I saw “The Aviator” on Sunday night, and guess what? It’s a damn good movie. I’d seen some favorable reviews, including two from libertarians – but somehow both neglected to mention that in addition to being an engrossing film, it’s also a profoundly libertarian one. In many respects, the movie is a paean to entrepreneurship and competition. The central conflict of the movie – at least, the one that occupies that last hour or so – concerns an attempt by Pan-Am and Senator Ralph Brewster to pass legislation giving Pan-Am a legal monopoly on international air traffic from the U.S. Howard Hughes takes on Brewster in a televised hearing, calling him to task for his rent-seeking behavior and defending open competition in air travel.
In reality, it appears that Hughes may have been a hypocrite (at least according to this unfavorable review), which is certainly disappointing. But I’m willing to give the movie credit as a work of fiction. Most biopics clean up the lives of their subjects to emphasize their most admirable, or at least their most dramatic, qualities. So I’m just pleased that someone saw fit to present free enterprise in a heroic light – something rarely done in Hollywood.