Tuesday, November 23, 2004


I was watching Ghostbusters last night when I discovered how much of a libertarian movie it is, especially in the realm of the decentralized nature of knowledge. Think about it:

At the beginning of the movie the ghostbusters are kicked out of the state-run university right after they make a major discovery about the nature of ghosts. I argue that a private organization would have a) insisted that the scientists formalize their methods a long time ago (one of the reasons the state kicked them out of the university) and b) examined their new evidence (the ghostbusters caught the apparition on tape and have an eyewitness).

After they become successful entrepreneurs, the state (manifested this time by the EPA), shuts down the reactor—a piece of technology they admit they don’t understand—and end up hastening Armageddon. This is all due to unfounded claims that the containment field is damaging to the environment.

The ghostbusters are then arrested, accused of violating EPA standards. This is happening as an untold number of ghosts spill out into New York City proper.

The mayor releases the ghostbusters from their control not because it was wrong to arrest them or because it’s the right thing to do but because Bill Murray reminded him he’d be saving millions of registered voters. In other words, the mayor doesn’t care about saving people, he cares about being re-elected. After realizing his job’s at stake, he’s willing to hand the ghostbusters unlimited state resources (which they didn’t really use, except to get to the building in question).

In Ghostbusters, the scientist, with the local knowledge about a wild theory, is the hero, fighting to save the world against ghosts and the state that gets in the way of him acting on his local knowledge. More after I watch Ghostbusters II.


Anonymous said...

Hmm, I'd never examined "Ghostbusters" before (even though it was one of my favorite childhood movies), yet it is very fun and intriguing to look at movies and certain television shows for underlying messages (such as the anti-state one you mentioned in Ghostbusters.)

Anonymous said...

I find David's commentary on Ghostbusters unique and insightful, given that I am a movie buff. Placing Ghostbusters in the context of this kind of social satire only adds to the humor and incompetence of William Atherton's Walter Peck, as well as showing the outright ignorance and hypocrisy in environmental movements.

David's insight would also be greatly appreciated regarding "The Incredibles"--a film that just screams for tort reform (as well it should!) and its suppression of progress in society.

Anonymous said...

Most awesome post ever.

As noncorporeal beings, ghosts would hardly be under the jurisdiction of the EPA.

I would personally nominate the DEA for that position, as they are accustomed to battling noncorporeal concepts while failing to understand the underlying science.

And hey, if it were a private organization, Bill Murray would have reminded the Big Man In Charge that he'd be saving millions of dollars of revenue, rather than millions of votes. And he likely would have let him go, not because it was right, not because he cares about saving people, but because he cares about keeping his job. The knife of Saving My Own Ass cuts both ways...

-Anonymous #3

David said...

Actually, if it were a private organization, it never would have happened in the first place. Private organizations aren't allowed to arrest people or mess with their stuff.

Anonymous said...

And as a side note, economists never claim that firms act in the best interest of the people (though they end up doing just that) while that is exactly what some people claim government does or is supposed to do.