If you don't know The Hunger Games, let's get you up to speed on the first part of a triptych whose first installation recently blew away every non-sequel film release in American history during its opening weekend in theaters: A reluctant, female Spartacus crashes the futuristic blood sport (think: Roman Colosseum with streaming HD video ... and hovercrafts) of a dystopian society hunkered down on the ashes of a once-prosperous North America.
To say more of this gladiator, the 16-year-old Katniss, and her quest would be to ruin the truly absorbing – if somewhat lightweight – story created by the trilogy's publicly reticent author, Suzanne Collins.
But while many have wondered about Hunger Games relationship to adolescents, war and whether adults should even bother reading the things at all, your author -- who gulped down the audiobook during a long car ride over the weekend -- was struck by another component of its prose: a strong libertarian streak.
For certain, the Hunger Games trilogy has violence as its main consideration. But whether it's on war or myriad other topics, we don't think Great Libertarian Poobah Ron Paul would quibble with many of the sentiments sprinkled in Collins's writing.
Let's run through four of them.
1. "As long as you can find yourself, you'll never starve," Katniss recalls her father telling her. In this case, the play is on her name, a sort of bluish tuber that she claws up from a riverbank. The book begins on this note of ultimate self-reliance, that only the individual can keep life alive.
To avoid starvation with help from the government, one must enter a devil's pact. While all citizens are entered into the Reaping, a lottery to decide which boy and girl will be sent into the hellish Hunger Games, citizens can opt to enter their name more than once for a year's supply of vital – but meager – foodstuffs. And the entries are cumulative each year from age 12 to age 18.
If you can provide for yourself, the Hunger Games tells us, you can make it through. If it's government help you want, the price may be your very life.
2. “District 12: Where you can starve to death in safety,” Katniss laments near the book's outset. It's forbidden for the people of Katniss's district to venture out into the woods to hunt, fish, or gather plants. Here one could hear echoes of the cries of libertarians, crying out against a government that by securing total security has all but destroyed liberty.
In other words, one must rely on themselves to survive, even in the face of a government that restricts almost all avenues to prosperity.
3. Government bureaucrats, a favorite libertarian target, get a very harsh reading. Not only are Panem's paper pushers aesthetically and culturally bankrupt, the book makes clear, they consider themselves far superior to people from the nation's 12 districts.
"What do they do all day, these people in the Capitol," Katniss muses, remembering some of her attendants who have dyed their skin pea-green or who carry "orange corkscrew" curls, "besides decorating their bodies and waiting around for a new shipment of tributes to die for their entertainment?"
4. Lazy, capricious and warmongering. And it's the last third of those that is most accentuated in the Hunger Games. In the modern libertarian movement, the answer to war is to stop "policing the world."
Libertarian's hold that a force capable of defending the United States should be the mission of American military spending. Simply put, the goal isn't to find ways to insert oneself into conflict but to protect oneself and fight if attacked. Petaa, Katniss's fellow gladiator from District 12, gives a succinct statement that weds a libertarian instinct about violence to his desire to subvert the entire violent system.
"No, when the time comes, I'm sure I'll kill just like everybody else," he says. "I can't go down without a fight. Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to... to show the Capitol they don't own me. That I'm more than just a piece in their Games."