In 2009, Avatar was released. Not too many people would have thought that a movie with blue people in it would end up being the highest grossing movie of all time. Yet there was something that attracted people to it. If not just for the plot or action, the actual world that James Cameron, the writer and director, created. Year after year comes some great movie that will reach the top of modern day box office hits. Although for entertainment, is there anything deeper that we can learn from them?
F.A. Hayek, known for his defense of classical Liberalism and debates with John Maynard Keynes, expanded on the topic of “spontaneous order,” which was originally, to our knowledge, introduced by the Chinese philosopher, Zhuangzi. Spontaneous order is the idea that good things can come about without organization. As Zhuangzi put it, “good order results spontaneously when things are let alone.” It refers to order that happens without anyone deliberately planning on order to happen. Is order without deliberate planning possible?
Almost any alien film can provide an answer to the question. Little known to the viewer of an alien movie, the viewer may be watching a reflection of human life before government. First, no one would argue that government came before people did. So, when the viewer is watching aliens, the aliens have a way of communicating. The viewer is watching a reflection of a part of human history. Communication, language, these are things that came before any centralized government planning. Whether it’s cave writings, sign language, or spoken language, these are all examples of spontaneous order. Government couldn’t have come before communication as it is impossible for a group of people coming together to create a government without first knowing how to communicate to each other. Language and communication is an example of spontaneous order. Order that came, not because government suggested, subsidized, or enforced it, but of human beings, free of government restraint (as there was no government before it), that realized the importance of it.
In Cowboys & Aliens, originally made after the comic book, the aliens, without giving too much away, were going after gold. This movie takes place in the 1800’s in, what seems to be a Western town. This was obviously before government control over money through the Federal Reserve. When the group finds out the aliens are after gold, Woodrow Dolarhyde, played by Harrison Ford, sarcastically asks, “what are they going to use it to buy something?” There is some interesting insight in this question. Why gold? Before government took a monopoly over monetary policy, people were free to use what they wanted for trade. Looking back in time, before government, there was a bartering system. Where one would trade, say, shoes for a hat. This seems okay on a low-scale level but the problem is obvious. Not everyones wants and needs are the same. While somebody might want a hat, with shoes to sell, the other person may not want the shoes, thus creating a problem for somebody who wants the hat. Humans solved this problem simply by creating a third entity in which people would use to exchange goods or services. It happened to be gold that people used. Money nor the barter system was created because of some government intervention, agency, or bureaucracy. This system of trade was created by individuals, pursuing their own interest, that ended up helping others in the end. For a great exposé on the history of money, read What Has Government Done To Our Money by Murray Rothbard. It can be found here for free or How Economy Grows & Why It Crashes by Peter Schiff.
Recently The Fighter, starring Christian Bale & Mark Wahlburg, gained much praise for its excellence in, not just portrayal of Mickey Ward’s life and boxing career, but of actual filmmaking itself. Sports are adored by people throughout all countries. Sports, such as football or soccer, have been documented going back into Ancient Greece and Ancient China. Sports is an interesting history, not just for sports buff, but for sociologists and economists as well. Not only is it a great example of spontaneous order but of self-regulation. A group of people, voluntarily, submitting themselves to play by certain rules a certain activity. Yes, this includes wearing gloves and punching each other.
A growing number of movies center around video games. From adventurous movies like Tron to comedies like Grandma’s Boy. Recently video games have become a big part of people’s lives. Even for adults. In fact, adult men and woman make up a large part of the gaming industry. What is interesting about video games is the idea that somebody can create their own world. For instance, World of Warcraft, a game involving many players in an online world, is a very interesting world where people play as many different creatures doing different things. This cyber world is run on its own rules. The government plays no role. It’s all left up to freedom.
P.J. Proudhon wrote that liberty “is not the daughter but the mother of order.” It is not true that all spontaneous orders are good. Just as somebody can do evil with freedom. However, the alternative, freedom, is the better of the two. Between freedom and force, freedom should always be picked. The concept of spontaneous order is not some far distant utopian outlook but it has been proven, historically, that some of the greatest things can come about spontaneously. Without the need for a centralized dictator (or centralized force).