At Learn Liberty, we’re really excited that Gilmore Girls is coming back thanks to a Netflix reboot. (You can thank capitalism for meeting our ravenous demand for its return.)
It’s hard not to love the fast-talking Lorelai, the intellectual Rory, the curmudgeonly Luke, and the eccentric townspeople of Stars Hollow. But even diehard fans may not have noticed all the classical liberal shout-outs and plot lines in the original series.
So, to celebrate the return of the show, we present the top libertarian moments in Gilmore Girls.
(Consider this your spoiler warning.)
1. Rory recommends Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead to Jess.
(Season 2 Episode 13 — A Tisket, A-Tasket)
When teenage bookworms Jess and Rory trade book recommendations on the dock, Rory agrees to read Ernest Hemingway if Jess will read Rand. True, both teens seem to think that “Ayn Rand is a political nut,” But, Rory points out, “Nobody could write a 40-page monologue like she could.” Amen, Rory.
2. Taylor tries to trade citizens’ privacy for the illusion of security.
(Season 7 Episode 1 — The Long Morrow)
Town selectman Taylor Doose installs a red light camera in the town square, citing dire public safety needs even though there hasn’t been an accident in Stars Hollow in 15 years. Luke and the townspeople are (understandably) angry that Taylor went over their heads, and they’re concerned about the invasion of privacy. The episode brings up the age-old tension between security and liberty.
This prompts Gypsy, Stars Hollow’s resident mechanic, to deploy the Orwellian refrain, “Big Brother is watching.”
3. Paul Anka accepts his leash.
(Season 6 Episode 13 — Friday Night’s Alright for Fighting)
Among his many fears (including popcorn, CDs, and lint), Lorelai’s dog Paul Anka is also afraid of seeing his leash. But he doesn’t mind at all if anyone leashes him without him seeing it.
Lorelai explains, “Oh, he’s totally fine having his personal freedom stripped away as long as he’s completely unaware that it’s happening, just like a true American.”
4. Rory becomes the poster girl for censorship.
(Season 2 Episode 12 — Richard in Stars Hollow)
After Rory points out some kids looking at an inappropriate VHS cover at Stars Hollow Video, Taylor and his henchman Kirk put every video they consider inappropriate behind a curtain, which they dub the “Rory Curtain.”
They leave almost nothing left in the store and make Rory the unwitting face of censorship in Stars Hollow. This highlights a key problem with censorship: who gets to determine what is and isn’t appropriate. As Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said in the court’s infamous ruling in Jacobellis v. Ohio regarding obscenity, “I know it when I see it.”
5. Rory brings Milton Friedman’s “A Monetary History of the United States” to her grandfather in the hospital.
(Season 7 Episode 13 — I’d Rather Be in Philadelphia)
References to Rand and Friedman in the same show? Be still our libertarian hearts. Rory brings Friedman’s book to her professor grandfather when he’s recovering from surgery: “I figured when you’re sick of reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, you can pick up Friedman for a real mystery and deduce the disadvantages of government intervention in economic policy.”
(A member of the Chicago school, Friedman argued that while markets do fail, governments often fail harder.)
While Rory’s grandfather does at one point speak favorably of Keynesian economics, there’s also a line that speaks somewhat disparagingly of then Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
6. Overregulation crushes dreams (almost).
(Season 4 Episode 4 — Chicken or Beef?)
Lorelai’s dream is to open and run her own inn. In season 4, the dream finally becomes reality when she and her friend Sookie buy a rundown inn, but their plans are almost stopped in their tracks by Taylor. He buries Lorelai and Sookie with regulations simply to blackmail Lorelai into convincing Luke to let him park an ice cream truck in front of his diner. Her dreams are almost crushed by overregulation and corruption.
(Back in season 2, in the early stages of Lorelai’s plan to own an inn, Sookie worried briefly that they would have to buy a property from Donald Trump. Turns out the owner was just Fran, the mortality-denying cupcake lady. Whew! Dodged that bullet.)
7. Kirk extols the benefits of capitalism.
(Season 7 Episode 4 — ‘S Wonderful, ‘S Marvelous)
When Kirk’s mother and girlfriend start fighting, he sees the situation as an opportunity to gain benefits from competition. In a free market, different businesses compete for customers by providing better and cheaper goods and service than their competitors. Kirk speculates that his mother and girlfriend will create increasingly delicious cherry cobbler in hopes of winning his attention.
Unfortunately, love and family aren’t the same as the free market, and Kirk is proven wrong.
8. The town puts Luke and Lorelai’s relationship to a vote.
(Season 5 Episode 3 — Written in the Stars)
When Luke and Lorelai finally start dating (spoiler!), the town holds a meeting to vote on whether or not they can allow the relationship to continue. They’re concerned about the negative externalities the town would face if Luke and Lorelai ever broke up. What if people were forced to choose sides? What impact would it have on the town’s economy? There are charts.
Freedom wins out when Luke convinces the town that it’s none of their business by taking ownership of the potential externalities. He promises to move out of Stars Hollow if they ever break up. By internalizing the externalities and asserting their self-ownership, Luke and Lorelai are able to get around government interference in love.
9. Overregulation wreaks havoc on competition.
(Season 2 Episode 17 — Dead Uncles and Vegetables)
Taylor is furious when a farmers’ market opens across the street from his grocery store. When he begins losing customers because of the market’s cheaper and better produce, Taylor tries to shut it down.
He claims that the type of permit the owner of the market has only applies to markets on wheels. Yet again, overregulation and corruption wreak havoc on small business, making everyone (except Taylor) worse off.
10. Jackson hides from constituents.
(Season 5 Episode 4 — Tippecanoe and Taylor, Too)
By now you may be wondering why Stars Hollow continually put up with Taylor. Well, in season 5, frustrated by Taylor’s reign as the tyrannical town selectman, Sookie’s husband Jackson decides to run for the position. He wins by a landslide (1,114 for Jackson and 10 for Taylor), but quickly realizes that it’s a terrible job.
He’s constantly being hounded by townspeople lobbying for political favors. As much as he wanted to make a difference, he ends up abdicating in favor of the only other person who wants the job, the power-hungry Taylor.
Learn Liberty is home to a lot of big time TV buffs. When we get a spare moment around the metaphorical water cooler, we love to gab about the latest shows we’re binge-watching. It should come as no surprise that these conversations quickly turn to how libertarianism applies to our favorite shows.
If you love great series like we do, and if you need some way to avoid your relatives and pass the holiday time until Gilmore Girls, check out our coverage of