3 Libertarian Lessons in The LEGO Movie

Photo by Brickset

Photo by Brickset

LEGO Movie. Oh my dear sweet LEGO Movie. As if 100 minutes crammed full of childhood nostalgia wasn’t enough, you had to go and fill the film with deliciously subversive libertarian messages.

You sure do know how to make a grown man swoon.

But hold on. You might remember conservatives calling for parents to boycott the film. They were up in arms about the so-called “anti-business” message in the film.

Those conservatives missed the point entirely.

They seemed to be more than a little ticked off that the writers decided to call the film’s villain “President Business.” That, to them, sent a message that business is evil.

Hold on a sec. Did they miss that the first part of his name is “President”?

That is a huge piece of symbolism that many have overlooked.

President Business, in fact, represents crony-capitalism, or the marrying of government and business.

Don’t believe me? Read on to the first libertarian lesson of the film.

1. Crony capitalism is a very bad thing

If there’s one thing libertarians and conservatives both hate it’s when business and government collude to stomp out competition. We often call this rent seeking behavior.

And what is the first thing we learn about President Business?

He controls a world full of strict rules, where he owns pretty much everything including the dumbed-down TV show everyone watches, the song they listen to that reminds them that “Everything is Awesome,” voting machines, surveillance systems and the overpriced coffee shops. Oh and he also controls the police force, which he uses to crush anyone who steps out of line or tries to do anything outside of their given instructions.

That doesn’t sound like Capitalism to me.

When you upset President Business, or do something that’s not part of his plans, you will face the wrath of the government.

If you step out of line, President Business will send an army of police after you, like he does to the film’s central character Emmet, a lowly friendless construction worker who ends up entangled in a plot to end President Business tyrannical reign.

And we learn that President Business’s strict rules, which the government enforces, lead to less innovation, creation and happiness. Sure, the worker bees in Emmet’s hometown of Bricksburg can build by-the-book skyscrapers, but there is literally no one creating a unique product to disrupt what little market place there is.

That this world is depicted in a bad light is something any libertarian or conservative should sympathize with.

Just look at Bricksburg,  where President Business is in control, and compare it to the lawless world of Cloud Cuckoo Land, where the Master Builders who are fighting President Business take refuge.

The later is almost a Galt’s Gulch or Free State Project where, as one character puts it, “Here in Cloud Cuckoo Land there are no rules! There’s no government…”

And guess what? Cuckoo Land is a tapestry of strange and unique ideas where everyone is happy and enjoying life, to an almost saccharin level.

Bricksburg, on the other hand, is full drones, like Emmet, who are tasked with destroying anything that is weird and replacing it with the ordinary. People there seem to be somewhat happy, as long as they don’t cross the government of President Business. But they are also brainwashed into doing only what their instructions say. They listen to one song and drink overpriced coffee. Every aspect of their life is controlled by President Business and his government enforced monopoly. All this is portrayed in a negative light considering President Business is the bad guy in the film.

Too bad the people of Bricksburg don’t know about Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Which brings me to the next lesson in the film.

2. Trade barriers are terrible

Just like the real world, when President Business builds walls that keep the various worlds in The LEGO Movie from intermingling it stifles innovation.

In The LEGO Movie the concept is taken to an extreme. Not only can the world’s not trade with each other, but most of the LEGO people don’t even know the other worlds exist, with the exception of the Master Builders.

As we can see in the flashbacks from before President Business built the walls, with the help of his government cronies no doubt, life in the LEGO universe was flourishing with innovation. But President Business couldn’t handle the chaos (read: spontaneous order) and wanted control. He wanted everything to be perfect and separated. Each LEGO character must be where they belong. A central aspect to his master plan.

In The LEGO Movie, as in real life, free trade is the way to go.

Which leads me to the biggest libertarian lesson, and indeed the central theme of the film, is…

3. Spontaneous order and creative destruction are better than top down control

Throughout the movie, President Business has a diabolical plan to put everything in it’s right place. He wants to use his robots, called “micro-managers,” to place all the LEGO people in their perfect place and glue them there permanently.

He wants the world to be perfect and operate in a manner that he deems appropriate.

Meanwhile, the heroes of the film believe that each LEGO person should be able to create what they believe is the right thing to create.

We see this throughout the film, but it is particularly poignant in the scene where Emmet builds his ridiculous double decker couch, which was earlier mocked by other characters in the movie.

After  a submarine carrying our motley band of heros springs and leak and falls to pieces, Emmet’s couch is the only thing to survive. And the thing manages to float and save everyone.

The point? Even the most obscure ideas can serve a purpose.

So create what is in your heart and mind, step out of line every once in a while, and for God’s sake build something!