Opinion

Why 'Ghostbusters' is the most libertarian Hollywood blockbuster of all time

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Movies,Philip Klein,Libertarianism,Harold Ramis

After learning the sad news that comedy actor and filmmaker Harold Ramis had died, I remarked on Twitter that the 1984 classic "Ghostbusters" (which he co-wrote and co-starred in) was the most libertarian Hollywood blockbuster ever made. I assumed that this was perfectly clear to everybody and that I was making a non-controversial claim -- even asserting the banal conventional wisdom -- but a number of people evidently didn't see where I was coming from.

To me, it's quite obvious. In "Ghostbusters," paranormal activity is becoming a growing problem in New York City. Government doesn't do anything to stop the problem, so private entrepreneurs set up a small business that successfully captures and stores ghosts — for a fee.

But then, the villain -- a regulator from the Environmental Protection Agency -- decides to interfere with the private business by cutting off their power, thereby releasing all of the captured ghosts. Here is the clip. The EPA agent orders the shut down of the ghost containment unit over the protests of Ramis' character, Dr. Egon Spengler, who says: "Excuse me, this is private property!"



The movie's heroes are taken into police custody after the release of the ghosts. Once the assault by the ghosts causes apocalyptic chaos in New York City and the government is completely helpless in solving the problem, the mayor releases the small-business owners who once again save the day.

How many Hollywood blockbusters involve private businesses as the heroes and government regulators as the villains?

Not to mention the fact that the film is also peppered with lines like this: "I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities. We didn't have to produce anything! You've never been out of college. You don't know what it's like out there. I've worked in the private sector. They expect results."

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