Fans of the hit AMC original series “The Walking Dead” have been greeted this season with a brand new villain. Negan is the sociopathic yet alluring post-apocalyptic warlord who exploits brawn and brass to assume disproportionate control over a chaotic world of zombies and frightened citizens. Marking his grand entrance by killing beloved characters, pillaging their communities, and demanding physical and emotional submission as a means of maintenance to his growing empire. His antics give us thrills, chills, and several analogous references to illegitimate hierarchy. Wow, what a guy!
Don’t just take my word for it, search #NeganIsAMetaphorForGovernment on Instagram. Negan is truly a natural born bureaucrat. As the mid-season 7 finale approaches, I thought I would share 3 lessons Negan taught us, or rather reminded us about government. (Spoilers)
#1 We Are All Negan
One distinct advantage to Negan’s army is that he’s convinced all his citizens that they are him. And by convinced, I mean indoctrinated. In several episodes, we see disciples of Negan repeat almost religiously that they are Negan. This tactic is used to protect the leader and instill a sense of mandatory unity. This is very much symbolic of the toxic repercussions collectivism, particularly coercive collectivism, can have on a people. Abandoning their moral individualism in exchange for a strong common identity defined by governance.
Not to be confused with a confederation or syndicate, these people aren’t merely cooperating as separate entities with a common interest. This is much more like a federal hierarchy, similar to Washington D.C. Negan provides deliverance and expects nothing short of absolute conformity, lest there be consequences. Which leads us to the next lesson...
#2 Rules Matter
Rules matter. We all understand this. Rules are guiding principles which shape our conduct with others to achieve the most efficient and productive outcomes for a society or market. Usually, people prefer to create rules via voluntary agreement.If President Negan deems something illegal, disobedience will not be tolerated.
But Negan reminds us that all rules aren’t created equal. You can’t simply allow individuals to come to their own moral conclusions and defend their way of life separate from that of the state. That’s too much liberty for comfort.Instead, Negan believes that centralizing the rules is better. In fact, he’s implemented some common laws that can be seen in our own government.
Strict gun control, for example. Because safety is a top concern for Negan. After all, why do you need guns for self-defense when you have the police *cough* I mean, the Saviors. It's also worth noting that Negan's gun confiscation ironically was enforced by using the same type of firearm registry many people want our own government to enact.
He prefers incarceration to rehabilitation. If you don’t like the rules as they stand, well that’s ok. Negan will just lock you up until you’re a model law abiding citizen. Can’t wait to see how Daryl turns out. And this is true even if your “crimes” don’t violate anybody's personal rights, and even if your private community all voluntarily agree on it being ok. If President Negan deems something illegal, disobedience will not be tolerated.
And lastly, the most important rule which also happens to be lesson number 3, pay your taxes.
#3 Give Negan Half Your Stuff
This is probably one of my favorite lessons Negan teaches. Negan wants to crack down on unregulated zombie apocalyptic capitalism. Levying a 50% tax on producers to help offset the costs of universal housing, security, Negancare and anything else Negan feels like giving you to justify his brute theft. That’s even more progressive than Bernie Sander’s tax proposals. No joke, in the season 7 episode “Sing Me a Song,” one of the characters explicitly compares Negan's actions to taxes. He says: “we have to produce for him whether we like it or not”.
I don’t know if there’s a closet libertarian on the TWD writing team or what, but the message couldn’t be delivered any more directly. Negan has a monopoly over a particular set of services. These services are distributed to everyone equally, all courtesy of Negan. All you have to do is give him and his army half of your stuff. But if you refuse these services and decide you want to instead keep your stuff, then you will have to be punished. Through either fines, community service for the Negan Federation, a few months in a prison cell next to Daryl, or in extreme circumstances where you try to defend against this involuntary coercion, you might have to meet Lucille, Negan's preferred execution tool.
You may think that this is completely unjust, immoral, and illegitimate. But think about it in the same way you think about government.Nobody likes to see individuals stripped of their liberty Negan, with all his faults and shortcomings, is the price we pay for a civilized society. Granted the only one actively threatening you with uncivilized aggression is Negan, but if we get rid of him, who’s to say a new, more evil central hierarchy won’t spring up to replace his reign?
Negan Is Fictional but His Actions Are Real
Negan is truly the best and most accurate metaphor for government I have ever seen portrayed in mainstream entertainment. If you find yourself not being a fan of his system of governance, you’re not alone. Nobody likes to see individuals stripped of their liberty. Devoid of their right to property, pursuit of happiness, prosperity, and self-determination. We all want Rick and his group to have freedom from this invasive illiberal tyrant.
With that being said, maybe we should expand our desire for freedom beyond our favorite late night zombie drama and reflect on the actions of our own government. Apply that lust you feel for voluntary cooperation, free people and free markets to your friends, neighbors, and by extension, mankind. Then and only then can we can begin to minimize the negative effects that real life Negans are having on our everyday lives. Locally, nationally and globally.