From Learn Liberty:
The politics of science fiction and fantasy series may seem like a frivolous topic at a time when we have so many serious real political problems. But it’s nonetheless worth considering, if only because far more people read science fiction novels, and watch genre movies and TV series than read serious nonfiction literature on political issues. Besides, the politics of imaginary worlds is a lot more fun to contemplate than the dismal real-world political scene.
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Set on a strategically located space station that seeks to bring together warring powers, Babylon 5 is perhaps the most underrated science fiction TV series of the last several decades. Its politics are vaguely left of center, but often hard to pin down.
Yet one noteworthy theme does shine through: the dangers of nationalism. Otherwise admirable characters such as Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari and Narn leader G’Kar end up causing enormous harm because of their single-minded desire to increase the power and prestige of their peoples.
Londo is so intent on making the Centauri Republic great again that he seals a dangerous bargain with the nefarious Shadows that ultimately results in the death of millions and the devastation of his homeworld. Outbreaks of nationalist fervor also lead to repressive and counterproductive policies in the Earth Alliance. It’s a lesson worth revisiting in the age of Donald Trump, which has also seen a resurgence of nationalism in Western Europe, Russia, and elsewhere.
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The Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece is probably the most influential fantasy series ever. Tolkien’s strong suspicion of government power permeates the story. The Ring of Power after which the book is named allows the wielder to control the will of others and eventually corrupts himself as well. It is a metaphor for political power. Significantly, not even good people like the wizard Gandalf can be trusted with the Ring. If they try to use it, they will inevitably be corrupted by it. The only way to eliminate the threat posed by the Ring is to destroy it. It cannot be used for good. This view stands in sharp contrast to the more common belief that political power can be a force for good if only it is wielded by the right people.
Even more explicitly antigovernment is the symbolism inherent in the chapter entitled “The Scouring of the Shire.” When the secondary villain Saruman temporarily takes over the Shire (homeland of the hobbits), he and his henchmen institute a system of “gathering and sharing” under which the state expropriates the wealth of the population and transfers it to politically favored groups. The episode was likely inspired by the wartime rationing system that the left-wing Labor Party government continued even after World War II. More broadly, it represents Tolkien’s critique of socialism.
Link to the rest at Learn Liberty