Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Series of Unfortunate Events

If you are anything like me (and of course you are) when someone proclaims that they have found major libertarian themes in popular media you face it with skepticism.

The libertarian blogosphere has erupted in Potter worship seeing the second coming of Ayn Rand in the pages of Harry Potter's story. Now, that isn't to say that a libertarian can't see something to like in the pages, I just think you have to go too far to get a real theme out of it.

That being said, I'm going to try and convince you that Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events does exactly that. I just finished the series after my daughter asked me to read it with her and very little in the first twelve books will leave a classical liberal nodding in agreement and pumping the fist of freedom.

Please note that spoilers abound from here - read at your own risk.

Sure, you can paint Mr. Poe as the inept bureaucrat that acts in his own self-interest as opposed to the interest of his wards. The Council of Elders from the Vile Village are the libertarians caricature of democracy as mob rule and over regulation to the point of absurdity with even the rule book being forbidden because it makes reference to forbidden activities. The same story even paints the phrase "it takes a village to raise a child" and paints it as the absurd tripe that it is.

This is nothing more than confirmation bias though. There are plenty of examples that could paint the series a liberal's delight. From Mr. Poe the self interested capitalists that leaves the Baudelaire children in one bad situation after the next to Esme Squalor that seems to care about nothing other than fashion and wealth the villains of A Series of Unfortunate Events seem to point out everything that is wrong with the world as seen by the left.

The series does point out human frailty and folly throughout; villains are poorly educated, vain, ruled by mob psychology and peer pressure. The heroes are well read, selfless and pursue noble ends. So what changes in book thirteen that convinces me that its a libertarian tale?

Find out in Part II.

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