“Wake up, Neo . . .” and welcome back for the fourth installment of Thoughtcrime Thursdays, the weekly column where we explore the world of fictional dystopia as a critique on our current society!
This week, we will be “taking the red pill” to see how far down the rabbit hole goes. To help us draw some obvious parallels between The Matrix and the State, we will recruit the help of the one and only, Murray Rothbard.
(If you have not seen The Matrix, I implore you read no further and order it here)
In the film, the machines harvest bio-electricity from humans, who are suspended in sprawling rows of stasis pods on human farms beneath the Earth’s surface. In order to keep the humans apathetic and compliant, their minds are plugged into the Matrix, a computer program that simulates human life as it existed in 1999, before the beginning of the war between humans and the machines.
The Matrix is necessary, for in order to continue operating their human farm, the machines need to maintain the illusion that the Matrix is real. To see the Matrix for what it really is, Neo needs to “take the red pill,” unplug, and free his mind.
In viewing The Matrix as a dystopian allegory, the most glaring real life parallel is the relationship between the State and its citizens. While this is not the only allegory contained within the film, it is perhaps the most blatant, and the one we will concern ourselves with.
In The Ethics of Liberty, Murray Rothbard describes the State as being “a bandit gang writ large.” The State produces nothing, and has first stolen everything it possesses. Just as the machines survive through harvesting human life force, the State harvests its due from us by taxing our labor, our property, and our transactions. It controls what we can or can’t do with, or put in, our bodies, regardless of whether or not we are harming anyone else. The logical implication of this taking is that you do not actually own yourself or your property, the State does.
Sure, one could argue that the State takes, but they don’t take everything (in most cases). They only take your fair share. Besides, it is the price we pay for a civilized society. It is necessary taking. You can always leave! Without the State, we wouldn’t be safe, we wouldn’t secure our liberties, and worst of all, we wouldn’t have ROADS! It would be chaos.
You could say the same of the humans plugged into the matrix. Despite literally having their bio-energy harvested, they still had enough to survive, the machines didn’t take all of it. They didn’t want for anything, many of them were actually very happy in the Matrix. What kind of life would there be without it?
Through applying the logic of the allegory, we can see how silly it sounds in reverse.
To defeat the Matrix is to see it for what it really is. By realizing this, Neo is able to manipulate the Matrix and grasp his own destiny. Just as the machines require apathy on behalf of their livestock, the State requires, at the very least, our passive acceptance.
In Anatomy of the State, Rothbard identifies the State’s greatest weakness: independent intellectual criticism, which the forthcoming Liberty Weekly Podcast will intend to provide by showing you that life exists outside both the Matrix and the State.
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Thanks for stopping by and have a great Friday.