self promotion, etc and used that as a starting point, although they likely would have reached the same point withou the punk example.

        I don’t know anything about Korn

      2. I don’t know if anyone is saying that the libertarian theme song should be punk. I personally find that, as a libertarian, I can relate to punk more than any other music and that growing up listening to it had an influence on the way I think now. There are so many different bands with so many vastly different philosophies that you couldn’t define punk as a genre solely in terms of political leanings. I can however, see very clearly why Reason spends time reporting and commenting on punk, as it seems to be relevant to quite a few of it’s readers. Take this song, for example. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfFdjqn7wUM

    3. Joe C: You make a really good point about Punk. It was very open in terms of allowing access and allowing bands to control all the aspects of the production of the music.

      I don’t know if I can argue that punk is necessarily the most libertarian of all music forms. However, the DIY aspect of punk did teach a lot of people about managing a business and made a lot of libertarians.

  14. You said: “My friend and fellow libertarian Dave Whitney, who managed the alternative-rock station WBRU in Providence back when we were in college in the early 1990s…”

    When I was in high school in the late 1960s WBRU was the Brown University student radio station and the coolest listen in Rhode Island.

    DJs would hint pretty broadly they’d been imbibing illegal substances on air (“This is WBRU hi-i-i-i-i-igh over beautiful downtown Providence…”) back when getting busted with pot routinely got you years-long sentences.

    I’d love to hear more about WBRU’s subsequent history.

  15. And how exactly are anarchism and capitalism mutually exclusive and completely incompatible, again?

    Socialism and capitalism are, but anarchism, not so sure.

    1. Word, Derp- anarchists basically believe no man rules another man, and rejects any government’s supposed authority over them. The only big difference between anarchy n libertarianism would be that libertarians generally believe there IS a limited purpose for government to serve. A little one. a LIIIIL one.

      1. I kinda replaced the term “capitalism” with “libertarianism” there, but I still stand by the basics, haha. I mean pure free market capitalism would be 100% voluntary exchanges, which are basically the only kind of exchanges anarchists believe in. Still seems pretty compatible.

  16. It’s not classical music… That would refer to a time period. It is properly called symphony music.

  17. “Arguably the most anarchist force ever unleashed by pop culture…”

    Yeah, I couldn’t make it past that line. Sex Pistols were a boy band, and as such, were only a force for unleashing shitty pop punk bands and garbage like the Casualties. I don’t know where you’re finding that “anarchist force”; they were nothing but ridiculous hair, forced sneers, and anti-social window dressing.

    People tend to make Ramones comparisons immediately, neglecting to mention how the Stooges had the Sex Pistols beat on every count, years in advance. And that’s not even taking into consideration bands like the Seeds, who influenced great garage-punk acts like the Oblivians, Gories, Mummies, et al.

    Sex Pistols only deserve blame for sinking punk into an early grave.

  18. Somehow “I am a minarchist” doesn’t have the same explosiveness.

  19. Tell Dave Whitney that I constantly listened to 95.5 WBRU in the 80s and 90s. Greatest station ever!!!

    That he’s a libertarian, makes it all the better!

  20. OK I love punk music, heavy metal (I love commercial 80’s hair metal as well as thrash), hard rock and Classical music. I am not a Nazi because I love Classical music as some ignorant poster above me said. Capitalism helped birth all these forms of music in various ways. Without excess capital there is no culture. Music is art and musical opinion is subjective (Ayn Rand would beg to differ but I am not much of a Randian when it comes to art but economics yes) it just really depends on a person’s tastes which makes individualism so beautiful.

  21. I invite classical music snobs to suck on EMI @ “The Great Rock and Roll Swindle”.
    http://beemp3.com/download.php…..p;song=EMI

  22. This article sucked butt.

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