First off, I don’t listen to music for the politics and neither should you. I also do not tell people what to do, so take that last statement as an advice only. However, we all like to sing along to something that we actually can relate to or even agree with. So in that spirit I have compiled a short list of great punk rock songs with a libertarian twist to them.
Is punk rock libertarian?
Maybe. Punk bands have as many political beliefs as the belief of the artists who plays punk music, but there certainly are elements in the ethics that have a libertarian twist. The DIY attitude is in many ways entrepreneurial, although it ignores resource allocation by the market as a goal. The antiauthoritarian twist that bands from Dead Kennedys to exponents of RAC tend to share is also similar to market libertarians. The strong desire for individualism and freedom of expression surely is libertarian – Many Reds tend to forget this part of punk rock. Speaking of Reds, they certainly do make up the bulk at many European punk shows, and I am sometimes reminded in my mind of the lyric of the Christian Ska band The O.C. Supertones “we are the underground, in an underground scene” and I think the same tends to be true of libertarians at a punk show. However we are there and so are our ideals, and we and them have always been there as the song picks below might illustrate. To hammer this point in, I below make a further dividing into subgenres to truly illustrate this.
Classic punk rock
First pick is Sub Hum Ans smash hit Work.Rest.Play.Die. Classic punk rock and inspiring lyrics – again they might have a different audience in mind, but it can ring true among right wing libertatrians too: “Cultivate the hate, to annihilate the state”.
This list would not be complete without the original New York punk rockers of Ramones. The band are self-proclaimed conservatives sporting “kill a commie for mommy” t-shirts and meaning it, and all their music rocks. As a fun fact former US president George Bush claimed the song “Too Tough to Die” as his favorite… which is a little ironic when you think of the lyrics. Their entry on this: “Sheena is a punk rocker”. A personal favorite of mine, and since the band do not excel in direct political imagery other than on t-shirts, a fitting number.
When the second wave of skinheads hit the streets in early eighties Britain they wanted to take punk back from the artsy and leftist clientele who had high jacked it. They set about making one of the purest expressions of traditionalist white urban working class culture ever seen, and did it in a genre referred to as Oi!. I have chosen to forego classic bands like Cock Sparrer or The Business and instead take this change to promote two lesser known entries.
First up is Atlanta-based band Moonstomp. They never got the attention they deserved for their truly amazing record: “They Never See” which can be downloaded here at the great blog The US of Oi! of Sweden. With a first line of: “The Capital Hill‘s been overrun by Reds” their phenomenal Strong Free Nation is as relevant today as in 1988 when it was written.
Next up we got Control from South London… Pretty sure they are Millwall supporters and therefore amazing. A status that is underscored with their song: “Welcome to the nanny state… Welcome to one fucked up place”. Straight and to the point!
Hardcore will have a deserving place in many hearts, and like the songs of The Smiths might have saved your life in high school, hardcore likely saves it every day. It does for me.
First off is a personal favorite of mine – I even have a tattoo dedicated to these guys (yep it was in done in New York Hardcore Tattoo) Madball! Their entry here is: “Infiltrate the System” from the record of the same name. A record that would has a certain Randian feel to it. So SPREAD FREEDOM!
Next up I have chosen Helmet, slightly towards the metal genre normally, but their record Aftertaste is not to be missed by fans of hard but still well composed punk rock. The lyrics of “Birth Defect” is truly amazing and I often recall it when I am confronted with arguments of leftist, which after a while all boils down to there being something wrong with me, and while they live of my taxes they still insist I should move or behave – But as Page Hamilton sings: “I rather be insulted by you than someone I respect”.
The Ska sounds and rudeboys of the Sixties influenced a new sub breed to the traditionalist punk rock in Two-Tone. I have included “Too Much too Young“. A great tune of bad choices supported by a sick welfare system rewarding stupidity and destruction of human potential.
My two picks in this subgenre so prevalent in the 1990s is first off, Bad Religion: “Recipe for Hate” of the phenomenal record of the same name. A record which were the soundtrack of my life doing the 6th grade. The choice of the song is obvious ones you listen to the lyrics which to me is (willing or not) the best portray of a welfare state run amok. I could bore you with a long interpretation of this song, but will just leave it at the knowledge that just like this songs catchiness’, the many evil side effects of a welfare state “it afflicts us like a disease”.
Pennywise is a great exponents of fast catchiness that is skate when it is best. They had to be in this list if for no other reason than they explicitly hate taxes and think them too high. Fletcher Dragge the lead guitar player is by the way a large supporter of Ron Paul. Of many great songs I chose Fuck Authority.
After the predominance of skate punk ebbed out, emo seems to have taken over, but I am too old to understand that stuff, so I will end this compilation with another more recent phenomenon: fusing with other genres, especially types of folk music. So second to last I chose to include Flogging Molly and their “Requiem for dying song”. While the band often jump on the bandwagon and sing union songs and promote IRA-related ignorance (both sells well after all, see this for evidence) they sometime sport great libertarian colors too, such as in this: “There is a government whip cracked across your back”. Sure is!
Finally: Did you ever hear the expression: Punk is death? It isn’t, but it did move down South. Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers is to me one of the best punk bands around. I am not in the business of outing anybody here, but I think you can rest assure that a band so indebted to the rich cultural history of the South (the good secession stuff, not the bad slavery stuff) is likely friends of freedom. And they kick ass on stage while playing music better than most. Buy their records now!