Dan Klein, with whom I’ve been arguing about designer babies lately, recently suggested that I post about an article I wrote for Reason 26 years ago: Henderson’s Law of Heroic Movies.

The Introduction

“David, I rented a movie for tonight that looks interesting but I’m riot sure you’ll like it. It’s called The Milagro Beanfield War. Robert Redford directed it, and I think it’s left-wing and antibusiness.”
“Really?” I asked my wife, Rena. ‘What is it about?”
“It’s about these poor Chicano farmers in New Mexico or somewhere who steal water from a big business to irrigate their beans. The movie treats them as heroes.”
“I bet they don’t steal it,” I beamed confidently. “I’ll bet you that they just reclaim it after the big business, with the government’s help, had already grabbed their water.”
Rena looked at me skeptically. Why was I so sure? Because of Henderson’s Law of Heroic Movies.

Henderson’s Law of Heroic Movies: Antibusiness movies that have heroes are always based on, or consistent with, a libertarian premise.

I explain why I think the law is true and then consider a hypothetical case to win over skeptics:

Skeptical? Then consider. Which plot would stir the juices of American moviegoers: one where the hero stole money from a corporation that succeeded by being honest with people, or one where the hero stole money from a corporation that had been cheating people? To ask the question is to answer it. The second movie is the only possible contender.

Many “laws” have exceptions and so I consider the movies that seem as if they might be exceptions and show why they are not.

At the time I wrote this piece, I couldn’t think of any exceptions. But writing down in print what had been in my head for a few years caused me to pay attention from then on to see if I could find exceptions. That, by the way, is a huge benefit of writing something you think rather than letting it play around in your head and never subjecting it to your own, or others’ scrutiny.

In these last 26 years, I have found one fairly clear exception to Henderson’s Law. There are probably more.

The exception? Philadelphia. If you click on the link, be prepared for multiple spoilers.