Elton John is leading yet another “British Invasion” in America.
He is “invading” American media and pop-culture circles with some very basic – and very healthy – attitudes and behaviors that affirm capitalism and American-styled free market enterprise.
Elton may seem like an unlikely spokesperson for such a noble agenda. Yet many of America’s most basic understandings of freedom and economic liberty are grounded in the words of another Brit – Adam Smith – whose magnum opus “The Wealth of Nations” was first published in the historically significant year of 1776.
So it’s amusing to consider that the Brit who seems to have been celebrating America’s 1976 bicentennial with the song “Philadelphia Freedom” (it sounded like a “bicentennial song” although in truth it was written about Billie Jean King’s professional tennis team the “Philadelphia Freedoms”), might be subtly awakening Americans today with some of the very basic, very “human” considerations of free market economics.
No matter, Elton’s attitude towards free-market enterprise can’t soon enough break-out all across the country, especially given the hostility to such things at the White House, and in the Congress.
In June, many in the media marveled at Elton’s “willingness” to perform at Rush Limbaugh’s wedding reception. People Magazine noted that Rush is a “conservative radio commentator” – which I suspect was People’s way of describing Rush in both a truncated, and intentionally pejorative fashion. Elton, on the other hand, was characterized in the same article as merely an “outspoken gay civil union advocate” (another fine way to truncate the accomplishments of yet another very talented person).
And now, in the midst of President Obama singling out and maligning and suing Arizona – along with some of Obama’s adoring fans among the ranks of artists and entertainers choosing to “boycott” Arizona -Elton has “broken with the crowd” yet again. Refusing to bow to such whims, Elton upheld his commitment to play his scheduled July 22nd concert date, and performed at Southern Arizona’s Tucson Arena.
“Musicians spread love and peace, and bring people together” Elton told the capacity crowd. “We are all very pleased to be playing in Arizona. I have read that some of the artists won’t come here. They are (expletive) twits!”
Think of what was entailed in Elton’s choice to play Arizona. In many ways we can say that Elton behaved “virtuously.” He had already made a commitment to perform a great show and give his fans what they wanted, in exchange for the purchase of a ticket. He upheld that commitment, and did not disappoint, despite what may or may not be his disagreements with current Arizona immigration law.
This basic, “virtuous” behavior was also entailed in Elton’s appearance at the Rush Limbaugh wedding reception. Elton had what Rush wanted – his music and talent – and Rush had what Elton wanted – a million dollars in compensation. Each party freely chose to do business with the other (in legal terms we would say they chose to “contract” with each other), and so far as the rest of us know, each party made good on their commitments.
Elton’s music didn’t survive another day because President Obama provided government funding for it. And Rush wasn’t forced by the I.R.S. to pay for something he didn’t want. No, two guys with some very different views about some public policy matters each had what the other wanted. So Elton did a “day’s work,” and Rush returned with a “day’s pay.”
This exercising of human free will, and choosing to behave virtuously in the process, happens in free market economic environments every day. I choose to live this way daily, and you probably do too.
In fact, if most of us didn’t make these kinds of choices every day, our civil society would not be as stable and self-sustaining as it is. And most of us are incentivized by free-market mechanisms to continue behaving this way, simply because in the free-market system I won’t get paid if I don’t do a good job, nor will I get the product or service I desire if I don’t pay the agreed-upon price.
And consider the social, “human” consequences of this type of enterprise. I’ve heard from several of my fellow talk radio colleagues who, being more privileged than I, were invited to attend Rush’s wedding. Every one of them have raved to me about how “cool” it was that, despite their ideological differences, Rush and Elton “reached out” to each other.
Yet this is precisely one of the most powerful and virtuous aspects of free-market enterprise – it brings together individuals, groups, and even entire nations of people who might otherwise be ambivalent or even hostile to each other, and unites them for a common purpose.
Last week Rush spoke on his program of Elton’s choice to play Arizona, and also noted receiving a thoughtful card that Elton had mailed from Los Angeles. “Sometimes I think Elton knows me better than people who have known me for ten years” Rush quipped.
Thank you Rush, and thank you Elton, for these very public lessons on economics, and life.
May the “invasion” of common sense continue.