Statism in my Favorite TV Show Fringe

Literature under Capitalism is perhaps my favorite chapter in Mises’ book The Anti-capitalistic mentality. Not only did this book show me Mises’ superior and unrivaled understanding of the human condition, his insights on literature was probably something that really struck me and changed the way I look at the world.

At the time, of course, Mises was referring to novels, stories, and plays. He had no concept of how literature and technology has evolved especially because of new media and yet in spite of all that, I still find his insights very relevant.

In TV shows and movies I watch, people’s statist mentality and adherence to folklore economics remain very prevalent just as he explained it would be. And this is something he explained ever so beautifully: the reasons why statist ideology will always be favored and popularly accepted by the mainstream.

Olivia Dunham and Peter Bishop

The reason I am writing this would probably because of my love for the TV show Fringe. I noticed that libertarian ideas are suppressed and many times even portrayed as the immoral choice. It annoyed me, of course, but Mises already taught me that I shouldn’t even be surprised (a friend and fellow libertarian even pointed out that it’s expected since the show is about the FBI and the many bureaucracies tied up with it).

Since season 1, the question I would always ask would be who pays for all their expenses? When Olivia Dunham would fly somewhere or when Walter would need new lab equipment or a cow or any of his other shenanigans, the burden is on the taxpayer!

You know there’s that misleading idea that governments are assumed to always be financially solvent and spending is justified because it’s for the safety and defense of the citizens. But you see, governments don’t have their own money—it is all acquired through coercive taxation and inflation.

There was this bureaucrat character in season 1 who was assigned to streamline the fringe department’s budget and spending and he was deemed as the enemy—the concept that the fiscal conservatives who want to audit and cut down spending on defense is unpatriotic—thus justifying that giving more money and power to bureaucracies will make people safer.

And even I was swayed, many times finding myself saying, “No! Don’t cut their budget or abolish their department, Olivia won’t be able to save the world!”

But you see, I based this assumption merely on what’s apparent or visible and now I shall move on to recommend another brilliant book That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen by Frederic Bastiat. Here it is explained once more just why it is so hard to rid the masses of the statist mentality because the promises and arguments are so seemingly beneficial and so ingeniously disguised with good intentions that doubting them becomes easily ridiculous and shrugged off even by most intellectuals.

Of course, Fringe is fiction. But we’ve seen how fiction can shape our history and the way people think. Rizal’s fearless and provoking novels, for instance, helped ignite a revolution. Fiction, through whatever medium, can really be an effective method of spreading ideology.

I love Fringe. I really don’t know what I’d do without it. But it’s a really good thing that Mises along with many other classical liberal authors and even modern-day libertarian bloggers have equipped me with some sort of immune system against the conditioning of statist propaganda in mainstream media and literature.


  1. Hmm... These things have crossed my mind as well about Fringe but I never took it too seriously. I always thought the bureaucratic "promotion" was more a part of making the show believable... the writers (including Abrams) have mentioned at some time or another that they try to make the characters as believable as possible despite all the weirdness that goes on around them. I think when they are seemingly "advocating" for funding the FBI they are just trying to make it more realistic and believable (because isn't that more like the world we live in?) I don't think they are trying to promote any political agenda, at least not intentionally.

    I actually see a lot of parallels on the other end of it as well, that is, in promoting individuality over "statism", bureaucracy, collectivism--whatever term you want to use for it. At one point or another pretty much every major character has experienced a scenario where what they believe to be true or what they know subjectively (e.g., Olivia's "abilities", Walter's "insanity" and why he is the way he is) is simply shot down as an emotional and therefore invalid argument because it's something that... well, is unseen to everyone but themselves. Like when Olivia keeps getting sent for pysch evaluations because everyone insists she's crazy and doesn't listen to a thing she says because she's just been so "traumatized" how can anyone believe her? And how can any of the FBI bureaucracy let her do her job when she's obviously got no clue what she's talking about? It's very similar to the way anyone in a position of power will victimize someone and leave them unable to be taken seriously by deeming them "crazy" (a lot like the quote you used in your Harry Potter post.)

    Similarly with Walter, he was typically labeled "crazy" when he had a gut instinct that didn't make sense according to the status quo (like insisting that William Bell must still be alive, most recently), or when he insists that he needs to do certain scientific procedures to get to the bottom of something and there always just happens to be a huge problem with doing what he wants to do... basically, people trying to prevent others from discovering the truth in case it goes against everything everyone already believes/assumes to be true. probably because what they assume to be true is keeping people in power more powerful.

    Similarly the Observers seem to get in a lot of trouble simply because they can see more than most people and so those in authority seem to be intimidated by that (although the Observers of the future are quite another can of worms... lol.) Speaking of which, have you seen the opening theme sequence for the "Brave New World" episodes?

    Not to mention Brave New World itself (the novel, I mean) took a very anti-statist stance.. that was the whole premise and message of the story!

    1. Also, a few other little things:
      -Peter saying to Olivia "I don't trust the FBI, but I trust you." (and Peter's skepticism in general which has often gained him the reputation of a rogue or some sort of scoundrel.)
      -The "red side" is a lot more reflective of a militant statism (their uniforms always looked a little SS to me!), or at least of a world headed in that direction, whereas our "side" in the show is more just reflective of reality, for the most part. The alternate side's Olivia was kind of one of the few who was able to step outside of her own worldview and begin to see things more objectively..I mean later on when she began to defend our universe as well and kind of gave "Walternate" an attitude (towards the end of season 3.)
      -Bell's God Complex... brainwashing people like DRJ..what more is there to say on that... ;)


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