Libertarian Philosophy: Is Don Quixote A Libertarian Novel?

Eric C. Graf,

Release Date
June 4, 2016


Role of Government

Why should you read Don Quixote (…if you love freedom)? Is Don Quixote a Libertarian Novel? Professor of Literature, Eric C. Graf, talks about Don Quixote and its messages about liberty.

Want to explore more libertarian themes in literature? Check out Jeffrey Tucker’s overview on Katniss vs. power in The Hunger Games.
If you can’t get enough of themes of liberty in The Hunger Games, check out our “Real World Dilemmas of the Hunger Games” program.
For a deeper understanding of some of the themes touched on in Don Quixote, check out our on-demand program, Liberty 101.

>> How do we know the novel’s all about freedom? How do we know Don Quixote is all about freedom? One important way is that it’s anti-state. In fact, Don Quixote himself is borderline anarchist in important moments. Rothbard, one of history’s greatest and most radical anarchists, describes the state as a bunch of guys in one river valley who just go into the next river valley, impose their will, and extort those people in a protection racket.
At the beginning of an important series of scenes, Don Quixote himself is that evil representative of the state, according to Rothbard. He attacks an innocent Barber who’s walking down the road, travelling from one town to the next. And why? Because he thinks he has the authority to do so.
No, because he just wants his stuff. In the very next scene, Don Quixote becomes the liberator. Sancho describes a group of galley slaves who are walking across the Spanish countryside all chained together. He says those are the men going to row in the King’s fleet. Don Quixote’s response here is very important.
It cuts right to the issue of the Monarch’s power. He says what do you mean forced people? Is it possible that the King uses force against anyone? Then he proceeds to interview each one of these slaves and finds out that they’re all being convicted of petty, meaningless crimes.
Clearly, the state is exploiting, using the criminal justice system of Spain to man the oars of its fleet in the Mediterranean. The galley slaves are the engine of these war boats, these warships. The galley slaves are the engines of these warships in the Mediterranean. If you’re gonna attack a galley, you target the oars, you target the oarsmen.
They’re covered in chains, they can’t swim, and they’re the main target. To be sentenced to row in the king’s galley is a death sentence. Now, Don Quixote, instead of being Rothbard’s oppressor, he becomes the liberator. He attacks and unhorses the officers escorting the slaves, and frees them. Later in the novel, an officer of the law attempts to arrest Don Quixote for having freed the galley slaves.
Don’t Quixote’s response is to reach around behind his back in an amazing act of anarchist ju jitsu and strangle that officer. Immediately after that scene, Don Quixote launches into an incredible tirade, a diatribe against the State’s right to tax him. So, this physical encounter with the State is followed by an objection to the State’s right to tax people.
Don Quixote is all about liberty, but he’s doing so by freeing people from the oppression of the State, from the officers of the law, from the tax men, and from the King. From the government, basically. If you wanna keep learning about the ideas related to liberty, subscribe to learn liberty.
If you are interested in this beautiful novel and seeing more videos about how Don Quixote has to do with freedom, click here and enroll in the University of Francisco Marroquin’s MOOC on Don Quijote.