Local Coordinator Program

Mr Smith Goes To Washington – What can we learn?

Published on

Claude Rains and James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) by Columbia Pictures, licencsed under Wkimedia Commons

“Liberty’s too precious a thing to be buried in books. Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: I’m free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn’t, I can, and my children will.”

A naïve, young politician gets elected to the US Senate and utters these words to his secretary in his office. Though he hasn’t got much exposure, to the world of men, to the bitter world covered with a dark mist called corruption, he certainly had the correct idea of how a politician should think and act to preserve the utmost quality humankind has ever stumbled upon, ‘Liberty and Freedom’.

The influence of corruption in politics and how far it can go is being shown in a subtle yet powerful way. The movie opens the eyes of the viewer to how politicians get elected to serve for the betterment of few individuals, manipulating the majority of the people by feeding off false information, even resorting to the ways of violence to keep their power.

The movie even goes to great lengths to show how the media can be a great enemy against liberty, democracy, and free speech by tampering, falsifying and manipulating information as they see fit, to carry out a personal narrative to favor a small group of people. Without stopping there, the movie shows the other side of the media, as a vehicle of truth, when all the boy scouts got together, to spread the truth on what is happening behind the scenes. This prominently shows why free speech should be protected at all costs to preserve the truth, liberty, and freedom. Without this, people will be fed false propaganda, a false ideology, eventually dragging the whole country downhill.

When Mr. Smith decides to give up the fight, leaving everything behind, Ms. Saunders convinces him to stay and keep on fighting, saying, “You had plain, decent, everyday, common rightness, and this country could use some of that”. This motivates him to keep on fighting for the truth, to create a better future, even if all odds seemed to be against him. Ultimately, his efforts prevailed as Mr. Payne finally came forward confessing his crimes towards the end of the movie.

However, let us entertain another possibility for a while. Let us imagine that Mr. Payne did not come forward. What would have happened then? Mr. Smith would have been branded as a petty thief and a liar, despite all of his efforts in fighting for liberty and truth. This opens up the dark world of corruption, where crooked individuals reign supreme, carrying out their agendas. This possibility entertains the notion of minimal state intervention in social, economic, and environmental affairs where individuals are better off making decisions on behalf of themselves.

Also, let us not forget the fact that all the Senate members were convinced that Mr. Smith was a fraud, a thief, and a liar, without critically evaluating the other side of the story. These people were elected to represent the opinion of the general public, but it is hardly the case. Let us not forget that the State comprises human beings, who work towards their benefits. If we trust the State to work for the betterment of the whole country, it shows that we, the voters, are living a delusion, maybe the grandest delusion ever. The famous Nobel Prize laureate F. A. Hayek clearly understood this concept when he said, “The more the state “plans” the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.”

‘Mr. Smith Goes To Washington ‘is considered a masterpiece by the director, ‘Frank Capra’. Though there are various reasons for this to be called a masterpiece, I can think of one reason. This movie subtly explains why liberty matters and how it should be protected at all costs, even if all the odds are against us – chance, a lost cause. Let us all remember, the worthiest causes to fight for, are the lost causes. If we keep on fighting, we will one day create a world full of liberty, where individual freedom and rights are always protected, where there is no war, where every nation is closely tied with their strong trade networks, where every individual enjoys the fruits of capitalism.

With that hopeful thought, here’s to a freer and better future!!!

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.


If you enjoy reading our blog, be sure to subscribe to our mailing list for more content and updates

Students For Liberty is the largest pro-liberty student organization in the world.

To get started, please select your region on the map.

Asia Pasific