Peace Through Superior Firepower

So, Sunday evening rolls around, and what better way to end perhaps the best weekend in recent memory than with a trip to the Drafthouse and a showing of Hot Fuzz.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Hot Fuzz is the buddy cop spoof from the Shaun of the Dead guys. If you’ve not seen either one, then it’s pretty clear that you’re a sad, culturally illiterate soul. You’re also not the sort of person I’d like to go drink a beer with. And that, my friend, is far worse fate. Or something like that. Seriously, you should go see it if you haven’t done so yet. Preferably in a place where no one minds if you shout things back at the screen. And clap during the movie. At any rate, I’m not going to really try to explain the movie itself, other than to say that buddy cop clichés, played straight and with just a hint of slightly stiff and formal British mannerisms and set in small-town England: now that’s some seriously funny shit.

But there’s more to the film than mere humor. Not to pile too much pretension onto a film that features a scene with an exploding head, but I think that there’s a case to be made for Hot Fuzz as Animal Farm for the 21st century. Now I’m sure that this seems a strange claim, but just bear with me a moment. And if you’ve not seen the film yet, you may well want to stop reading here, ‘cause I can’t really write this thing without more-or-less giving away a big chunk of the ending. So consider yourself warned.

After gleefully unraveling Sgt. Nick Angel’s bit of detecting (and thereby nicely avoiding a standard cop-movie cliché plot), the film’s denouement finds that under the scary black cloaks at the spooky graveyard gathering lies a collection of small-town busybodies who murder their fellow-citizens for such grave offenses against the common good as misspelling words in the local paper and offering really horrendous performances of Hamlet at the community theater. About the only really spooky thing about this collection of aging British gentry is their collective chanting of “the common good” at weirdly inappropriate moments.

Mostly all this is set up for the shootout scenes, which are replete with pretty much every set piece from several cheesy cop movies. But for all the silliness of the plot itself, there is, I think, a fairly straightforward lesson here: central planning by groups of elites in the name of the greater good has a tendency to go a bit haywire. At the end of the day, it’s up to rugged individuals – preferably ones with lots of really big guns and maybe a couple of good friends – to protect individual liberty from the central planners. It’s an Orwellian warning against collectivism…only coupled with a rather charming faith in the power of heroic American individualism. Except with a British accent.

I’d say that it’s a nice libertarian theme except that, as it turns out, the bad guys are the members of a private protective association (the neighborhood watch). And the heroes are cops. Make of that what you will.

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** spoilers ahead **
In my opinion, a truly libertarian movie. I'd add a few points.
- It's about ethical deontology against utilitarianism
- It's implied that there are absolute standards of ethics
- and they are not of divine nature (I'm not a man of god but I can tell right from wrong)
- guns are useful to make good
- The neighborwatch is a private organization? So what? There's no such thing as a "private organization", there are criminal and non criminal organization. This one is criminal and looks more like a government.
- The heroes are cop? There men before all, and most other cops are depicted as corrupt or lazy.
- At some point the plot could be about the greedy food retail monopolist cutting out competition, but it's not! He would welcome competition to enjoy a more dynamic market.

Major spoilers ahead  I

Major spoilers ahead 

I found a review I wrote about the movie a while ago, sorry I just translated this back from French so it may sound awkward at moments:

- Hot Fuzz, a deontological movie -

    A week ago, I rushed to see Hot Fuzz. Hot Fuzz is definitely not an artistic or aesthetic movie, it's an entertaining comedy, a spoof of the classical cop action movies, such as Bad Boys, Lethal Weapon, etc. Having enjoyed the zombie spoof, Shaun of the Dead, I was expecting a lot of fun an excitement - as well as some compulsive popcorn eating - when I went to see this movie, but I was definitely not planning on submitting a review to a libertarian website. Maybe some of the most conservative reader will have stop reading by now. Hang on. I was excited to see that the movie was much more than an entertaining comedy. It's a movie about deontology versus utilitarianism, about the individual versus the collective, it deserves to join the list of the "libertarian minded" movies. Unfortunately, I will have to reveal major spoilers in order to present the case for this movie and enjoin anyone to see it before reading the following.
In the beginning of the movie, we witness the progress of Nicholas Angel, as he makes a career in the police force. He is a model cop, works extremely hard at his job and is extremely good at what he does. In most private businesses, such a person would be rewarded so that he cannot be bought out by a competing company. Unfortunately, the police force is a State monopoly that does not need to be efficient and seek profit; it lives of tax money, doesn't have any competition and thus is rather bureaucratic. Indeed, his superiors are relocating him to a tiny country town with virtually no crime. By being so efficient, Angel is making his hierarchy look bad in comparison. Not only is he punished for is efficiency, but now the streets of London will probably be more dangerous.
Arriving in the small town of Sanford, he throws out of the pub teenagers having beers. Angel believes in deontology, that actions themselves are either permissible or not, regardless of the actual or intended consequences. Unfortunately, at this point he is not familiar with natural right, and uphold some positive rights as his standard of deontology. Later on, as he discover his new job, we understand that the police force is very lax in Sanford, spending most of their days eating cake, all at the expense of the taxpayers.
When a series of murder are committed in the town, everyone talks about "accidents" and Angel is the only one willing to investigate. At first, he comes to a conclusion which is the classical plot of too many movies: a greedy businessman is trying to cut the competition out. However he is soon proven wrong, actually the businessman would enjoy having competition as it would bring dynamism to the town!
The real reason behind the murders, is that the town council kills everyone they don't like, on utilitarian ground. The drinking teenagers are killed because their arrest record would look bad on the town's crime statistics, the "living statue", a street performer, is killed as he does not fit the town's standards, a man and his house are blown up because the house doesn't look good etc. The town council dresses in robes and meet in a cemetery, much like a dark sect. They only care and speak about one think: "the common good". That's right! In this movie, the deontological, individualistic hero, faces a bunch of collectivists concerned by the common goods, who - like many collectivists - do not mind killing in order to reach their goal. This is honey to the libertarian movie watcher, as these values are so rarely upheld in movies.
Last but not least, Angel, after being left for dead, return to the town to rid it of the sect. At one point, the preacher tries to convince him. "You may not be a man of god, but surely you are a man of peace". We learn in the beginning that Angel is an agnostic, he does not need God to derive his ethical standard. He answers "I may not be a man of god, but I know right from wrong". He is making the statement that man can naturally know which acts are good and which are evil, this knowledge is natural, it is not revealed by god. He is also making the point that him retaliating against the villagers, in self defense is right. He recognizes that non-initiation of coercion, NOT pacifism is the right value to uphold.
All in all, this movie is definitely not a movie about libertarianism, but it certainly has a libertarian flavor. Watching a sect obsessed with "the common good" being defeated by an individualistic deontologist is a pleasure I warmly recommend.