The Star Wars Lesson for Libertarians

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With Disney’s purchase of the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas, and a new trilogy helmed by science fiction superstar director J.J. Abrams beginning on December 18, Star Wars is in the news in a way it has not been for over a decade. This may be the time to observe that a valuable lesson for libertarians can be found in the original Star Wars trilogy, a lesson easily overlooked by the millions of obsessive Star Wars fans — as well as by libertarians.

Consider what Darth Vader says to Luke Skywalker in the lightsaber duel near the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Vader seeks to goad Luke into an angry hatred of him, hoping that this will lead Luke to the Dark Side. Also consider Return of the Jedi, where Vader and Luke duel again, and Vader tries to threaten Luke into becoming angry with him. Again, the implication is that anger and hatred lead to the Dark Side. This interpretation of Star Wars also echoes the teachings that Yoda gives Luke in his Jedi training. I don’t want to spoil the movies for those who have not seen them, but it becomes clear that the Emperor’s plans to turn Luke to the Dark Side also focus on making Luke angry and full of hatred. A pivotal moment comes when Luke attacks the Emperor, an attack which the Emperor invites as part of Luke’s path to the Dark Side. And the conclusion of Jedi is defined by the conflict between love and hate.

Social conservatives should focus on cultivating virtue in themselves instead of focusing on hatred of sin in others, because this hatred of sin really is the sin of hatred.

Here’s the interesting thing that few fans notice: Darth Vader and the Emperor want Luke to become angry at, and direct his hatred toward, none other than Darth Vader and the Emperor. Hatred and the Dark Side are practically identical, while love is the central power of the Force.

The principle can be described like this: “Goodness is love and evil is hatred. Hatred of evil is more akin to hatred than it is to goodness. Therefore, hatred of evil is the path to evil, not to goodness or love. Love of goodness is not the same as hatred of evil. Hatred of evil is hatred, and is therefore evil.”

This set of ideas, which we can call the Star Wars Principle, has obvious applications to both social libertarianism and economic libertarianism. The people who want to criminalize drugs are fueled by their hatred of drugs. But this hatred of drugs is hatred, which is evil. The good thing for them would be a love of goodness, in this case sobriety, which they could manifest by choosing to be sober and live a drug-free life. Social conservatives should focus on cultivating virtue in themselves instead of focusing on hatred of sin in others, because this hatred of sin really is the sin of hatred.

The Star Wars Principle means that you should focus on goodness in your own life and ignore evil in other people’s lives, other than to defend yourself from it when it assaults you. If you don’t do this, you will be consumed by hatred toward the evil in others, which will make you a mean, nasty person, constantly full of anger. The Principle reduces to a “mind your own business,” “live and let live” attitude that is quintessential libertarianism.

Peaceful, calm, respectful civility is absent from our politics; and sadly, this is also true of many libertarian radicals who demonize their enemies.

In economic terms, hatred of the rich is quite different from love of the poor. Instead of making money and donating money to charity or working to create economic opportunity for the poor, the socialists and leftist liberals make war on the rich and the owners of private property. The culture of the Left is a culture of hatred of the rich, driven by envy — a hatred of people who have been more successful than you, instead of a sincere caring about people who have been less successful. As such, socialism is very clearly a servant of the Dark Side. In contrast, a culture of love of the poor, if it was strong with the Force, would focus on charitable work for the poor, on donating one’s own money to help the poor, but with an understanding that you can’t donate money unless you first make money. It would not be focused on stealing other people’s money to help, or try to help, the poor.

The political climate in the United States is dominated by anger and hatred, of Left against Right and Right against Left. Which Fox News or MSNBC political talk show airs without insults or anger? Which political candidates run campaigns in which they promote themselves as good and do not try to tear their opponents down as evil? Peaceful, calm, respectful civility is absent from our politics; and sadly, this is also true of many libertarian radicals who demonize their enemies and are full of anger against “supporters of the state.” The Dark Side, where you get power by making people angry, is easier and more seductive for people who seek to rule, at the expense of love, goodness, peace, and the Force that embodies them. Libertarians would do well to learn this Star Wars lesson.

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