Explaining Libertarianism: The Movie Theater Analogy

Trying to explain libertarianism can be, at times, difficult. Not because the concept of the Non-Aggression Principle is complicated, but because people view the situation from an entirely separate perspective. They see the state as a natural and normal way of handling problems.

What they don’t see is the unnecessary conflicts the state creates as a result of aggression and coercion that would otherwise not exist.

So if you’re looking for a simple, albeit imperfect, way to do it, here is what I call the movie theater analogy.

There are three groups of people. The Left, the Right, and the Anarchists. Every year, the three groups go to the local movie theater. The trouble is, they don’t agree on what film to see. The Left wants to see film A, while the Right wants to see film B.

Rather than allow everyone to watch their own film, the Left and Right bicker and argue over which movie everyone must see together. They argue about the content of the films and their value. There are discussions on the systems for figuring out how to decide and who will decide.

They eventually settle on taking a vote the same time every year. But this only adds further argument over the process by which they determine the winner of the vote. And who gets to count the votes? More questions arise.

The vote is taken. Sometimes, the Left wins. Sometimes, the Right wins. Whatever the outcome may be, they both use violence to get their members to attend the film.

As the years go on, a minority of members in both groups grow tired of losing and conclude that violence is the answer. They attack members of the other group for not voting for their movie. Both the Left and the Right as a whole condemn the behavior without wondering why it is any different from their own conduct.

While the Left and Right call each other names and speak of each other in the harshest of terms, they both share the same premise; whatever movie is viewed, all must view it together.

Finally, the Anarchists suggest that the Left be allowed to see film A.

“What? “the Right exclaims. “You like film A?

No, actually. Some Anarchists actually plan to see film B.

“What?” the Left screams. “How can you vote for film B?”

As it turns out, some Anarchists actually prefer film A.

“How is this possible?” both sides ask.

“Simple,” the Anarchists state.  “Everyone should be allowed to watch whatever film they want. None should be forced to watch a film that someone else wishes to see. Wouldn’t that solve the problem?”

Suddenly, the Left and Right put all differences aside and sing their outrage as if one group.

“Absolutely not!” they exclaim. “Don’t you know there would be chaos!”

The Anarchists then ask how what they’re doing isn’t violent, since their decisions ultimately use force to get people to do things they do not want to do and, if they resist, violence will be used to get them to comply.

The Left and Right avoid this fact and instead insist if they left each other alone, the other would force them to watch their preferred film, anyways. This leaves the Anarchists rightfully confused as to their reasoning and logic.

Meanwhile, the Left and Right continue in their united consternation of the idea that people be allowed to watch whatever film they want rather than be forced to watch the same one as everyone else.

“You’re just anti-social!” they accuse. “You just don’t want to be around anybody else!”

“How is allowing people to watch what they want anti-social?” the Anarchists ask. “And how is using violence to force people to watch your film a healthy sign of sociability?”

At this point, some of the members of the Left try to claim it’s because they care about everyone and want what’s best. The Anarchists laugh this off. The Right simply says it’s for the greater good and if people were free to decide they would watch the wrong films.

“Who gets to decide which film is right and wrong?” the Anarchists ask.

“The majority,” is the reply.


After a long pause with no answer, the Left and Right resume attacking the motives, personal character, beliefs, and thoughts of the Anarchists rather than addressing the issue at hand.

And this is basically how it goes when it comes to politics.

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6 Responses to Explaining Libertarianism: The Movie Theater Analogy

  1. D says:

    Half our problem is the name we unfortunately have. Most people cant get past that, so i dont even get a chance to explain. Their brains turn off the minute you say ‘anarchist’. They start thinking punk rock bands and broken windows.


  2. Interesting post, Libertarianism have been growing since a few years ago.


  3. Pingback: Ron Paul Properly Defines Libertarianism | The Anarchist Notebook | Libertarian Anarchy

  4. Pingback: A Libertarian Who Returns to Their Vomit | The Anarchist Notebook | Libertarian Anarchy

  5. Pingback: By the enemies he makes | The Anarchist Notebook

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