TAMPA, February 24, 2013 ― “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s all the noise, noise, noise, noise!”
There’s not much to like about The Grinch before his sentimental conversion at the top of Mount Crumpet. But it’s hard not to sympathize with him just a little when he utters those words. If quiet was in short supply in 1966 Whoville, it’s completely nonexistent in 2013 America.
I walked into a Jimmy John’s sub shop last week for the first time in two years. They recently began offering all of their subs as lettuce wraps, making them permissible as an occasional treat for primals. I knew I had missed the delicious #9. What I hadn’t missed was the music. At 12:30 in the afternoon, Jimmy John’s plays it at nightclub volume. Ordering and waiting the 1-2 minutes it takes to get your food is bad enough. Eating there is out of the question.
There is scarcely a restaurant anywhere that doesn’t pipe music throughout its dining room and onto its patio. Gas stations now blare music at customers while they pump their gas. Supermarkets, retail stores at the mall, and even public parks have all followed suit.
If it’s not music, then it’s television. Doctor’s office waiting rooms now bombard the ears and the psyche with vapid programming clattering off every uncarpeted surface. So do most auto repair shops.
There is virtually no spot accessible to the public that does not fill the soundscape with music or television. Even libraries are following the trend.
I know I sound like an old guy in baggy gray pants and a Humphrey Bogart hat, but I’m not. I love music. I love loud music. I played in bands for over twenty years and still like to crank up my Marshall amp and let some AC/DC rip on my vintage guitar.
I have nothing against music or television and certainly respect private property owners’ right to play either as loud as they wish to.
I just wonder when and where 21st century Americans ever experience quiet, outside of their jobs. When do they have the kinds of stimulating conversations with friends that are impossible when shouting over a restaurant sound system? When do they just sit and think, reflect or daydream?
It’s possible that the answer is “never.”
The term “noise pollution” is generally associated with the left and its never ending quest to impede commerce and industry. The war on noise fits nicely into the leftist worldview that when humans are left free to pursue their happiness, they naturally destroy the environment, including the sound environment, causing harm to themselves, each other and (gasp!) their furry co-inhabitants.
But does noise pollution also help cause big government?
It may sound like a stretch. There are no studies that I am aware of that investigate this question. There is a correlation. The world is getting noisier and government is getting bigger and more intrusive. At the risk of committing the “correlation indicates causation” fallacy, we can at least speculate.
Ultimately, popular consent is the reason that we have a $4 trillion federal government that together with local and state governments consumes more than half of our incomes and meddles in every aspect of our lives. Sadly, as much as libertarians might want to believe that a revolution is brewing, most people generally support the leviathan state.
They support it because they do not recognize the cause and effect relationships between government policies and the human misery that results from them. They don’t recognize how minimum wage laws cause unemployment, how inflation by the central bank causes higher consumer prices and lower standards of living, how military or covert intervention in other countries increases terrorism or how the Wagner Act helped cause manufacturing to migrate overseas.
None of this requires superior intelligence to figure out and Americans aren’t generally stupid. Just look at the marvels they have created in engineering, computing and industry. If they can’t solve some of these elementary problems, it must be because they simply don’t try. Maybe that’s because they can never hear themselves think.
What if Americans started having conversations over dinner in a quiet room, like they used to? What if they ran or worked out without their iPods or Mp3s? What if they left their radios home when they went to the beach or the park and let their minds wander amidst the soothing sounds of nature?
They might find themselves feeling less stressed. There might be less stress-related diseases like hypertension and cardiovascular disease. There might be less obesity.
Who knows? We might even get less government.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.