So, the theme of the month for Realizing Resonance was originally to be Spring Cleaning, but with last four posts in a row being about economics I think it is appropriate to make a top ten list of songs about money. There are some great songs about wealth, poverty, trade, and the concept of money itself. With the ones I picked, I attempted to take some lines from each song and tie them to an idea relevant to economics. If I have missed anyone’s favorite song about money, or if you want to share some lyrics that make you think of an economic concept, please leave your comments.
#10: “Date with Poverty” by Metal Church
“You sit there in your cushy job and call me on the phone. You want my money and everything I own. I’ll pay you soon as I get paid, the check is in the mail.” I work in financial services and I started as a bill collector, so I can totally appreciate this one. Bill collectors aren’t that awful…are they?
#9: “Open Letter to a Landlord” by Living Colour
“Now you can tear a building down, but you can’t erase a memory. These homes may look all ran down, but they have a value you can’t see.” These lyrics suggest that not all value can be measured monetarily, and that true human values may be lost in the cost-benefit calculation when all we count is the dollars involved.
#8: “Hard Times” by RUN-DMC
“Hard times spreading just like the flu. Watch out homeboy, don’t let it catch you. P-p-prices go up, don’t let your pocket go down. When you got short money you’re stuck on the ground.” The opening lyrics of this classic old school rap were penned when inflation was hitting the US hard. The flu metaphor is great, because it illustrates that hard times affect hard workers, and there are times when jobs and money become scarce with unemployment spreading from region to region and industry to industry.
#7: “Taxman” by The Beatles
“Let me tell you how it will be; there’s one for you, nineteen for me. ‘Cause I’m the taxman.” George Harrison’s angry critique of the British government’s 95% super tax on top earners has been cited by many an anti-tax-the-rich crusader. The anti-tax-the-rich argument suggests that taxes on the rich just incentivize them to hide their wealth or become expatriates, with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as the perennial examples.
#6: “The Economy is Suffering…Let it Die” by Anti-Flag
“I’ve seen a lot of bailouts in my life, but why is it I never see a bailout for the homeless and the poor? And while we’re on the subject I could use a few bucks for a guitar amp, a new six string, and a tank of gas, yeah.” Anti-flag is great angry-at-the-establishment punk rock and they have many songs relating to economic principles. This song brings up a classic populist critique of the bailouts of financial institutions, and other large corporations, after the crash in the real-estate bubble. Economists like to credit entrepreneurs and business leaders for their bold willingness to take risks. Speaking from the experience, and using the sheer amount of nay saying as a measure of anticipated risk, trying to make it as a rock musician is a much riskier endeavor than getting an MBA. So, why not a government program to distribute free guitars and amps to starving artists?
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#5: “D. R. F. S. R.” by Warrant
“I’m gonna have more money than you have ever seen. Baby I just want all the frills. I’m gonna insulate my body in green. I’m gonna light my cigarettes with hundred dollar bills.” I like these lines quite a bit because they hint at two of my favorite arguments against concentrated wealth. These are the Argument from Conspicuous Consumption and the Argument from Diminished Marginal Utility. The first argument is that exorbitant riches encourage people to frivolously and conspicuously display wealth and leisure, and this psychologically provokes the poorer classes into bankruptcy with attempts at pecuniary mimicry. The second argument is that the utility of each newly acquired dollar has successively decreasing value once your total accumulated wealth reaches a certain threshold. Hence, if you are rich enough, and it strikes your fancy to light your cigarette with a Benjamin, you would have much less inhibiting you than I would.
#4: “Big Spender” by Peggy Lee
“So, let me get right to the point, I don’t pop my cork for every guy I see. Hey, big spender, spend a little time with me.” The innuendo is interest bearing, with an image of the intersection between financial investment and female invitation. Perhaps this explains everything.
#3: “Money” by Pink Floyd
“Money, well get back. I’m all right Jack, keep your hands off my stack.” Such a classic track, it expresses the age old concern for one’s property rights, or greed, depending on how you see it. It’s my money, because I have it, or I earned it, but also if I inherited it, won it in a bet, or tricked some sucker for it, and I don’t feel likely sharing it with you.
#2: “Money (In God We Trust)” by Extreme
“Money, my personal savior. Money, material lust. Money, life’s only treasure. Money, in God we trust.” This song reminds me of an interesting dilemma for those who revere the virtue of wealth while purporting to maintain an outlook of personal salvation. Something about a camel passing through the eye of a needle comes to mind. Would it be controversial for me to say, with no inference to conspiracies of any sort, that the iconography on our currency is partially to blame for this quandary.
#1: “Money (from Cabaret)” by Alan Cumming
“Money makes the world go round; a mark, a yen, a buck, or a pound.” The celebrity that I look like the most, judging by the not insignificant number of people who have told me so, is Alan Cumming. His rendition of this classic opener from Cabaret is very good, and it reminds me of the circular flow, a simplified model of the macroeconomy which shows the flow of incomes to households from business, and the flow of resources in the opposite direction. Also, this brings to mind the idea of global trade, which is a whole can of worms.