Saturday, March 26, 2005

Random songs

Does anyone care? I think this is self-indulgent, but if someone leaves a comment indicating that they care what's in the music queue, I'll do this again some time.

I Shoulda Known Better” by Phil Ochs from the album The Broadside Tapes 1 (3:27).
Yo Vengo a Ofrecer Mi Corazon” by Mercedes Sosa from the album Gracias a la Vida (1987, 6:10).
East Laredo Blues” by Bob Dylan from the album The Times They Are A-Changin' (1963, 3:18).
Jazz (We've Got)” by A Tribe Called Quest from the album Hits, Rarities and Remixes (2003, 4:10).
High 5 (Rock The Catskills)” by Beck from the album Odelay (1996, 4:10).
Christ For President” by Billy Bragg & Wilco from the album Mermaid Avenue (1998, 2:42).
Thirteen” by Wilco from the album Gilmore Girls Songs (3:26).
Hello Old Friend” by Eric Clapton from the album The Cream Of Clapton (1995, 3:36).
Don't Stand So Close to Me” by The Police from the album Every Breath You Take: The Classics (1989, 4:01).

"Christ for President" is an interesting song. Here's Woody Guthrie advocating what might seem to be theocracy. But look at the lyrics:

Let’s have Christ for President.
Let us have him for our King.
Cast your vote for the Carpenter
that you call the Nazarene.

The only way we can ever beat
these crooked politician men
Is to run the money changers out of the temple
And put the Carpenter in
O It’s Jesus Christ for president
God above our king
With a job and a pension for young and old
We will make hallelujah ring

Every year we waste enough
to feed the ones who starve
We build our civilization up
and we shoot it down with wars
But with the Carpenter on the seat
away up in the capital town
The USA would be on the way prosperity bound!
So what is Guthrie arguing for? His politics were just shy of communism, so it's not surprising that he was hoping for peace, full employment and social insurance for all, honest government, and food for everyone. And he thought Jesus would deliver all that.

So why don't we talk about economic issues from a religious, or even normative, angle? I think the success of rational choice models in economics has made it harder to talk abstractly about the right result without doing cost-benefit analysis on the process. That may not be bad, but it does limit the discussion.

Why don't we talk about feeding everyone, full employment, or economic protectionism? Because each is seen as contrary to reasonable economic models, and no one cares to argue contrary to theoretical arguments that free trade raises all boats.

Again, it may be that protectionism is a genuinely bad idea and we're better off for not discussing it. But it hasn't lost its political appeal, just its political patrons. So it's a broad area of economic policy that has no serious discussion outside of fringe groups like the Green and Reform Parties.

I think national health care is in the same boat, and the attempt to privatize Social Security was in the same vein. They thought they could sneak privatization through by appealing to the belief that privatization is always good, an appeal to the Chicago school that, luckily, is falling apart. There's a broad argument to be made for nationalizing all sorts of insurance, but no one will use the momentum of the Social Security victory to push for national health insurance, better unemployment insurance, or even national auto insurance. I wonder if that's not a result of the ascendancy of the Chicago school of economics.