1967 | Folk
Spotify | Amazon
“So, it's goodbye Mrs. Durkin, I'm sick and tired of workin'. -- No more I'll dig your praties, no longer I'll be poor. -- As sure as my name is Barney, I'm off to Califarny. -- Instead of digging praties, I'll be digging lumps of gold.”
- "Molly Durkin" originally "Mursheen Durkin" is an Irish folk song popularized in the US by Murty Rabbett in the 1940s. The Irish Rovers later changed the title again to Goodbye Mrs. Durkin.
- The Unicorn is the debut studio album of the Canadian Irish folk music group The Irish Rovers.
- The title track "The Unicorn", is a recording of Shel Silverstein's poem, featuring Glen Campbell on lead guitar. It hit #2 on the US Adult Contemporary Charts, and #7 on the U.S. Hot 100.
THE HOT TAKES
This rather cheery Irish tune tells the tale of a man traveling from Ireland to the United States, seeking his fortune. He's tired of working, after all, and would love to just make a fortune and live his days in leisure. Wouldn't we all? So away he goes, seeking what he perceives to be the easiest money available at the time: gold in California. While the spirit of the song isn't libertarian per se, this shows a great economic insight. When the price of something is high, it generates a huge amount of interest in learning how to produce and sell that good. This is supply and demand at work. In the case of the California gold rush, there was an available supply of a very valuable good indeed, and people of all stripes poured in. You may not have heard them called entrepreneurs before, but that's exactly what they were. The marvelous thing about all of this is that it doesn't require that anyone studies economics. The Austrian School, specifically, describes economic reality. It's not a method of creating intimidating and complex graphs to push policy proposals. It's logic, pure and simple. Beautiful stuff, if you ask me. Economic insights from an unlikely source, and a fun song to boot.
Irish immigration has had such a big influence on the building of The United States, so there are lots of Irish songs about leaving home and coming here. This song is about an Irish immigrant who is tired of digging “praties,” Irish for potatoes, and is setting off to seek better opportunities in America, namely digging for gold. While many Irish and other immigrants came thinking they would dig for gold, most found other employment. Irish women became domestics and Irish men took the more dangerous and unskilled labour jobs. Sounds a lot like the “illegals” many fret and act just generally terrible about now. You see, there is a myth in this country that on the whole, immigration is bad, when really it’s just the opposite. Most immigrants work, and most do jobs that free up natives to move into higher paying positions. Also immigrants aren’t only workers but consumers, and provide new markets for businesses. Suffice it to say, there is a lot of good information out there about how immigration is actually a really good thing. Look how much the Irish immigrants alone have added to the richness of the country, and multiply that by Jews, Chinese, Indians, Russians, Germans, and the list goes on. We are better for immigration not worse. As libertarians we should always challenge the political talking points of the day and see whether or not they actually hold water. Most of the time, there is so much more to the truth than you will ever get from politicians who are trying to sway you to their thinking in order to gain power.
The thing I appreciate about this song is the narrator's refusal to stop or let anyone else hold him back from the life he wants for himself. He is actively pursuing his ideals wherever they might take him. At each point he learns something about himself and keeps pressing on. I think libertarians lean a little hard into the personal responsibility at times. While being responsible for ones self is a core tenet of the philosophy it is most assuredly not the end. Our ability to work together is perhaps the greatest tool mankind has in its arsenal. It's the thing that has created the most amazing of the marvels we have today and turning our backs on that is silly. The thing we really need to get the rest of the world to focus on isn't that rugged individualism is the end but a beginning. We as libertarians don't throw out the lessons that the individual carries in an effort to focus on the collective. We must deal with men as individuals to create the whole we desire. We don't redesign a new car from scratch every time we want a better one, we modify bit by bit til the whole is greater.