Thursday, December 25, 2014

LOTR : the return of the king

One message of Return of the King with which surely libertarians can relate is the importance of courage in the face of overwhelming opposition.  Even when it seems as if Aragorn, the true king of Gondor, has abandoned the fight and defeat is certain Theodin, King of Rohan, rides in to battle.  Even when forbidding mountains and an army of ten thousand orcs stands between Frodo and the fires of mount doom he and Samwise proceed valiantly into what appears to be certain doom. And why not? If the cause is noble enough, as surely our struggle for the free society is, then what  choice do you have but to take up arms? So even when every media outlet, political candidate and etatist intellectual espouses the belief that central planning is the only path forward for our society we must not succumb to the temptation of defeatism and withdraw from the struggle.
There is also a certain agreeable strand of feminism in the movie. Instead of asserting that men and women are equal, or if not or should be made to be so, it is precisely Lady Éowyn's femininity that allows her to slay the Witch King of Angmar. The differences between men and women should not be denied but celebrated.
In the siege of Gondor we have at last the good war, the just war, entirely defensive in nature. This is quite different from Western military adventures, which occur not at home but in other nations and are motivated not so much by the necessity of self preservation but by base economic interests and the machinations of the imperialist classes. There are no merchants of death lobbying for wars of aggression in Rohan or Gondor, only brave knights taking up the heroic struggle for the freedom of their people.
While it is tempting to look at the roles of Aragorn and the Stewart of Gondor as a reiteration of the myth of the benevolent despot perhaps there is a more sophisticated interpretation than simply the modern idea that we are always one election away from choosing the right technocrats to command the state apparatus. The kings of middle earth, and indeed the kings of old on actual earth, were not exactly analogous with modern governments. They had nowhere near the powers of coercive taxation, debasement of money or arbitrary regulation which exist today. The omnipotent state is still a relatively recent invention. Libertarians are not anarchists (without rulers) per se, not necessarily opposed to the notion of rulers entirely. Instead we demand that all relationships be voluntary and uncoerced. Why not view the illegitimate rule of Wormtongue in Rohan and the Stewart in Gondor as an involuntary, deceitful relationship between ruler and ruled and contrast with the good, healthy and voluntary rule of the true kings. What is wrong with a king who serves his peoples interests, who does not rule through plunder but instead through voluntary means, fighting personally for their freedom in battle and leading the charge against the forces of evil?
All in all it was an incredible film, with several recurring libertarian themes and aside from that a cinematic masterpiece.

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