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Friday, August 7, 2009

The Difference Between the "Big Rock Candy Mountains" and Reality

Piggy-backing off of yesterday's post, I would like to outline some differences between Reality and "the Big Rock Candy Mountains," a fictional paradise in an old hobo ballad:

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains: "the handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night."

In Reality: wealth does not simply grow on bushes, but must be produced with hard work. As a corollary, handouts to some must come from the hard work of others ...and you can't sleep out every night because in reality it rains sometimes.

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains: "the sun shines every day, on the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees, where the lemonade springs, where the bluebird sings."

In Reality: the weather is not always good, cigarettes are expensive (and taxed like crazy on top of that), and you have to make lemonade yourself from lemons that someone harvested from a tree, which was carefully tended to on a farm somewhere.

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains: "all the cops have wooden legs and the bulldogs all have rubber teeth and the hens lay soft boiled eggs."

In Reality: you got a ticket last week for speeding which you only did after you whipped around that jerk in the left-lane going fifteen under who never gets ticketed for that. And when dogs bite, it hurts. And you have to boil your own eggs.

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains: "you never change your socks and the little streams of alcohol come a-trickling down the rocks."

In Reality: Your feet smell. And you have to change your socks and wash the dirty ones. And you've got to pay for alcohol with money you had to bust your back to earn.

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains: You get anything you want.

In Reality: You get what you work for.

The Big Rock Candy Mountains: aren't real.

Reality: is.

Socialists live in the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

Capitalists live in Reality.


  1. What about "They hung the jerk who invented work?" If that isn't telling about bums (socialist, communists, etc.), I don't know what is. In reality its the jerks taking our hard earned money that we worked for.

  2. Yup! In the Big Rock Candy Mountains they hung him- In Reality, I guess they just chained him to a plow and made him work for them.

  3. The song is about hard-working people thrown out of work by the Great Depression, which was caused by not-so-hard working people delighted that no one was watching their banditry.

    The bandits believed that the market would solve all problems and was much wiser than ordinary people--or that's the line they gave then and now to the suckers who worked so hard to keep them in business.

    The song re-states the vision of America as a land of plenty, which brought the Puritans here, ultimately the song takes off from the Biblical idea of a land of milk and honey, a promised land, where work would be rewarded by God's provision of a cornucopia.

    Also, the song plays off the medieval ballad about "The Land of Cockaigne" where people had wonderful things to eat, which was not the case for medieval peasants.

    The song is not about bums or socialists but ordinary people who share a vision of a prosperous land where people who work hard are not starving, as people starved in the Great Depression and the earliest days of the colony at Plymouth.

    It's about not being punished for hitting the rails and looking for work and trying to keep ahead of being arrested for doing so.

    Learning about your country is hard work, but worth undertaking if you are not a lazy self-righteous bum.

  4. Hey- I appreciate your thoughts on the song. Your position is certainly well-thought out. I just have trouble buying that The Big Rock Candy Mountains is about "a prosperous land where people who work hard are not starving" when the song says "they hung the jerk that invented work..."

    But I would totally agree with you that many Americans at that time were suffering, and not because they were lazy socialists who were unwilling to work and expected government to give them everything they needed.

    I also agree that "the Great Depression... was caused by not-so-hard working people delighted that no one was watching their banditry." But I must disagree that they were free marketeers.

    The Great Depression happened for the same reason that the our current economic troubles did... an artificial expansion of the monetary supply by the government-sponsored central bank fueled runaway speculation, which mis-allocated resources to their least productive uses.

    Then the speculative bubble (the stock market) crashed and GDP was in the tank because investment capital had been destroyed instead of used to create real growth, value, and returns. The government / Fed exacerbated the problem by artificially tightening the money supply and passing job creation and "stimulus" bills that simply destroyed more productive capital by misallocating it to its least productive uses.

    For a more detailed (and HIGHLY entertaining) explanation, I cannot more strongly recommend the following video: