Welcome to the Future

Chris Cardiff notes that Brad Paisley has put the libertarian optimism of Matt Ridley, Deirdre McCloskeyand me – to music in his new song and video “Welcome to the Future”:

When I was a young boy, I dreamed of having my own jukebox. Jukeboxes always had this huge selection of great songs compared to the few 45 singles I owned. And you could select whichever songs you liked just by pushing a button instead of waiting for your favorite songs to play on the radio. Of course, in my imagination I owned a standard floor-sized jukebox, not something the size of a credit card that also records video.

Brad Paisley brought back these memories with the opening lyrics of his hit song, “Welcome to the Future.” He dreamed of his own floor-sized arcade game when he was a boy – now he’s got one on his phone. “Welcome to the Future” starts with a familiar theme: technology-driven product innovation. But Paisley uses the second stanza to segue to the more profound theme of social change.

On the surface, the second stanza continues the theme of technological change as it contrasts writing letters to video conferencing. But it is really making a deeper point when you realize his grandfather wrote the letters from his base in the Philippines, where he was fighting the Japanese during World War II. Paisley illustrates the transformative power of economic freedom, when he sings that he “was on a video chat this morning, with a company in Tokyo.”  From mortal enemies to premiere trading partners in a generation.

Paisley’s final stanza evokes the most powerful image of social change. The mood changes as all the instruments are stripped away so it’s just Paisley and his guitar. I won’t spoil it for you but I will say that when I first heard this part, it gave me chills.