The Original Ghostbusters: A Free Market Gem

This summer there is a remake of the classic 1980s picture, Ghostbusters.  Much of the controversy involving the remake is over the replacement of the male characters with female ones.  I don’t have any view as to whether or not this replacement is a good idea or whether the movie will either be funny or good.

But it is worth pointing out one very significant feature of the original film: it was one of the most free market movies of the last several generations.  Consider the following:  The villain of the film – a Mr. Walter Peck – is an EPA agent who wants to regulate the Ghostbusters, does not know what he is doing, causes the problem, and then blames it on the private business.  Read that again.  Is there any other movie you can think of that does that?  Not me.

But there is much more in the movie that is free market.  At one point, Bill Murray’s character has the idea of moving from the academy to the private sector.  Dan Ackroyd’s character explains the problem: “I’ve worked in the private sector.  They expect results.”

And, of course, the story of the movie is about a small business that opens up and then becomes successful, fighting off the regulations and other obstacles that are put in its way.

The movie gets other things right as well.  The New York City mayor – a local government official – seems accurately portrayed as well.  Unlike the federal bureaucrat, who is the villain, and the small business owners, who are the heroes, the mayor is a cynical politician who is led to do the right thing because he is concerned about keeping the voters happy – exactly the right line to take on a local politician.

I don’t know if the new Ghostbusters film will duplicate or follow up on these gems from the first movie – I’m not holding my breath – but if they don’t, they will lose a lot of what made the movie special to me.