As a millennial, my main memory of U2’s lead singer Bono is the time he and his bandmates forcibly downloaded one of their albums to my Apple iTunes account for free. (The random songs still pop up from time to time, for the record).
But this is apparently not the only area where Bono is generous. His charitable work and activism has led to tens of billions in AIDS relief for African countries and the cancellation of debt for some of the world’s poorest nations. Given some of this work, along with his status as a member of Hollywood royalty, many might assume Bono holds left-of-center views like many of his peers. (And by left of center I mean, anti-free market, pro-big-government opinions.)
Yet Bono recently sat down for an interview with The New York Times to promote his forth-coming book, “Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story.” And in the interview, he dropped some pro-capitalism bombs that may surprise the casual observer.
In the conversation, the interviewer posed the question, “Maybe this is too much of straw-man argument, but it’s easy to imagine a young activist looking through the book and seeing praise for George W. Bush and Bill Clinton—not exactly beloved figures these days—and thinking you’re out of touch. Or reading a sentence like ‘Why is there hunger in a world of surplus?’ and wondering whether you ever asked that question to all the billionaires you write about glowingly. So do you give credence to shifting ideas about activism and change in the same way that you give credence to shifting ideas about the pop world?”
To which Bono responded, “I ended up as an activist in a very different place from where I started. I thought that if we just redistributed resources, then we could solve every problem. I now know that’s not true.”
“There’s a funny moment when you realize that as an activist: The off-ramp out of extreme poverty is, ugh, commerce, it’s entrepreneurial capitalism,” Bono said. “I spend a lot of time in countries all over Africa, and they’re like, Eh, we wouldn’t mind a little more globalization actually. I would point out that there has been a lot of progress over the years.”
— Rothmus 🏴 (@Rothmus) October 26, 2022
(We are officially standing in our chairs, jumping up and down, and screaming over here at BASEDPolitics. YAS, Bono!!!)
He is not one bit wrong. According to the organization Human Progress, “The average income in the most capitalist quartile of countries is an astonishing 6 times higher.”
Not only that, but “The bottom 10 percent of income earners in the most capitalist countries make, on average, 7 times more than the poorest 10 percent in the least free economies,” and “more than 27 percent of people in the most socialist economies live in extreme poverty (as defined by the World Bank as an income of less than $1.90 a day), whereas just 1.8 percent of people in freest economies live in extreme poverty.”
Bono must’ve read up on these stats.
He went on to state, “globalization has brought more people out of poverty than any other -ism. If somebody comes to me with a better idea, I’ll sign up. I didn’t grow up to like the idea that we’ve made heroes out of businesspeople, but if you’re bringing jobs to a community and treating people well, then you are a hero. That’s where I’ve ended up.”
And he concluded, “Turning the establishment into the enemy — it’s a little easy, isn’t it?”
Far be it from me to concede that the “establishment” is pro-capitalism in this country—far from it. Unfettered free-market capitalism has few friends within either party in power at the moment.
But, as someone who previously worked in the music industry, allow me to interpret. Many artists, particularly of Bono’s generation believe in “fighting the man”—not only financially but for personal autonomy. To many, “the man” is their boss or their company…and businesses are associated with capitalism. So, in this context, his point tracks.
And just in case you weren’t yet convinced that Bono is totally based, he also offered these gems in the same interview.
“I’m for different T-shirts these days. I still don’t like Che Guevara T-shirts. [Expletive] Che Guevara.”
Guevara was a Marxist leader in the Cuban Revolution that many on the Left lionize and wear on popular t-shirts. For the record, he was a racist, a homophobe, and a mass murderer.
“I thought it was important for me to show…how it works to be an activist. I often instead use the word ‘actualist,’ because activists sometimes like to stay on the outside and criticize, whereas the ‘actualist’ wants to get [expletive] done.”
(We share this sentiment here at BASEDPolitics. “Activism” that doesn’t lead to tangible results is a vanity project).
You can read the full interview here. But let’s just say, with quotes like this, I don’t think Bono will need to give this book away for free—capitalists will gladly buy it.