Sam Packer, media campaign manager, reviews the autobiography of Glen Jacobs aka Kane
After reading Knox County, Tennessee mayor and wrestling legend Glen Jacobs’ autobiography, the first question to ponder is why it is that more politicians and celebrities can't be like Kane. Mayor Kane is a page turner which combines an insider’s view of the most successful period in wrestling history with the political considerations and personal history of the self-proclaimed libertarian mayor of the Tennessee city.
Unlike the seemingly endless procession of well-meaning but ultimately vain and bossy Hollywood celebs who demand more socialism from their Malibu mansions, Kane relates the authentic support for capitalism that his steady rise to stardom as an independent contractor working the wrestling circuit gave him.
The format is pleasingly simple - Jacobs spends the first two thirds of the book walking the reader through his life and wrestling career as “Kane”. For anyone who, like me, enjoyed watching the Big Red Machine cut a swathe of destruction alongside the Undertaker, Rock, Stone Cold and a series of others at the turn of the millennium, this is fascinating. But it’s the final third which steals the show. That deals with his political development and eventual political career.
That’s not to say that the two are totally separated; the book is strongest when Jacobs relates how the realities of his career in WWE (the world’s largest wrestling business) influenced his political outlook and how the free-market and competition improved the wrestling business. His explanation of how a system of local monopolies (“regional territories”) ran wrestling for decades only to eventually first be competed with and eventually overtaken by the WWE - which became the first wrestling business to utilise nationwide television - is a textbook analysis of how competition and technological development result in better outcomes for consumers.
For the politically rather than wrestling-minded, the final few chapters which consider Jacobs' own political journey towards the Knox County mayorality, along with a series of major ideological questions, will be the focus of the book. Perhaps reflecting how much polish is needed for politics in the US, Jacobs’ writing style is much improved in this part of the book. Maybe it’s unsurprising: he probably hasn’t been asked for detailed histories of his career in a monograph before, whereas clear and concise messaging is exactly what he needed to become mayor (as it turns out, via a primary victory by just 23 votes).
Reflecting the deeply concerning trend of socialism’s growing influence on their side of the Atlantic as well as ours, Jacobs embarks of a full-throttled take down of the disastrous creed. At times it reads as though he could be a TaxPayers’ Alliance campaigner (there’s always time!), with striking echoes of our own Stand Against Socialism campaign. He takes famous quotes from presidents Eisenhower and Reagan, offers his own version of Mrs Thatcher’s “other people’s money” argument - that is, how socialism is easy when you don’t consider who you’re getting the money from. He goes on to explain how socialism never delivers anything close to its objectives and why, ultimately, it is the case that freedom and the free market offer the best results. Many of his arguments mirror our recently launched Restate the Case series, which we launched on International Labour Day to help people like Jacobs make the case for freedom.
He analyses the break-up of America’s state-backed monopoly telephone company in the early 1980s and the incredible impact this had on the telecoms market and the growth of mobile technology. He describes swathes of the political class with the wrestling term “marks” (people who should know better but think it’s real), explaining how self-serving collectivist politicians hand themselves more power and influence while convincing voters and themselves it’s all for a good cause. One line from a chapter focusing on his character’s time as power-hungry “Corporate Kane” is especially prescient : “I’m constantly amazed that while few people say they are satisfied with government leaders, many appear eager to give them more power.”
The bulk of his focus is American, but there is plenty on the universal principles of personal liberty, fiscal discipline, accountable and competent government. He covers notable international thinkers like Hayek, Von Mises, and Kane’s own friends Rand and Ron Paul. He also speaks powerfully to the importance of good local government, which with sky-high town hall salaries and across the board council tax rises will be music to the ears of the British reader. At the same time, one of Jacobs’ strengths is explaining important philosophical points and ideas simply, often by using cases from his career. He relates the absurdity of certain labour restrictions in a tale of how New York City’s union regulations prevented him from pushing a waste bin backstage at a WWE event. Only once it entered the arena and was visible to fans could he lay a hand on it, as its designation would shift from “dumpster” to “prop.”
Jacobs explores some of his attempts to persuade colleagues of his political perspective. He explains his efforts to persuade several environmentally-minded friends (such as fellow legendary wrestler Daniel Bryan) that he largely shares their opinion. He emphasises that, as the TPA has repeatedly argued, the free-market offers by far the best solutions to environmental threats as a concern for the environment correlates almost perfectly with economic growth. He carefully takes apart recent “green” efforts to use environmental concerns as a front for socialism.
Mayor Kane is a succinct merger of the worlds of wrestling and pro-freedom politics, reflecting its author’s own life and opinions. Whilst the book largely separates the two, the strands meet in its analysis of the wrestling business which provide an excellent case-study in the positive power of freedom. Jacobs’ political analysis is strong and his emphasis on the importance of local and state power is a point often missed by commentators and activists alike. Those interested in the arguments for liberty, made with a unique twist, would be well served reading this book. The TPA’s efforts to increase freedom would be a lot easier if there were more politicians and public figures like Kane!