I’ve read through the lyrics of the recent country song by Oliver Anthony that has gone viral. It’s titled “Rich Men North of Richmond.” I was pleased to see that in a recent interview, Anthony stated, “Find a way to start fixing those problems. Find a way to start having good conversations with people around you. That’s all I want out of this.”

Good for him. That’s why I’m writing this post. Anthony has raised a number of issues and I think I can provide some insights. I hope it will be helpful to many who have resonated with his message.

First, my overall comment is that I don’t doubt the genuineness of his feelings. And you can see by the way the song has spread and from many of the heartfelt comments on it that he has struck a nerve.

Second, I won’t analyze each line in order but will give an overall comment and then get to specifics. My overall comment is that Anthony is right to point to an elite that wants to control us. We saw that with lockdowns and with the feds muscling the various social media not to allow certain viewpoints to be expressed. We see it in so many ways: the feds trying to tell us what kind of kitchen utensils we may have, what kinds of cars we may drive, whether we can invest in China, etc. I could go on and on.

At the same time, it’s important not to imagine that the elite or the feds or anyone else have power over us that they don’t have. At times in the song, I think Oliver Anthony mistakenly thinks that.

Now to some specifics.



I’ve been sellin’ my soul, workin’ all day / Overtime hours for bulls**t pay / So I can sit out here and waste my life away / Drag back home and drown my troubles away.


Are you really selling your soul? To me that would mean being told to lie on the job, either to fellow workers or to customers. If that’s the situation, get another job. This is an especially good time to look. Or, more likely, are you working hard at something you don’t particularly like. If so, try one of two options: (1) get another job or (2) figure out ways to make the job more to your taste; these might be little moves on the margin but they might add up.

What does “bulls**t pay” mean? Since it’s overtime, you’re getting time and a half, right? In America that’s typically not bad. Figure out how to cut your expenses, even by a little, so that you can save up and give yourself some flexibility to get another job. And one way of cutting your expenses has to do with the next sentence.

I assume that “drown your troubles away” means drinking alcohol to blot out the bad feelings. Be aware that it doesn’t work. So stop it. Instead, use that time to talk to a friend, read a self-help book, go for a walk, or any number of things that are better than drinking.

In short, recognize that you have agency; you have power. Use it.


It’s a damn shame what the world’s gotten to / For people like me and people like you / Wish I could just wake up and it not be true / But it is, oh, it is.


It is a damn shame that the world’s gotten to. I write about it often on this blog. But there’s a lot of good too for people like me (the rich) and people like you. Think of how much our standards of living have improved, not only over the last two centuries and not only over the last 50 years, but even over the last 20. Think of the things we take for granted in the household, whether powerful computers that we can hold in our hand and do things that Dick Tracy would have envied or simple improvements that, added up, make a huge difference. Think of the treatments we have for various diseases. Think of the fact that if we search for a few minutes we can often find answers to questions that, 30 years ago, would have required hours in a library.

When you think about these things, there’s a chance that you’ll get some hope, which is something you sorely need.


Livin’ in the new world / With an old soul / These rich men north of Richmond / Lord knows they all just wanna have total control / Wanna know what you think, wanna know what you do / And they don’t think you know, but I know that you do / ‘Cause your dollar ain’t safe s**t and it’s taxed to no end / ‘Cause of rich men north of Richmond.


It is true that the feds have stepped up their surveillance of us: our conversations, our comments on various social media, and our bank accounts. It sucks. They shouldn’t. We should push to stop them. Some of them want total control; some of them want “just” more control. Let’s work together to figure out ways to stop–and reverse–that control. One way would be to repeal the USA PATRIOT Act, one of George W. Bush’s worst legacies. Another way would be to abolish the TSA. We need to think hard about how to do that. But thinking about it and organizing to achieve it can help reduce our despair.

Fortunately, though, although in the last century the dollar has lost over 95% of its value, it’s still worth something. You can still buy lots with it. And yes, we pay high taxes. And, by the way, we rich people pay even higher taxes, both absolute but also as a precent of our income. So let’s work to reduce taxes, recognizing that to do that, we must first reduce government spending.


I wish politicians would look out for miners / And not just minors on an island somewhere / Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothin’ to eat / And the obese milkin’ welfare.


Very clever first two lines.

It is true that the obese are “milkin’ welfare.” So are the non-obese. And welfare is more general than food stamps and TANF. It also includes federal payments to farmers and a whole lot of other payments. Regarding the folks in the street with “nothin’ to eat,” one minimum thing we should do is fight back against local governments that sometime make it illegal for private citizens to feed them.

Recognize also that even some rich people want to reduce the amount of power the government has over us. This “rich man west of Richmond” who’s writing this post certainly does.

Finally, I’ll end with the last two paragraphs of one of my favorite poems, Desiderata. It read it out loud to myself when the Immigration and Naturalization “Service” was trying to deport me and I needed inspiration. It worked.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

I especially like the “you have a right to be here” part.