Libertarianism is an ideology that holds individual freedom as its highest virtue, and asserts, basically, that a person ought to be free to live their life however they please so long as it doesn’t harm others. Paradoxically, Libertarianism is at once the core of the American mythos, and a fringe-movement in her politics. Libertarian ideas are enshrined in the nation’s constitution, the writings of its founding fathers, the fiction of Mark Twain, and the classic Westerns of Hollywood and some of the iconic characters of today – and yet, while the popularity of these ideas remains strong, in many ways the country grows ever more authoritarian by the year.
I wrote this list a month ago and ended up not submitting it, as the site is so apolitical (and that’s a nice thing), but in light of the revelations about the current administration’s invasive surveillance, targeting of political enemies and so on, I’ve reconsidered. This is not intended as a treatise on the merits and flaws of libertarianism, for which this isn’t the place, and I am unqualified; but simply, here are ten characters (and groupings of characters) from film and TV which, for better or worse, exhibit libertarian traits and extol libertarian ideals.
10. Ron Swanson – Parks and Recreation
“Libertarianism is all about individual liberty and it should never be defined by the terms Liberal or Conservative”
I’ll be the first to admit it. There are characters on this list in which I will be postulating and overreaching – searching for a Libertarianism that just isn’t there. Taking a few Libertarian qualities the character may possess, then filling in the blanks to fit my own purpose. Then, there’s Ron Swanson. He’s a good place to start this list, because there’s really no subtext in his politics, and if you want a crash-course in Libertarianism and can’t be bothered reading up on some Mises or Hayek, he’s a good place to start. He values privacy, self-reliance, the freedom to quantities of bacon and eggs which will probably kill him, the function of the marketplace -which he astutely equates with survival in the wilderness- and savings (“I promised myself when I started burying gold in my yard, I was never going to be a hoarder or a miser about it”). While the show pokes a lot of fun at his eccentricity and cantankerousness (common libertarian traits), he is often the show’s voice of reason.
This article was first posted on June 12, 2013