Libertarian commentary on the show "The Walking Dead"Submitted by Delysid on Fri, 03/02/2012 - 17:27
I don’t endorse this show as a masterpiece of libertarian ideals, but as a man who views the world through the lens of liberty I find this show to be highly entertaining. I believe my hero Murray Rothbard would have also enjoyed the show. Below I provide my insight on some of the scenes from the series that I find amusing…
*Warning! Contains spoilers!*
Background information: The series portrays a post-apocalyptic world in which a zombie pandemic killed most of the world’s population. Traditional forms of money, like paper currency and gold, are considered worthless and not even discussed or considered by the characters. The most valuable goods in society are weapons (especially guns), food, medicine, and safe shelter. Goods found out in the community not blatantly owned by a living person, such as abandoned homes or cars on the highway and the contents, are considered fair game by the characters in the show. Ownership of property is sometimes contested by the characters, sometimes peacefully and sometimes violently. There is no official government authority to oversee contracts, protect property, or interfere in the lives of people. (Although rudimentary governments exist as certain characters do emerge as leaders and make decisions on behalf of the others in their groups). Natural rights are both cherished and violated in the series.
*When I initially started my critique I was going to do it by episode, but I have serious time restraints so I have to cherry pick certain scenes throughout the series as of 3/2/2012.
The show, from a libertarian perspective, starts very dramatically with a shootout between the cops (two of whom are central characters) and alleged criminals. The protagonists receive word of a police chase on their radio, so they intercept the chase and place spikes across the road. The spikes cause the fleeing car to flip several times in a violent car accident. Initially it seems to be an act of police brutality (which is far too common in our society) as nothing is known about the situation by the viewers except that the car is fleeing the police. In typical Hollywood fashion, though, the occupants of the car emerge from the car crash shooting at the police, seemingly “justifying” the violent cessation of the car chase by the central characters. The scene really establishes the attitude of the two policemen protagonists throughout the series. “Do what it takes.” The show does not necessarily depict how cops should act, but how they do act. Throughout the series both of the protagonists commit acts that, as a libertarian, I find both detestable and noble (sometimes simultaneously).
A major plot of the show revolves around the characters seeking out the help of the government agency Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although we libertarians cringe at the thought of turning to the federal government for help, the esteem of the CDC held by the characters is a realistic portrayal of popular opinion in our society. The depiction of the CDC, however, will amuse the libertarians in the crowd. I don’t think it was intentional by the writers (because they tried to portray the government as the ultimate source of hope and the savior of humanity) but they perfectly and beautifully demonstrated the folly and incompetence of government. When the survivors arrive at the CDC center, they find it completely destroyed accept for one government scientist living in relative luxury inside. The viewers find out that despite having unlimited resources, the government completely failed at understanding or stopping the pandemic or helping society. The government scientists basically lived in luxury while the rest of society died traumatically. (The show says the government officials committed suicide basically out of shame, but we know that the decision makers who doom our society, like Ben Bernanke, George Bush, or Obomba, never punish themselves for dooming society.) Regardless of the intentions of the writers, they depict government as being completely incompetent at solving society’s problems.
Even though government completely failed, pockets of survival exist. I interpret this as a testament to humanity and to freedom and as an insult to government. (Again, the intentions’ of the writers isn’t as important as how we interpret it.) The show takes place in the Deep South, and naturally there are rednecks thriving in the zombie apocalypse. I love this aspect of the show. There is no doubt in my mind that if a zombie apocalypse did occur, the rednecks in the woods would long outlive any functioning government.
Best of all about the show, society still functions without a government. There are some abuses of rights by some of the characters (like handcuffing delusional characters and making unjustified decisions for the groups) but there is also an underlying respect for property rights. Several potentially violent situations are averted because the characters peacefully negotiated and traded with each other. That is how society is supposed to function. There are other instances of violence and self-defense, but the show does a good job, in my opinion, of depicting both sides of controversy.
Overall there are some very stupid aspects of “The Walking Dead,” but the show is entertaining. I literally laughed out loud when they tried to scientifically explain the zombie disease (because it was so ridiculous) and I cringed at moments when government authority was praised and human rights were violated, but those cheesy scenes are offset by some very real and intelligent situations. I was impressed at how the show created a few internal debates for me.
Anyway, there are many other libertarian aspects of the show that make it, in my opinion, worth watching.