The Lego Movie teaches the dangers of crony capitalism.

Amongst movie lovers, one category of movie is known as a nearly unerring predictor of awfulness: a movie based on children's toys.  At best it will be a nonstop commercial; more often, it's a pointless trainwreck.

We conservatives are all too used to Hollywood mocking and deriding everything of actual value, from Christianity to the free market to "truth, justice, and all that stuff" as our modern revised Superman now puts it.  Even so, having a bad guy literally named "President Business" seems too blatantly blunt even by Hollywood's execrable standards.

Why, then, would I waste my time and money going to see The Lego Movie, as wrapped with dreck-indicative red flags as it is?  Because I have a son of the appropriate age to be obsessed with Legos, which are - let's face it - about as constructive and educational a toy as can be imagined.  Such are the sacrifices of fatherhood.

And similarly are the rewards.  Instead of the above stereotypes, The Lego Movie illustrated a different trite saying: Don't judge a book by its cover.

Conservatism: Not Married to Business

The leftist media has portrayed Republicans of being the party of rich people and businesses for so long that most of us, especially Republicans, have come to believe it.  In point of fact it's a lie: the richest people and businesses overwhelmingly give their money to Democrats and have for years.

Democrats are the party of the extremes: the extremely poor and the extremely rich.  Republicans are the party of the middle, which explains why years of Democratic dominance have led to a shrinking middle class and expansion of both the ghetto slums and the limousine-liberal elites.

There's a reason for this: yes, Republicans and conservatives generally believe that businesses should be free to make money by selling products and services that their customers find worth buying without being kneecapped at every turn by overweening government bureaucracy.  But without saying so, what's mostly on Republican minds when they argue in favor of business, is small business.

Is that John Galt in the back row?

The world of The Lego Movie provides a case study of why we favor small business over big business.  President Business is president of the Octan Corporation which owns every major business in Bricksburg.  He is also president of the known world, all of which consists entirely of Lego assemblages.  His appears to be an elective position, though we aren't treated to any campaigning.  Considering that the Octan Corporation owns all the TV stations and other media, one can easily imagine that a perfectly free and fair election would nevertheless provide the desired establishment-friendly result.

The movie's Everyman hero Emmet mentions early on that President Business is a great guy.  Why?  Because that's what "everyone" thinks, as reported by President Business' TV stations.  The fact that President Business, in his secret alter-ego of Lord Business, has an evil plan to destroy the world is not worthy of being reported on - the impending Business-funded holiday of Taco Tuesday is much more deserving of airtime.  Does this remind us of any real-life politicians?

The opposite of free-market capitalism is often assumed to be Communist socialism where the government owns the means of production.  Obviously Communist Russia was the free world's great rival in the Cold War, but poor Russia's sorry experience demonstrated that it's not possible for government to effectively run an industrial economy.  The Red Chinese learned this lesson, and while still nominally Communist, most of China's spectacular growth has come from private companies.

Private, that is, to a limited degree.  What Communist China and The Lego Movie's Bricksburg illustrate is a case study in fascist economics.

Economic fascism doesn't require concentration camps or even very many murders, and it certainly doesn't involve detailed Five-Year Plans of how many pencils will be produced by The People's Pencil Factory.

Fascist systems have individual businesses with owners, managers, real profits, and real competition, up to a point.  But at the top, like it or not, everyone ultimately answers to the government.  They can do as they please some of the time, but when the government says "Jump!" the only acceptable answer is "How high?"

Why would any self-respecting business owner put up with this sort of treatment?  Because if, as a tycoon, you can be close friends of the government, they can ensure that you don't have to suffer any nasty surprises from upstart competitors.  Businesses in China know they have to spend a lot of effort on their political connections lest they get an inopportune visit from the health inspector, tax authority, building licensure, planning commission, and so on.  On the other hand, well-enough connected businesses can murder their customers and get away with it.

The great tycoons of 1930s Germany thought that a strongman like Hitler was just what their businesses needed; it wasn't until later that they realized how tight their golden handcuffs had become.  The citizens of Bricksburg think "everything is awesome" because that's what they hear every day in their popular music and other media, and indeed life there seems to be vibrant.

But when all economic and political power is held by one organization without checks or balances, bad things become possible which otherwise wouldn't be.  It turns out that there are additional Lego worlds beyond Bricksburg unknown to its residents, and Lord Business wants to rule all of them with the ultimate of totalitarianism: everyone and everything assembled exactly according to his instructions and permanently glued in place.  Freedom will be entirely abolished by Business' quest for total control.

In modern America, we haven't reached that point yet, but more and more industries are controlled by a small handful of giant corporations in incestuous relationships with politicians.  We've written before about how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provided cushy jobs for big Democrat donors, and in return, took advantage of government regulations to dominate the mortgage market.  When they ran into trouble, the entire market crashed, but their political connections ensured that they were bailed out and the guilty greedsters have paid no price at all.  This, to be blunt, is fascism, not capitalism.

We could go on and talk about the "too big to fail" banks or the grossly-overpriced universities underwritten by subsidized government student loans, but more and more, the commanding heights of our economy and culture are directly controlled by government fiat.  Meanwhile, lower down, our ability to make independent choices is more and more tightly constrained by regulations.  We may not be literally glued to a toilet seat like some of Emmet's unfortunate fellow Legos, but we don't have the freedom to choose which toilet we want.

Those Libertarian Legos

Bricksburg strongly resembles modern China.  It has fine highways, an excellent and growing public-transportation system, and vast high-rises with more under construction.  This is easy because there are no private-property rights: Emmet's construction crew simply blows up whatever cobbled-together hovels might be in the way and whips together another perfect cookie-cutter skyscraper in strict accordance with The Instructions delivered from On High.  The Chinese government did precisely this in preparing for the Bejing Olympics.

What if, despite everything, you step out of line?  Then the robotic Super-Secret Police swoop into action with overwhelming force and no concern for human rights, international law, or public safety.  It all makes a great movie but a lousy place to live; if you liked the famous freeway chase from The Matrix 2 you'll enjoy a similar scene here, but neither setpiece spares a thought for the innocent commuters ground underfoot by the headliners.  Movies, China, and other fascist countries can get away with this; that's not how America was meant to be.

At the beginning of the movie, Emmet is content with his life as are most Chinese, and as were the vast majority of Nazi-era Germans and Fascist-era Italians.  There was both work and a clearly-structured place in the world for everyone.

When Emmet encounters the underground resistance society of Master Builders and is mistaken for their legendary leader, though, he suddenly discovers something that had never crossed his mind before: freedom.  What if perchance you don't want to build things according to The Instructions but want to do it in your own way?

Like your average public-school student, Emmet has a very hard time thinking outside the box because it's been built around him his entire life.  He doesn't realize that the box even has an outside.  It takes nearly the whole movie for him to realize the power of independence.

But when he does, he changes his world - not so much by what he himself is able to build, but because he's able to hijack Lord Business' TV network to persuade the rest of the citizenry to break loose and do their own thing.

Of course, the left considers their side to have a monopoly on freedom and when it comes to general debauchery, they do.  In every other way, though, freedom and independence is a conservative principle.

The Lego Movie illustrates this very effectively: Lord Business' immaculate buildings and vehicles clearly have all their zoning and engineering permits in order and have passed DoT safety testing, whereas the odd stuff Emmet's allies and the newly-enlightened citizens of Bricksburg cobble together look more at home in a kid's bedroom.  But their jury-rigging and mad-scientist imagination strike a profound chord in the American psyche: isn't this just the sort of innovation that leads to world-changing inventions?  Indeed, isn't that exactly why we spend astronomical sums buying Legos for our kids?

In the world of Lord Business' dreams, there's no room for innovation, change, debate, or differences.  Nor is there any room for differing philosophies or practices in the world of the modern leftist; "diversity" extends only to skin color and preferred sexual practices, no further.  Any straying from doctrinaire totalistic statism is punished as ferociously as any Bad Cop could wish.

In short, The Lego Movie is that very best and rarest of movie types: an entertaining story which, subversively but powerfully, preaches conservative values of freedom from governmental bureaucratic tyranny.  How awesome is that?

Now, to get that darn song out of my head...

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

There is only one thing that the left has to have, money. I know it is useless to say this but the producers have to go on strike which will result in no taxes being paid into DC's coffers. The problem with my desire is that big business is on the side of the government and would never step out of line. So what is the answer besides winning elections with a veto proof majority? Please, someone give me another viewpoint on how to clean this mess up.

April 10, 2014 12:53 AM
Add Your Comment...
4000 characters remaining
Loading question...