Playing the part of Democratic rock star last week, President Barack Obama flew to a star-studded Hollywood party to raise $1 million for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Every election season Democratic candidates make a beeline to Hollywood for campaign contributions. This is understandable given Hollywood’s long-running romance with the liberal left.
During Obama’s presidential campaign, George Clooney expressed an urge to follow then candidate Obama around the room. Halle Berry, likewise, cooed: “I’ll do whatever he says to do.” Obama of course has a special hold on Hollywood, but he is by no means alone. Al Gore the “Goracle” receives a five-minute standing ovation every time he strolls onto Hollywood’s red carpet.
Many people have offered theories to explain Hollywood’s love affair with the Democratic Party, the most notable being Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker of the University of Chicago. He argued that Hollywood tends to have non-traditional views on social mores — high divorce rates, children out of wedlock, high presence of gays, frequent abortions, frequent drug use, premarital sex, etc. — that are incompatible with conservative values.
In other words, Hollywood likes Democrats because they support social freedom. But if Hollywood were consistent in its love of freedom, it would be turned off by Democrats’ economically repressive policies as much as it is turned off by Republicans’ socially repressive ones. After all, Democrats favor regulations on entrepreneurs and taxes on producers. Why does that not bother Hollywood? Why don’t more Hollywood figures explore other political possibilities such as libertarianism, which favors freedom in all domains?
I believe that’s because Hollywood has a deep distrust of free markets. That’s why, as George Mason University economist Alex Tabarrok pointed out in the Wall Street Journal this June, Hollywood frequently portrays capitalists as villains in films: Erin Brockovich, Syriana, Mission Impossible II, Star Wars (yes, it’s true, Jaba the Hut is a literal business worm meant to represent commerce), The China Syndrome, Wall Street, the list continues.
But why is Hollywood so anti-free market? The clue lies in Harvard political philosopher Robert Nozick’s brilliant 1986 essay in which he examines a similar antipathy toward capitalism on the part of intellectuals (academics, novelists, literary critics, etc.).