Libertarian Themes in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

SPOILER ALERT: I try my best not to “spoil” the movie, but some plot elements are revealed.

Prince of Persia

There are lots of things to like about the movie Prince of Persia: Jake Gyllenhaal‘s abs, the parkour, Gemma Arterton‘s attitude and beauty, or Ben Kingsley’s well-proven ability to portray the bad guy. But I like the libertarian themes.

The movie is inspired from the video game franchise of the same name. All of the important elements of the movie are directly from the video game: the parkour, the street rat, the princess, the dagger of time. The fact that videogames are perhaps becoming in our age the leading form of art for the young is well explained in the lecture series Commerce and Culture by Paul Cantor. Many libertarians have underscored this essential link between market and art, and especially the way that copying is at the heart of artistic development.

The plot itself has libertarian themes. The antagonist, seeking political power, lies the Persians into a war of conquest on the false report of weapons manufacturing and collusion with a known enemy. After the invasion is over and won, there is a scene where the king admonishes one of his sons for his act of invasion, which could be interpreted as an unintended allusion to the foreign policy fiasco perpetrated by George W. Bush over the counsel of his father George Bush, among others.

But the overt libertarianism in the movie is a running gag throughout the movie delivered by Alfred Molina‘s character Sheik Amar, whose role in Raiders of the Lost Ark we cannot forget. The gag is that Amar is the proprietor of a community whose reputation is crafted to prevent tax collection, reminding me of Ralph Raico’s point (I believe he raises it in this lecture) that the Arab stories of caves full of wealth were likely based on the reality of businessmen hiding their wealth from the tax man. Molina/Amar makes many anti-tax comments throughout the movie, which were cheered in the theater where I saw it. As another homage, Molina’s famous scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark is replayed in Prince of Persia between the male and female leads.

Not only for its libertarian themes, but also for its action, characters, plot, and overall impact, I highly recommend the movie. Great summer movie for the family, rivaling the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean.

For my family it had an additional appeal, since the setting was the Persian Empire, and we’re preparing to leave for Turkey in a few days. PFS meeting, here we come!