* This will be my last post for the year, as I’m transitioning over to some new work. Merry Christmas!
Growing up I watched many films as part of my family Christmas tradition. Die Hard. Home Alone 1 and 2. Jingle All the Way. Rudolph and Frosty.
However, not among them was the 1970 Christmas stop motion animated cartoon Santa Claus is Coming to Town starring Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney. It was only in recent years I get a opportunity to see it. By that point I had become a libertarian for some time and so I was able to view the story from that lens.
One of the things that struck me continually throughout the film was its blatant anti-state theme. I’m not sure whether it was a reflection of the late 1960s – early 1970s political environment or an unconscious decision by the filmmakers, but their Santa Claus has all the characteristics of a true libertarian anarchist. His legend is that of a libertarian entrepreneur defying the state while demonstrating the power of the free market.
It’s the perfect libertarian Christmas film to watch with kids if you want to help them understand what it is we believe.
If you’re skeptical of my description above, let’s go through a condensed version of the plot to demonstrate what I mean. (spoilers ahead – not that you should care since you’re an adult).
The Legend of Santa Claus, the Anarchist
The movie begins with an orphaned infant Santa dropped off at the front steps of Sombertown’s burgermeister, the German name for “mayor.” The ridiculously named Burgermeister Meisterburger is a cruel, self-centered, and power-hungry politician who feels no sense of accountability to those whom he rules. He orders infant Santa to be sent to the orphanage. Instead, the baby is lost and ends up at the home the Kringles, a family of elves.
Rather than send him back to the orphanage, they adopt him, naming him Chris Kringle, and raise him themselves. As he grows up, they educate him and teach him how to make toys. As it turns out, the Kringles used to make toys for the king, but the Winter Warlock currently blocks the route to Sombertown. Chris volunteers to try and make it through, which he does successfully.
However, upon arriving at the town he discovers that the burgermeister has ordered a total ban on toy possession after he carelessly slipped on one. The implied logic behind his decision is that if they ban toys, spills like that won’t occur anymore.
You know, the same way banning guns or weed will stop people from dying or getting high.
And, of course, he rationalizes his terrible act of coercion under the excuse that “it’s a difficult responsibility” to wield the state sword.
But the burgermeister takes it a step even further. He runs a propaganda campaign melodramatically describing toys as “immoral.”
At first, the ban is successful. Chris comes across a group of kids with no toys. They inform him about the ban. However, sensing the local (market) demand, Chris just shrugs, dismisses the rule as foolish, and hands the toys out anyway. He is then confronted by an indignant local public school teacher who initially regurgitates the same talking points on the “impracticality” of toys – kind of how state-loving feminist teachers will prattle on about toxic masculinity – until he gives her a China doll (i.e. facts, logic, evidence) and she softens her demeanor.
When confronted by the town authorities for handing out toys, Chris offers the burgermeister a yo-yo, which he plays with joyfully only until his minions remind him they’re illegal (gee, politicians enjoying products/substances that they’ve banned; that’s never happened before). He then orders Chris’ arrest, but he is able to make his escape.
What follows is exactly what we see with every form of government prohibition; the town passes a new law intended to prevent Chris Kringle from delivering toys (meeting market demand for a product) and he finds a way to deliver it. They require all doors be locked; so he climbs down chimneys. They conduct (warrantless) house to house searches for contraband toys; so Chris hides them all in the children’s stockings they hang to dry by the fireplace.
So successfully is he in delivering toys despite the government regulatory scheme they kidnap his entire family and use them to force his surrender. They are later sprung from the dungeon after the public school teacher rejects the legitimacy of the burgermeister’s rule (takes the libertarian red pill) and uses magical flying reindeer to free them.
From that point on, Chris Kringle is declared an Enemy of the State. He and his family are forced to flee to the North Pole after town soldiers destroy their home. He grows his now-famous beard to conceal his identity and adopts his real surname, Claus. He then marries the former public school teacher in a private religious wedding ceremony devoid of any state involvement or authority. The toy making continues in a new castle he has built, as does his nightly deliveries.
Eventually, the burgermeister dies and the town people end the toy ban.
So let’s recap; a productive entrepreneur tries to meet local market demand but runs into pointless, unnecessary, and absurd government interference due to the misinformed opinions of a local lawmaker. In response, the entrepreneur uses creativity and ingenuity to get around the regulatory scheme. The government responds with stricter enforcement methods that erode the people’s civil liberties.
Again, I don’t know if this was the filmmakers’ intent, the anti-state message was unmistakable.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus – and he’s a libertarian.