The Most Anti-Authoritarian Christmas Special

By Mississippi Center for Public Policy
December 20, 2021

1970’s Santa Clause is Comin to Town is one of Rankin/Bass’ most popular stop-motion animated programs. The holiday classic, based on the song of the same name, tells the story of how Santa Clause came to be. To lovers of liberty, it also serves as an allegory for free markets and how prohibition and tyrannical laws only lead to worse outcomes.

Santa Clause is Comin’ to Town casts its title character as an idealist, an individualist who detests nonsensical regulatory laws and fights against them, all whilst spreading Christmas cheer. The tyranny begins when Sombertown’s governor, the Burgermeister Meisterburger seeks to ban all toys after he trips over one and breaks his leg.

Does this not seem familiar to when we hear left-wing activists nowadays seeking to ban anything they deem “dangerous?” – guns, toy guns (ironically), fast food advertisements, fossil fuel-powered cars, pets, “violent” video games (more toys), and free speech, among other seemingly harmless things. The thing is, we continue to attempt to ban things when we know that doesn’t work. By nature, people will do what authority tells them not to. Outlawing something that we do not understand, fear, or do not like does not work and is simply unjust. To decide what’s good and not good for an individual without their consent is an infringement on self-governance completely. The most prevalent example of this is the prohibition of alcohol, which we know only made matters worse – crime, addiction, corruption, etc.

Santa sees the injustice happening in Sombertown and dares to defy the governor’s orders. When he finally makes the perilous journey into the village, he opens his sack of toys, and happy children commence to playing with them.

Infuriated, Meisterburger orders the arrest of the children, but Santa intervenes and offers him a yo-yo. It immediately improves the governor’s sour disposition, until one of his officers reminds him that he's breaking his own law. Thankfully though, the distraction allows Santa to escape arrest.

Santa later launches a guerrilla campaign to smuggle toys into Sombertown. He adopts the conventions that we now associate with the Legend of St. Nick — arriving under cover, entering homes through unconventional means, planting toys in wet socks hung by the fire — to meet the demand for toys while avoiding law enforcement.

The governor’s men then adopt more aggressive tactics like unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as subjecting violators to excessive punishments, though we’re told the tyrant(s) eventually died off and were replaced by better men. “By and by,” the narrator says, “the good people realized how silly their laws were,” and Santa's story goes worldwide. He no longer is considered an outlaw, but a saint. He grows older, but continues an annual ride across the planet, delivering gifts to all the well-behaved boys and girls.

It's an unconventional happy ending, and a silly allegory, but one that resonates with those who favor limited government. Unjust laws are finally repealed with the help of a brave individualist and freedom reigns. If there is some lesson to be learned, it’s that the prohibition of anything could result in many worse outcomes – crime, corruption, and increased government control over average citizens’ lives. If the adults don’t get anything out of this animated classic, hopefully, the kids will.


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