Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Statebusters II

A few months ago I wrote an article about how the movie Ghostbusters has a strong libertarian theme. Last night I finally got around to renting Ghostbusters II and I’m proud to say they didn’t stray from their roots.

In the opening scenes, we learn the ghostbusters’ business ended because they were sued for saving the city (just like in The Incredibles). But it wasn’t private citizens or even private businesses that created the legal troubles. It was the government. “[We] ended up getting sued by every state, county and city agency in New York.” -Winston

A few scenes later we learn the city didn’t even pay the ghostbusters for services rendered. When Bill Murray’s character tried to talk to the mayor about being screwed over, Jack Hardemeyer, the mayor’s assistant, intercepted him. The mayor’s up for re-election and doesn’t want to be associated with the once-heroes. Power is more important than paying what’s owed.

While in court for tearing up 1st avenue (granted, they shouldn’t have done that), we learn just how much the government is pushing them around. The judge begins the trial by saying he doesn’t believe in ghosts and denies any reference to them during the case (odd because five years ago, the city was attacked by a giant marshmallow man, but I guess the judge thought that was just the Michelin guy on steroids). Then we learn the ghostbusters have a judicial restraining order that bars them from performing services as paranormal investigators or eliminators. It’s like keeping a firefighter away from a burning building because last time he put out a raging inferno he got the carpet wet.

Minutes later the judge rescinded the order, not because it was the right thing to do but because he was being attacked by ghosts and needed their help. So much for judges being completely neutral.

This allows the ghostbusters to restart their old business, which they use as a jumping point to better investigate the growing evil presence in the city. After they figure out what’s going on, they go see the mayor to warn him. He waves them off. The wormy assistant takes this as an opportunity to have the ghostbusters committed so they wouldn’t hurt the mayor’s re-election. Hardemeyer’s a typical bureaucrat, pushing around other people for greater power and prestige.

The mayor releases them only after it really does look like the world’s about to end. He uses the ghostbusters—the world’s best chance—as a last resort, endangering the entire planet so he doesn’t have to admit he was wrong to ignore their warnings. Yet even in this darkest hour, the bureaucrat tries to convince the mayor otherwise. Thankfully, it didn’t work.

Ghostbusters II builds on the importance of local knowledge and liberated societies. Authorities are more often a barrier than an ally and are willing to ignore overwhelming evidence if it suits their needs. For heroes to be heroes they need more freedom, not less.

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