Monday, June 22, 2009

Sheriff Andy Taylor, Libertarian

Darrin Knode argues that the main character of The Andy Griffith Show, Sheriff Andy Taylor, is a libertarian, in contrast to the statist sensibilities to Deputy Barney Fife.

Andy was portrayed as always civil and ever courteous gentleman, using his wits in place of violence and the pointing of guns, as Barney was all too quick to do, which rarely turned out to work. It was rare Andy ever arrested anyone who was truly non-violent, and even the violent were treated with a base respect for life. In episode 95: "The Big House," Andy fools two escaped convicts back into the jail instead of turning the streets into a war zone, and to his credit, without hurting the convicts. He often boasted throughout the show that he accomplished a task without firing a shot himself, and in episode 166 ("Off to Hollywood "), even receives $1,000 from the Belmont Film Studio for rights to his story, "Sheriff Without a Gun."


Andy was also opposed to coercively intervening in other people’s affairs that he felt was not his legal or moral right to become involved with. In one instance, Opie is being bullied by another boy and Andy does not intervene but chooses to let Opie fight his own battles, believing he must learn to stand up for his rights. Imagine that! In another episode (152: "The Case of the Punch in the Nose"), Barney opens an old case that involved Charley Foley charging Floyd with assault. The whole ordeal took place such a long time ago that no one even recalls how it began. Barney, being the statist busybody and the “look how important I am!” sort of goon he is, manages to refresh everyone's memory and rekindles the nose punching fire of old. Andy steps in again as the real man--the adult--in the scene and convinces everyone to talk out their problems, and it works. Incredible! Through peaceful discourse and discussion, the two opposing parties, through the use of a neutral third, achieve a peace without more punching. Barney, on the other hand, was more than willing to pull a gun and start making threats.

I can think of two episodes in which Barney and other townspeople urged Andy to arrest local oddballs who had not violated any laws, but were weird and disrupted social expectations. Andy refused, essentially arguing that he would not use government force to curb the lawful and harmless actions of people who flaunted social norms. Such was a libertarian response.

HT: Hit & Run


bob said...

It seems to me that Andy didn't necessarily leave people alone he just didn't arrest people to get them to do hie will. Sometimes he would arrest people in order to benefit them as well Like the episode where he arrested the young guitar player and the experienced band in order to get him his lucky break.

Maybe he is only a libertarian in theory, like most of us we sometimes want move people to act in a certain way

John said...

Yes, I remember that episode. A very ugly action by Andy.

John said...

Maybe he is only a libertarian in theory, like most of us we sometimes want move people to act in a certain way

Theoretically libertarian, operationally statist. We all have our statist vices.