New Essay for The Atlantic – “Kid Rock, Progressive Hero: Why He’s Right to Charge $20 Per Ticket”

In a capitalist culture and free market society, it is hard to make the argument that any business people should voluntarily charge less money for their product or service than people are willing to pay.

Multimillionaire rock and pop stars leave themselves vulnerable to criticism, however, when they claim to represent and sing for the common man, and present themselves as populist defenders of the dignity of everyday people.

It has become the norm for popular bands and artists to charge hundreds of dollars for admission into their concerts. The current model of exorbitant fees exists only because of the greed of the superstars, and the masochism of fans who pay the absurd costs for a two hour performance.

In my new article for The Atlantic“Kid Rock, Progressive Hero: Why He’s Right to Charge $20 Per Ticket” – I condemn the avarice of The Rolling Stones, Jay Z, and other major musicians who suck every ounce of blood possible from their fans, and I reserve special ridicule for U2, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen, who charge over $100 for tickets, while they sing about helping the poor and bash the greed of politicians and corporate CEOs.

Kid RockThere are few exceptions to the practice of gouging music concertgoers. Garth Brooks enforces a $25 maximum for his ticket prices, despite incredible demand. Brooks has broken records in Missouri, Tennessee, and Canada in the past five years for fastest sell out times. Dave Matthews explains that if he charges $30 per ticket, he will break even on major tours. So, he charges between $40 and $50.

Kid Rock has emerged as a new exemplar of compassion and selflessness in his business policies by co-headlining a tour with ZZ Top, and promising that no ticket will cost more than $20. He is also lowering T Shirt prices from the laughable industry standard of $40 to $20.

It is important to acknowledge that it is not the “champions of the working class” or “social justice” advocates, like Springsteen and Bono, who are taking a pay cut to help more fans afford their concert experience, it is the registered Republican, Romney supporting, Kid Rock.

As I explain in the article, it is my hope that Kid Rock’s new tour will embarrass other rock and pop stars into lowering their ticket prices, if only so that their anthems of liberal outrage don’t provoke enough laughter to drown out the drumbeat. I also hope that it will encourage more music fans to reward bands that respect them, and punish those that don’t.

Neil Young charged $200 for his latest tour, and when he played Chicago last summer, I asked my friend who owns an independent record store in Northwest Indiana why he wasn’t going to attend the show. He answered with words to live by – “I’m not throwing money at the feet of millionaires anymore.”

New Essay at Front Porch Republic: The Dangerous Alliance of Big Government and Big Business

In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, I often feel like a “man without a country.” I’m at odds with much of American culture, and am strongly opposed to much of American politics. Front Porch Republic - a website founded by the excellent writer, and fellow Gore Vidal admirer, Bill Kauffman – is the closest thing I have to a political and philosophical home.  Their “about” page summarizes their mission and position well:

The economic crisis that emerged in late 2008 and the predictable responses it elicited from those in power has served to highlight the extent to which concepts such as human scale, the distribution of power, and our responsibility to the future have been eliminated from the public conversation. It also threatens to worsen the political and economic centralization and atomization that have accompanied the century-long unholy marriage between consumer capitalism and the modern bureaucratic state. We live in a world characterized by a flattened culture and increasingly meaningless freedoms. Little regard is paid to the necessity for those overlapping local and regional groups, communities, and associations that provide a matrix for human flourishing. We’re in a bad way, and the spokesmen and spokeswomen of both our Left and our Right are, for the most part, seriously misguided in their attempts to provide diagnoses, let alone solutions.

Though there is plenty we disagree about, and each contributor can be expected to stand by the words of only his or her own posts, the folks gathered here more or less agree with the above assertions. We come from different backgrounds, live in different places, and have divergent interests, but we’re convinced that scale, place, self-government, sustainability, limits, and variety are key terms with which any fruitful debate about our corporate future must contend.

Most of the Front Porch Republicans are more conservative than I am on a bevy of issues, but we all share a fundamental distrust in centralized power. A philosophical cousin of the Front Porch Republican movement is the Catholic subsidiarity theory of governance, which Robert Barron explains well in this video:

A regular reader of mine once asked me in an email to give a succinct statement of political philosophy. Although, it is not perfect, I answered back with this: I have a Christian concentration on the neighbor and the stranger. I oppose large, unaccountable entities, such as big government and big business, that are forms of concentrated and centralized power, which rob from the individual and community, dignity and autonomy.

I believe the federal government and Welfare State have a helpful and important role to play in the creation of a fair and just society. Like Robert Barron, I believe that local control, neighborhood action, and individual autonomy are the ideals, but that some tasks are so large and complex that governmental intervention is necessary. Health care is an instructive example here. It seems obvious that the most efficient and most humane way to distribute medicinal resources and services across a sizable population is with federal government involvement. Even with all of its flaws, senior citizens prefer Medicare to the private insurance scheme. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama’s ongoing wrestling match to emerge as the champion of Medicare indicates as much.

That being said, I reject the popular political distinction between big government and big business. They are flipsides of the same coin. Bureaucrats and billionaires are aligned in the destruction of human scale community. The useless Democratic and Republican debate, along with the antiquated liberal and conservative divide,  obfuscates this reality, and it is the central reality of American life.

I make this point in my new essay for Front Porch Republic called “The Dangerous Alliance of Big Government and Big Business.” The essay – my fifth for Front Porch – largely wraps up my political philosophy, undresses both political parties as equal offenders, and includes a reference to a properly functioning and benevolent institution – The Rolling Stones (the underrated populist anthem, “Salt of the Earth”):

To illustrate my indictment of big government and big business collusion, I use the examples of eminent domain, the bailouts for “too big to fail” banks, the Prison-Industrial Complex, and the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). I also refer to the “export of big government and big business collusion” that comes in the form of defense contractors, private army firms, and massive Pentagon funding. I could have added student loans to the list. What else could anyone call them? Colleges charge burglarizing rates for admission, requiring students to incur staggering amounts of debt from student loans. After universities get their money, the students not only pay the government, but must do so with interest. If they fail to comply, the government will destroy their credit and garnish their wages.

Most political conversations – whether they take place on the equally nauseating networks of Fox or MSNBC – have little relevance or meaning for the average American. With my new essay, I attempt to contribute to the creation of a real conversation. Front Porch Republic is committed to this cause, and I’m proud to be part of it.