Rush a Libertarian Band? Not if Alex Has Any Say in It
So much ink and so many pixels have been spent talking about the libertarian references in Rush’s music, particularly in the band’s early days, that you might be excused in thinking Rush is a libertarian rock band, as some critics and other writers have too-glibly described them. But Alex is no libertarian.
In an April 2012 interview with High Times magazine, Alex makes clear that his politics veer left, and in fact he describes himself as a liberal. “I’m certainly socially liberal,” he says. “And I think government can play an important role in our lives, which libertarians don’t believe. As far as our album 2112 and the tribute to Ayn Rand—I read one of her books, but she was a little too far out for me. For Neil, it was a period in his life, and now he’s kind of moved on.”
Neil in his books Roadshow and Traveling Music and in interviews has described himself as a left-leaning or “bleeding-heart” libertarian, which suggests he backs limited government leavened with a social safety net. He’s also said he’s moved on from his Ayn Rand period as something he needed when he was younger to validate the importance of individualism to him but now his views have evolved considerably from those idealistic days.
Geddy, as one writer has claimed, sings as if he at least understands the appeal of libertarianism.
Whatever the views of Neil and Geddy on libertarianism, the two political schools—libertarianism and liberalism—are very much on the same page when it comes to social issues. Libertarianism is often construed as a conservative philosophy, but that’s true only in an economic sense; in a social sense, the two are in lock-step. On social issues like legalizing pot, there’s little daylight between them.
Alex in the High Times interview says the focus of government today to keep marijuana illegal and use force and other means to beat down users and growers is wrong-headed. And any libertarian would agree with that.
“I think it’s swinging forcefully in the wrong direction,” Alex says. “I can’t understand what’s happened to my generation: We were the generation of free-thinking people, even in terms of pot. But as we’ve gotten older, we’ve become more conservative, and it’s the people that I thought of as holding up the banner of liberty that are now very close-minded. . . . I don’t want to get political, but our whole drug policy is out of whack. Billions of dollars are spent on it – and, really, the only people who profit from it are the underworld, for lack of a better term. So why not put that money into controlling the quality and putting more money into the coffers for our social programs, for people who need health care, who are starving . . . .”
Spoken like a true liberal—classical liberal, you might say—which is where libertarianism comes from. And that would certainly explain at least one reason why a kind-of libertarian like Neil and a liberal like Alex can get along so famously for all those years.—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault
Here’s a list of some of the pieces on Rush and libertarianism:
Rush’s Libertarianism Never Fit the Plan, 2011, Steven Horowitz
The Spirit of Rand , 2007, Bob Cook
Rand, Rush and De-totalizing the Utopianism of Progressive Rock, 2003, Steven Horowitz
Rand, Rush and Rock, 2002, Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Let Them all Make Their Own Music, 2001, Durrell Bowman (scroll to Chapter 9)
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Here are some Rush Vault pieces that look at Rush and libertarianism:
Here’s a fun piece of satire on how Rush and other Canadians unleashed Ayn Rand on the United States in an effort to destabilize the country.