Bruce Cockburn – Call It Democracy

Canadian folkie Bruce Cockburn argued back in 1986, that the foreign policy of powerful countries is about making a buck, not lifting people in poor places out of their misery. As well, that international organizations are not benevolent, either. The International Monetary Fund is a target in one verse.

The IMF goes back to 1944, and on the face of it, with almost 200 member countries, seeks to encourage financial stability in countries dealing with low revenues, high debt, inflation, high unemployment, and more. The IMF works to foster international trade.

Cockburn figures the IMF does more harm than good, leaving developing countries in debt.

More generally, the IMF has been criticized for the conditions it has sometimes imposed on countries to get into their version of fiscal shape. This has meant getting troubled countries to reduce public spending to address government debt. The IMF has also been criticized for not been sensitive enough to local conditions and on-the-ground needs of the places it exists to serve.

Also by Cockburn: If A Tree Falls, If I Had A Rocket Launcher

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Chris Rea – Road to Hell

This 1989 song is widely interpreted to be about the M25 motorway (Greater London, England) that during rush hour can be more like a parking lot than a travel route. However, the lyrics draw a larger picture of economic and social decay. This includes the environment (polluted rivers), crime and, perhaps, overspending and debt.

Now, given traffic gridlock, is in fact the road to hell going to take some time to get to?

Ben Folds – All You Can Eat

The funky, accomplished piano solo in the middle is respite from the razor-sharped lyrics about American nationalism and patriotism, even zealotry in believing, “We’re No. 1.” It touches on consumer capitalism and materialism, contrasted with poor countries and their peoples that not only have none of the Wal-Mart goodies, but are viewed by Americans as primitives. Even hippies are thrown under the bus for not being genuine!

It seems to be a mean spirited song carrying punk rock vitriol despite the tender voice of Ben Folds and the basic piano, bass and drums instrumentation. It deals in stereotypes of Americans, of course, but also, given American decline with rising debt, high unemployment and the mortgage crisis, may be less relevant today than when it was released in 2003?