Fantasy/Science Fiction Epics That Can Inform You About the Real-World Political Scene

Fantasy/Science Fiction Epics That Can Inform You About the Real-World Political Scene, by Ilya Somin. Thoughts on the politics of several major science fiction and fantasy series — we taken excerpts from just three.

The Hunger Games

Hunger Games Momento

…Many have interpreted the series’ message as libertarian, or at least anti-government conservative. After all, the plot focuses on the oppression of outlying provinces by a distant and uncaring central government. The anti-government message is further driven home by the fact that rebel regime opposing the Capitol — led by President Alma Coin of District 13 — ultimately turn out to be just as bad as the Capitol’s President Snow.

This is one of several aspects of the story that strongly suggest that the danger of oppression is inherent in the nature of government, not merely a result of having the wrong people in power. …

The Lord of the Rings

Lord of the RIngs - Hobbitville

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. …

Star Wars

star wars death star

But if the series condemns dictatorship, it does not necessarily come out strongly in favor of democracy. Whenever we see democratic institutions at work (most notably the Galactic Senate), they seem sclerotic and incompetent …

More generally, there is very little sense in Star Wars that institutions (other than perhaps the absence of dictatorship) matter to good governance. Rather, the dominant impression is that things will be fine if good people are in power – people like Luke, Leia, or (in the prequel movies) the Jedi Order and the few “good” politicians, such as Bail Organa and Padme Amidala. In a 1999 interview,2 George Lucas famously said that “a benevolent despot is the ideal ruler” and criticized “dysfunctional” democracies where “[y]ou get these individual voices that are very loud.”

Also considered are Star Trek (in the linked article by the same author), Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica, and Babylon 5.