Book Review: Libertarian Lessons of South Park (2013)

Analysis of libertarianism of South Park
by Brandon Simpson (reviewed by Brian Wright)

South ParkThis little book is a charmer, full of stories from South Park accompanied by simple analyses that point out the libertarian world view and principles that apply without any muss or fuss. For someone like myself, who has only seen a few complete episodes of South Park, the recounting of these representative stories is a complete joy. For example, take the episode entitled “Douche and Turd” where a school mascot has died. Kyle wants everyone to write in Giant Douche, while Cartman wants the write-in candidate to be Turd Sandwich. Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich proceed to debate each other in a presidential style debate format, each telling the audience why he stinks far less than the other.

I had never seen this episode, and I practically rolled on the floor laughing at the resemblance to real life and the two-party system: it’s so much the choice voters face between a Giant Douche on the one hand and a Turd Sandwich on the other. Simpson does a fine job of describing the two-party system and his view: “After my six-month stay in France, I didn’t want to vote for Democrats anymore, since I no longer agreed with their economic policies. But I didn’t want to vote for Republicans because they were socially intolerant. I eventually discovered the Libertarian Party.” And Simpson gives an clean picture of what the LP represents, without going overboard on its behalf.

The book reads quickly for a libertarian, probably less so for those who have axes to grind with the freedom message. I particularly see how liberals will be tried and fried by the honest perspective of South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. SP is social satire at its best, but unlike say the Simpsons, the slices are edgy, political, and often profane… or at least sacrilegious. Nothing conventional about their thought processes, which naturally home in on the original idea of political liberty via a humorous route.

They are even-handed, too. For instance, in the episode dealing with having a gay scout leader, Big Gay Al—who the ‘Mountain Scout’ organization decides to fire for being homosexual—tells the boys that freedom is a two-way street: “If I’m free to express my homosexuality, then the scouts are free to decide who they want in their membership.”

Where the liberals are skewered—the series creators sum up their political philosophy: “I hate conservatives, but I really fucking hate liberals.”—it’s a complete rout. So many of the shows go after politically correct behavior, or would-be PC leaders. Such as anti smoking zealot Rob Reiner. Cartman thinks Reiner is awesome because he “just goes around imposing his will on people.” Not all the boys are so amenable to Reiner’s antics as he comes to South Park to lead the charge against people being allowed to smoke at all. Stone and Parker have stated, “it’s ridiculous for a man as fat as Rob Reiner to worry about his health from exposure to second-hand smoke.” In any case, a profound libertarian lesson is drawn by author Simpson:

“A dictatorship is the tyranny of an individual over the majority. A democracy is the tyranny of the majority over the individual. This is not what a democracy is supposed to be, but voters today believe that a democracy is when the majority makes a rule or law that everyone else has to follow. So in a way, voters have become dictators.” p 24

Simpson brings up so many entertaining installments that bear on most of the key freedom issues of the day… and of all time. Such as:

  • Immigration and nationality
  • Corporate power
  • Drug freedom
  • Taxes
  • Educational freedom
  • “Monkey Phonics”
  • The right not to be offended
  • Personal finance and discipline
  • Evolution in education
  • Environmentalism

The descriptions definitely have convinced me to rent the South Park series from Netflix. But you’ll love how the author distills the essence of the (generally) libertarian argument—or if Stone and Parker don’t supply it, Simpson does. The author makes his case as if he’s writing a primer for grade school children, embellishing his assessment with his own experience from growing up in a rural environment and traveling abroad. Let me give you a handful of these summaries of the big issues:

“One more point I want to make is that you own yourself. Therefore, nobody else can tell you what may or may not go into your body. Libertarianism is the radical notion that other people are not your property.” p 28

“However, nationality is a collectivist concept. And most libertarians reject collectivism. By nature, libertarians are very individualistic and don’t like to be labeled as if they belong to a certain group.” p 42

“There does exist a place in our country where everyone is treated equally, receives free food, free healthcare, and where the only people who carry guns are special officials and the police. This place is called prison.” p 125

If you have a friend who is confused about what freedom really is, particularly a liberal who typically likes to appear to be interested in ideas, hand him this little book. The combination of humor and the no-holds-barred, stark statements of the way things really are will be a challenge for him. But he will be obliged to come to his own conclusions in a lighter and nonjudgmental frame of mind. Libertarianism of South Park is a gem of a book. It scratches the itches. And it’s funnnnnnny… like the episode where medical marijuana is legalized but Kentucky Fried Chicken is banned, or the one where ‘gnomes’ are believed to come into your room and steal your underpants, or where the boys consider a solution to massive immigration from the future is to shoot the immigrants or to turn gay so as not to SunFLOWerprocreate, or…

You get the idea. Fertile young imagination for the freedom revolution in progress. And the author adroitly conveys the universal liberty message at the core.

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1 thought on “Book Review: Libertarian Lessons of South Park (2013)

  1. Excellent review, Brian. I have read the book, and enjoyed it very much. (I’ve also seen most of the episodes referenced). It’s an easy book to read, and offers a good, basic overview of libertarian principles. I passed it on to my sons.

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