A Thought on “Tiger King”

by Don Boudreaux on April 29, 2020

in Philosophy of Freedom, Reality Is Not Optional

I’ll bet that there are lots of people who, in the evenings, watch “Tiger King” and smugly judge the red-necky main character – “Joe Exotic” – to be reckless not only with his own life but with the lives of others, yet are people who also, during the rest of the day, advocate big, powerful, discretionary government.

I’m amazed that these people – mostly “Progressive” types, but also growing numbers of conservatives – do not see their inconsistency. It is indeed arrogant and imprudent to treat tigers and other big cats as if these animals are domesticated tabbys. It is indeed dangerously reckless to pretend that the danger posed by keeping wild, muscular, fanged animals in neighborhoods and in the presence of innocent people is minimal and, in any case, controllable by the owner who thrills at showing off his apparent mastery of such a mighty force as a tiger.

Yet “Progressives” and others who support big, powerful, discretionary government are no less arrogant, imprudent, and dangerously reckless as is Joe Exotic. Advocates of big, powerful, discretionary government believe that a dangerous razor-sharp-clawed beast – one with a history filled with violence and unpredictability – can be kept sufficiently tamed within civilization and made to perform at will for the pleasure of both its handlers and its up-close and unprotected (and often curiously eager) audiences.

In both cases the beast appears to be majestic and, at least from certain angles, also lovable, even wise in its own beastly manner. And witnessing its scripted displays of power is thrilling (at least to observers who aren’t the targets of that power). But in reality the beast is wild, temperamental, and will eventually devour many persons who come into contact with it – even many of those persons who love it most dearly and crave its attention most desperately.

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