Don’t Look Up – A Libertarian Appraisal

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*Spoiler Alert*

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence starred in a blockbuster hit – a well-done movie that was a not-so-subtle commentary on whether or not our current societal structure could navigate a legitimate crisis; specifically environmental calamity. 

Astronomers discover a comet on its way to Earth and attempt to warn the political elite to galvanize action only to be met with political lethargy. They attempted media outreach only to find a culture over-analyzing celebrity breakups and under analyzing their impending doom. 

After the evidence is mounting, Washington changes course and capitalizes on the opportunity to be the hero. However, a lobbying private corporation sabotages the attempt at destroying the comet, as it has precious metals that can be mined. They have an alternative plan to break the comet into smaller pieces allowing mining opportunities when it reaches Earth. 

The entire event becomes politicized with those on the right fearing for the removal of freedoms and their economic opportunities, coupled with denial of the actual problem, and those on the left turn to Hollywood, musicians, and corrupt politicians for a solution with nothing meaningful coming forward. The left became so frustrated with the right who continued to deny there was a problem even as the comet was visible to the naked eye, they began a campaign asking everyone to just look up, to which the right responded with their campaign – don’t look up. 

When other countries have their attempt at destroying the comet, the lobbyists have their launching missiles destroyed. Due to the ineptitude of the private corporation, their plan fails, and the comet destroys the Earth. In the end, they were left with the sullen realization that their models failed, and they were to blame. 

The lowest hanging fruit was that the film was written before SpaceX’s first manned launch. Given that the incompetence of the private sector was the climax of the film, it wasn’t something they could re-write. But even at the time, it was known that Elon Musk brought the cost of a rocket launch from a bloated $150 million, down to a modest $2 million. In terms of the efficiency of resources, the private sector was far more innovative. SpaceX is lightyears ahead of its governmental competitors. 

They filmed the movie during the pandemic. The irony is that the thesis – the private sector is incompetent for such massive undertakings – was disproven in real-time as they were filming when Musk did his launch, in between developing low carbon means of transportation when the allegory of the film was that the private sector won’t stop pollution. 

I do think the film had an important message that was scathing to both the left and the right. They unwittingly commented that Hollywood celebrities can’t make statements on the direction of scientific innovation – and they were themselves Hollywood artists making statements about the efficacy of the private sector. But the film itself attempted to make this comment in various ways about lackluster celebrities chiming in on subjects they knew little about. 

Against the right we saw commentary of scientifically illiterates chiming in, being thought leaders on subjects they had underwhelming education and work experience in. COVID-19 emerged and spread as the filming was underway, with some on the extreme end speculating about whether or not COVID-19 is even real. This was uncommon and almost entirely no longer the case, but what was common were groups of people who couldn’t recognize a fundamental equation in epidemiology couldn’t refrain from giving their opinion on the effectiveness of masks on the course of the virus, let alone vaccines. They share memes of data points on discrepancies between mask usage and rates of spread of COVID-19 and confuse this with scientific research. Their metric of truth is which social media poster has received the fewest laugh reacts. Their channel of knowledge dissemination is the comments section. This mentality doesn’t produce sound epidemiological models, it produces types such as Hermain Cain who denied the COVID-19 threat until it killed him. 

Both the right and the left don’t produce working models. The underlying takeaway is people holding strong opinions on things they don’t understand – regardless of their status as left or right. 

The movie wasn’t an allegory for COVID-19, it was an allegory for climate change – and on that point, they appeared to miss the mark. The private sector is accomplishing fantastic ends concerning nuclear and geothermal, our energy production is emitting less. With the innovations in battery power, electric vehicles are becoming more and more of a reality. The movie, in pointing out the failure of Hollywood celebrities spoke truly in that Hollywood celebrities can’t accomplish the task at hand. While the private green tech sector continues to accomplish great things, Hollywood celebrities will continue to spite the private sector and demand government action. 

The fact that Elon Musk accomplished a more efficient launch while the movie was filming to ridicule a private company doing their own launch is evidence of one of the film’s claims, Hollywood artists are just as incapable of arriving at truth as the uneducated conservative, both are just as hell-bent on giving us their opinions on subjects they know precious little about – and the previous little was derived from superficial Googling and Youtubing. The world came to an end because neither model was particularly effective. 

The movie promoted a problem, ineffective means of arriving at truth during a moment of crisis. Here’s a solution. Let people be excellent. Let billionaires go to space. Let innovators invent. Let nuclear engineers generate power. Stop making movies about how evil the private sector is and keep making movies about how uneducated artists don’t know what they’re talking about – because Don’t Look Up did a great job of proving that.

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Brandon Kirby

Brandon Kirby has a philosophy degree from the University of New Brunswick and is a current MBA candidate finishing his thesis. He is an AML officer specializing in hedge funds in the Cayman Islands, owns a real estate company in Canada, and has been in the financial industry since 2004. He is the director of Being Libertarian - Canada and the president of the Libertarian Party of Canada.

1 COMMENT

  1. I found it entertaining despite its heavy-handed political nonsense. I absolutely agree with the idea of letting people be excellent. If the movie got anything correct, its when the government colludes with A PARTICULAR business (eg, picks winners and losers)-THAT’s a recipe for disaster.

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