Pro-Trade Country Songs — Oak Ridge Boys Beat Brad Paisley

Over at Cato@Liberty, David Boaz points to a post by Chris Cardiff on praising a song and video of country superstar Brad Paisley. Cardiff praises Paisley’s hit song “Welcome to the Future” for promoting “technology-driven product innovation” and linking it to the more “profound theme of social change.”

With a couple caveats, which I will get to in a minute, I share this praise. And Paisley has had clever songs before.  CEI President Fred Smith and I are both fans of another of his hits, “Alcohol,” in which Paisley interestingly narrates from the perspective of the beverage: “Since the day I left Milwaukee / Lynchburg, Bordeaux, France / Been makin’ the bars with lots of big money / and helpin’ white people dance. … You had some of the best times you’ll never remember with me, Alcohol.”

When I heard “Welcome To the Future,” I thought some of the lyrics were kind of awkward — particularly the line, “Wake up, Martin Luther.” Paisley says this clearly referring to slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., but leaves out “King”  presumably because “Luther” sort of rhymes with “future.” But the song doesn’t seem to realize that Martin Luther was a different person. And it’s a little disrespectful to want to “wake up” anyone from the dead.

But Cardiff is right that the video, which I had never seen before his post, really reinforces the song’s positive view of technology and commerce. It shows video conferencing and country music being sung in Japan and illustrates how trade has brought the world closer together.

Country music has always been a more politically conservative genre, and since Garth Brooks, it has largely abandoned the fatalism of most of the songs. (There was a joke about what happens when you play a country song backwards: you get your dog, your wife, and your truck back.) The “new country” has its good and bad points — a lot of the poetry has been lost and some of it just sounds like Top 40 with a twang — but hopefully we will see more of these types of songs that have a positive view of capitalism and the goods it brings us.

I still think the best country song promoting the virtues of free trade (really the only song that I know in any genre that promotes free trade so explicitly) is the Oak Ridge Boys’ “American Made” from the ’80s. They open with the line: “Seems everything I buy these days has a foreign name. From the kind of car I drive to my video game.”

But as the song progresses, it really becomes about how foreign goods enhance our lives without changing our national identity. The singer talks about how his sweetheart “looks good in her tight blue jeans” from Mexico and “loves wearing French perfume everywhere we go,” but “When it come to the lovin’ part, one thing is true, my baby’s genuine U.S.A., red, white, and blue.”

Here’s the audio. Someone should make a Paisley-like video to accompany this tune — featuring blue jeans, perfume, video games, and all the wonderful new foreign products since the ’80s.

And that is my discourse on country music and policy for the day. Comments are welcome.

Image credit: LakeviewEd’s flickr photostream.