“We’re not going to kill Big Bird, but Big Bird is going to have advertisements,” Romney said, while speaking at Homer’s Deli in Clinton, Iowa.
-Arts in Crisis
One of my earliest memories of our family home is coming over in the early morning with my dad, to “help” with some household repair or another for my grandparents. The house, dimly lit with morning light, smelt of steak, hash-browns and tobacco. From the kitchen emanated the barely discernible sound of K-”Mozart”, the last of the local privately owned classical radio stations, which fell to “market forces” some years ago.
The last holdout of Schubert, Bach and Chopin on the airwaves of the L.A. metro area is a public institution, precariously funded by philanthropy. This station has long been a fixture in my life, though my knowledge of the arts is woefully inadequate. Unfortunately, the playlist is not broad enough in my opinion, ignoring modern composers, but it provides access to art forms neglected by the free market. Back on the farm, my wife and I spent many a Saturday listening to the weak signal of the weekly Opera broadcast, sometimes while sitting on our garage couch, drinking Val’s jug wine, watching our children play in the garden dirt, whilst amusing ourselves with the obvious cultural contradictions of such a combination of acts. All of this is largely due to the memories of my grandfather, who had an appreciation for high culture, though his class and formal education were far from promoting such a penchant. He was the beneficiary of a time when interventionist economics and relatively undeveloped marketing science provided such opportunities.
One holiday morning, before my first son was born, I woke early to find my visiting niece watching Sponge Bob. It did not take long for me to discern that this sort of show cannot be good for the developing mind. So, with few exceptions, my children have only been allowed to enjoy the offerings of PBS – Caillou, Courious George, Kipper and Shawn the Sheep are their go to shows. My four year old will watch documentaries on machinery as long as we’ll allow, and can lecture an adult at length on the names and uses of construction equipment and trains. Our choice was reinforced when, in a moment of weakness, Val turned on Gabba Gabba for the kids, which I am quite sure made me stupider for the brief moments it lasted, before the children rose up in revolt and demanded Caillou. I now harbor an eternal enmity against the Aquabats, despite my high school love of “CD Repo-man”. So, it is all rather unsurprising that recent research is showing that the bulk of children’s television provided by the free market will rot their little brains, likely necessitating Ritalin lobotomization for them to have the slightest chance of clearing the low bar set by federal standardized tests, let alone think semi-critically.
The recent ongoing spat between Joe Carter of First Things and The Front Porch Republic reveals a good deal about a certain kind of Free Market radical conservatism, which whines consistently about the slow death of art, music, literature and traditional mores, yet cannot abide the thought of solutions that may infringe upon bourgeois property rights, ie, “economic liberty” or likely, plain ol’ “liberty”. It never seems to cross their minds that the reason things continue to get worse, despite their stacking the courts and political offices with their ideologues, is because their ideas are one of the greatest underlying sources of the problem. Indeed, The Front Porch Republic’s Agrarian Socialist is a greater friend to traditions than anyone over at FT, but they cannot even abide the Distributism of John Médaille.
Adding advertisements will without a doubt kill Big Bird. Not only will Romney see him dead, but so will the Dobsonites and the First Thingers, and they will all claim that it is the fault of America’s depraved culture in decline (and likely “Socialism”) but never their Free Market radicalism. They pine for the days when a man like my grandfather, a Gas Company meter reader, listened to and played compositional music, and read science and literature as a pastime, but those days were fleeting, perhaps transitional, and occurred while America was the closest she ever came to Social Democracy.
Many a night I sit at my workbench (pictured above), which serves more as a desk, where I smoke a pipe, using grandpa’s ashtray and contemplating his Van Gogh repo. For a little while, in anger against the loss of the farm, I became hostile towards localists, but I have once again grown to appreciate rootedness and tradition, and the fruits of a little “despotism”.