NOTE: This was written before the untimely death of Harold Ramis (Egun). I noticed that a few days afterward a number of libertarian blogs posted articles about Ghostbusters and how awesome it is because the EPA is the bad guy. OK, I admit I probably wasn’t the first libertarian to point this out, but I will take credit for the Ghostbusters 3 idea. Unfortunately, Harold’s passing has diminished the chances of a sequel being made.

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Ghostbusters is extremely unusual for its celebration of entrepreneurship and that it seems to go out of its way to attack bureaucracy and nanny-statism. Where most Hollywood films crassly place the evil corporation as the source of all wrong-doing, this one bucks the trend, and the 3rd would do well to continue its pro-market legacy.

The film’s anti-politics stance is notable and refreshing: New York City is under threat from an ancient demon named Gozer, but only when the Mayor is convinced that he would be seen as a hero if the millions of registered voters knew that he helped the Ghostbusters save the city does he actually get out of their way. The film’s main antagonist, aside from Gozer, is not a giant, exploiting, competing corporation, but some hack from the EPA trying to shut down the Ghostbusters for running environmentally unfriendly equipment. This is extremely unusual in popular cinema.

Perhaps the only reason it gets away with this is because it is so funny. After being let go from their cushy parapsychology college professor jobs, the gang, made up of Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray (Dan Akryod) and Egun (Harold Ramis) think about setting up business. Ray reminds Venkman “You’ve never been out of college . . . the private sector is vicious”.  The guys balk – they’ll actually have to do some work.

But, in true entrepreneurial spirit, the cynical Venkman initially sees a gap in the market appeasing schizophrenics and hopefully picking up a few chicks a long the way. However, he finds out that there are real ghosts running around town and the group adapts the business accordingly. They take on a lot of risk, taking out about 7 mortgages, and business is initially slow, but after an encounter with the disgusting green food-scoffing blob named Slimer, the Ghostbusters exploits are the talk of the town, and from then on the phone won’t stop ringing.

The only thing stopping them is that damned EPA. Of course anybody watching this is going to be on the side of the Ghostbusters as we can see perfectly well that they are simply running a legitimate business meeting the demands of their customers. We don’t see any neighbours or customers object to their strange equipment – only the interfering bureaucrat has any interest in stalling their important public service.

Looking at the film from this point of view gives it a certain energy that transcends time, but it doesn’t slack in the film-making technique department either. The comedy writing is as good as anything from the period, and has a rebellious spirit to it that is endearing.

Ghostbusters II followed on the cynicism towards politics:

“Hey, I’m a voter! Shouldn’t you lie to me and kiss my butt?”

. . . and general disrespect for illegitimate authority. The government has covered up the Gozer-kicking that climaxed the first film (of course they would), and Ghostbusters are under a restraining order prohibiting them from offering paranormal investigation services. It takes a particularly convincing haunting in court for the judge to see sense and allow the Ghostbusters to do their jobs. From then on it’s all the same, save for half-baked thematic posturing as the Ghosbusters commandeer the Statue of Liberty as “a symbol we can all get behind” to un-do the power of the evil ooze. This all sounds a bit collectivist for me, and a contradiction of the individualist spirit of the first movie. However, one gets the feeling from the film, and from the final act in particular that not much thought was put into it. It has a good set up, but more time seems to have been spent on the special effects than the writing.

How Ghostbusters would work in a free society

It’s hard to escape the thought that in a statist society, the Ghostbusters simply wouldn’t be allowed to operate.

In the event of a ghostly outbreak occurring in a free society, it will be necessary for the ghost-busting market to expand. Eventually society would accept ghost-busting as a necessary public service akin to pest control, plumbing, and depending on the extent of ghost infestation in the city, police-forcing and the fire brigading. Of course, the film-makers are trying to riff on this by setting it in a real-life fire station, complete with pole.

Which brings us to the subject of the elusive Ghostbusters 3. Since the need for ghost-busting services is patently clear to the population of New York, what after the city has been clogged up by an evil ooze, the government would have a hard time shutting them down again. However, they could easily demagogue to the populace that the issue is so important that they themselves must run it. Socialised ghost-busting would then suffer the same problems as all other “public” services: delays, wastage, corruption and numerous other problems we cannot foresee.

I therefore propose a plot for Ghostbusters 3: ghost busting has since been socialised and has continued in its own inefficient way. Hauntings have become as an important an issue as crime in New York, but it is washed over with flaccid regulation and decree. However, [insert giant supernatural threat here], and the government is ill equipped to deal with it. There is a popular call for something to be done, so cue the reluctant return from retirement of the original Ghostbusters to show these prehistoric bitches how they do things downtown.  And we can have the standard jokes of being too old for this shit and having to lose weight, dusting down the old equipment, etc. Get back the original cast and a competent director, focus on the story and dialogue ahead of the special effects and you have yourselves a great blockbuster.

It’s a brilliant idea, if I do say so myself, yet I can’t imagine any studio picking it up. Such pro-market, anti-government content in this day is Hollywood’s kryptonite. I might suggest that the series’ individualist stance is what has kept it such an extremely short franchise up to now, by comparison to others. Talks of a Ghosbusters 3 have been ongoing for decades now, but it’s a no-show.  Is the Ghostbusters’ ideology so poisonous to Hollywood these days that they are willing to forgo another money spinning run? There would be such a huge demand, so why the hold-up if not for that?

Just use my idea guys – you can make it subtle of course, we still want it to be an entertaining film. Yet, it was the individualist spirit that makes Ghostbusters so appealing in the first place, so you may as well embrace it.

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