Electioneering By Radiohead

OK Computer

1997 | Rock

Spotify | Amazon

“Riot shields, voodoo economics. -- It's life, it's life. -- It's just business, cattle prods and the I.M.F. -- I trust I can rely on your vote.”


  • The album hit #21 on the Billboard 200.
  • The album was expected to fail by EMI because of its lack of commercial appeal. It instead skyrocketed the fame of the band globally.
  • In 2014, it was included by the Library of Congress in the National Recording Registry as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


Luke Tatum

After reading up a bit on this one, it looks like it was inspired by Noam Chomsky and a reaction to the globalization of the world economy. There was a movement against not globalization in general, but in the specific ways that everything began to go global in the 90's. This was a drive from the left, seeking more "democratic controls." Anti-corporation and so forth. Interestingly, libertarians of my stripe are also against the way that globalization has proceeded. But do I want more democratic control? No, precisely the oppposite. We need no governmental controls of any sort on the global economy! NAFTA and other such "free trade" agreements are not really about free trade at all, as the great Ron Paul always pointed out. They are managed trade agreements set up to favor certain groups. The pressures of competition will yield us the best results, not "democracy." The line from the song, "It's just business, cattle prods and the IMF; I trust I can rely on your vote," gets right at the heart of this, but seems to miss the point. Yes, the IMF is terrible. Yes, brutality against the protestors is terrible. Yes, people campaigning for votes so they can facilitate these things are terrible. But what do they all have in common? Government control! To suggest that we just need a more informed voting public, or that the people should be voting directly on the behavior of the IMF is ridiculous. The general mass of people can't even be relied on to use turn signals on their cars, let alone select the best leaders. Besides that, the no one running for office is worth electing!

Sherry Voluntary

This song reminds me that politics is a destructive dance. “When I go forward, you go back.” Politicians finding just the right tune to sing in order to make the voters dance. The voters know that they are being sweet talked, but they just can’t resist the dance. Also, they are all so enamored by the tune, that they often demonize those sitting out and not dancing. “You didn’t dance to our song! What’s wrong with you?” “If you don’t dance, you shouldn’t be allowed to be here!” It’s time to play a new tune. One that is made by each person dancing to their own tune and making their own music.

Nicky P

Andrew Brietbart popularized the idea that politics is downstream of culture. There are a lot of libertarians that for some reason bought hard into this fallacy. I'm not gonna tell you it works the other way either. As Sherry notes its a dance. A two-way street. Both things affect each each other. This song exemplifies the expectation of compromise we as citizens are expected to afford our politicians. Each cycle they make an offfer on what rights they're taking away and they give lofty reasons for it and when it's all done we compromise. The goal was never what they said in the short term. They have a long term goal but let us have the illusion of victory even when we gave something up. As Michael Malice says: "Conservatives are progressives going the speed limit." We're all driving toward statism either way.

Created By
Nicky P

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