Ron Swanson, the epitome of the classic American outdoorsman. Stoic, frank, independent, and simple. His love for breakfast dishes, steak, whiskey, and the opposite sex was to be expected of a “manly man” television character. Much like Tim Allen’s role in Home Improvement before him, I was expecting the same droll character traits and eye roll inducing one-liners all too common in sitcoms. But Ron was different, His one-liners were witty, his advice to his coworkers was inspirational and fatherly, and his political stances were audacious and interesting.
However, After finishing my first episode of Parks and Recreation, I was disgusted by his character. His lack of motivation and sense of entitlement was something I resented after years in the military and knew it was an all too common problem for someone who works in the public sector. “Yep, that’s the typical government employee”
It wasn’t a complete dislike for work that brought Ron to not participate in the office, stonewall Leslie’s projects, and be a general grump. On the contrary, Ron loved woodworking in his free time and being a handyman of sorts. He loved to work up a sweat and get his hands dirty. No, his behavior at work was rooted in something deeper. At work, Ron had a tendency to skate by, do the bare minimum, and collect his paycheck. Ron wanted to be a bug in the system, a spur on the gears, a challenge to the status quo. Many viewed him as the model libertarian, and that’s the problem. Although being principled, Ron was absolutely lazy and his only enthusiasm was when he was a cheerleader for situations that would seemingly reduce the power of the state, rather than actively engaging in activities that would result in others achieving a greater level of personal liberty. This isn’t the impression those in the liberty movement should strive to emulate.
To create true change, others must observe the fruit of your labors. It takes guts, and hard work to make a name as a libertarian in all levels of government. To elect a libertarian governor or senator takes leg work on the part of hundreds if not thousands of social media personalities, volunteers, videographers, and writers. Things that the two major parties have already long established. Libertarians can’t afford for a second, to be complacent, lazy, or lackadaisical in the striving to obtain a free society. Alexander Hamilton remarked that “There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself”.
Ron was a mockery of libertarians. Someone far too concerned with his own personal comfort to be bothered with other’s thirst for liberty. Libertarians should eschew this image, and create more free market outlets to help others achieve a better life for themselves instead of focusing solely on disrupting the opposition. In a way, we should look to Leslie for enthusiasm and Ron for ideological fervor.
Despite all of the flaws in the character of Ron, I suppose one redeeming factor was that he brought libertarianism from the realm of obscurity, onto the main stage. Libertarians, Liberals, and Conservatives alike fell in love with Ron. Nick Offerman’s humor and wit was something people of all political persuasions could connect with. Ron made a real impression on many Americans possibly causing some of them to dig deeper, and discover what libertarians actually believe.
You can read more by Chris Oglesby on Think Liberty here.