The Purge – A Libertarian Nightmare?

A new film called The Purge opens this weekend to mixed reviews.  Star Ethan Hawke calls it a fun, old style popcorn thriller where people can think without an agenda.  The premise of The Purge is that society is able to extraordinarily lower crime and unemployment rates by having an annual event the movie is titled after, where all law enforcement is suspended for 12 hours.  In this time anyone with a will to murder, rob or assault is free to do so, and thus eliminates many would-be criminals from the system.

The Metascore of the film has it landing in the low fifties, indicating on the surface that it is simply mediocre, but it actually appears that the film has struck a political nerve.  While most agree the movie as a horror flick alone is not very good due to the weak plot and absurdly overblown premise, conservatives and liberal critics alike are focusing on the underlying message of what a Libertarian Utopia might look like if things went sour.

In the film, the country is governed by a conglomerate of corporations, and it is clear that the affluent population at large does not participate in the purge, but rather chooses to hole up in what would be considered a military fortress in today’s security standards.  The villains of the film are a gang of clean-cut, well dressed twenty-somethings that are hunting a man they claim does not contribute to society.  So while the purge is touted as a way to let people release their inherent violent urges, the film suggests that it is actually a way for the upper level socioeconomic class to erase anyone they deem as a drain on taxpayer dollars.

Conservatives call it a ridiculous attack on the National Rifle Association, pointing out the irony that a film making money on violent scenes is criticizing the idea of violence from the millions of law-abiding gun owners.  Film makers insist that while the premise was constructed out of an idea of where the country could be heading, the overall message that the privileged are cut off from the struggles of the poor is not such a stretch.

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