For most great English literature has been about restoring proper government power (always favoring the legitimacy of the ancestors of whatever patrons were footing the bill) – read the thanes of Shakespeare’s "MacBeth" arguing that any foible can be forgiven in a king so long as he can rule with a strong hand, preserving the land from anarchy.
But The Lord of the Rings is not about restoring the metaphoric Ring of Power to the rightful king. Rather, we see Frodo the ringbearer – an open-faced hobbit in homespun making the most seemingly unlikely champion, except for the fact that hobbits are the creatures in all Middle Earth least likely to be seduced by the promise of power – offer the ring to each of the good wizards and elf queens and royal heirs of his world, in turn.
Those who succumb to temptation come to bad ends. The test of goodness and worth – in this film as in the book – is the ability to say "No" to the offer of unlimited power, to declare, as does Gandalf the Gray (Ian McKellen), "Oh, I would use this ring in an attempt to do good. But through me, it would wield a terrible power. ..."
Frodo’s quest is not to deliver the One Ring to the right king, but rather to haul it back to the mountain of fire where it was forged in darkness, and destroy it.
What’s that? Not merely to reassign government power to its rightful heirs, but to reduce and limit it for all time? To declare that the solution is not merely to make sure "the right party" manipulates the existing levers of power, but rather that such unrestricted power is to be banished from the globe for good, setting men free to seek their own mortal (albeit often misguided) destinies?
This is the conclusion Prof. Tolkien drew after watching Europe wracked by 30 years of (briefly interrupted) total war between the struggling factions of fascism and collectivism.
It’s also – coincidentally enough – what America’s founders attempted 215 years ago, when they set about constructing a government "of limited powers, sharply defined."
Do most of our present-day rulers still share that vision? Is it a common thing to walk into a federal court these days and find a judge scratching his head and declaring, "You know, the defendant has a point – I can’t seem to find any specifically delegated power in Article I Section 8 of the Constitution for the Congress to enact laws or create agencies to meddle in this field of human endeavor, at all. I thereby rule this entire section of the federal code to be unconstitutional and null and void, and order the agency whose agents have brought these charges to be dissolved forthwith. Issue yourselves severance checks, turn out the lights and lock the doors; case dismissed"?
Of course not. Because the Libertarians and Constitutionalists who argue in America today that the goal and raison d’etre of this government from its founding was to limit central power in order to maximize individual freedom, get about as much respect and attention from today’s swordbearers – anxious to centralize everything from bank account reporting procedures to airport security – as did Tolkien’s little hobbits from the dark lord Sauron.
Our eventual success today – against such a fearful array of forces, once supposed to stand as "checks and balances" one against another – looks about as likely as that of little Frodo’s lonely pilgrimage to Mordor.
Read the rest here!