Tiger King


There's something for every libertarian in Tiger King, Netflix's new docuseries on the lives and feuds of America's tiger keepers. The star of the show is Joe Exotic, a gay, gun-toting, polyamorous former zoo owner who is currently serving out a federal prison sentence for an abortive murder-for-hire scheme targeting his long-standing rival, Carol Baskin, another zookeeper who also happens to be the target of (unproven) homicide accusations regarding her missing ex-husband.

Lovers of both animals and freedom will feel vindicated by the fact that private entrepreneurs like Exotic are helping to keep the globe's dwindling population of tigers alive, all while making a little profit on the side. Libertarian Party enthusiasts might be glad to see their outfit name-checked heavily in the series' coverage of Exotic's 2018 run for the Oklahoma L.P.'s gubernatorial nomination (though they'll certainly be relieved he came in third). Lifestyle libertarians of all stripes, meanwhile, will be pleased at the show's depiction of the possibilities provided by private property rights, broad social tolerance, and a stiff Second Amendment.

Tiger King is a bizarre show full of bizarre people. Their idea of a good time is going to fit very few people's conceptions of the good life. Nevertheless, it's irresistibly charming to contemplate these characters' ability to carve out for themselves a rich (to them, at least) life in the world of private zookeeping. That world, in turn, couldn't exist without a laundry list of freedoms you won't find protected in many other places in the world. America truly is, in its way, a limited utopia of utopias—attempted homicides and Federal Election Commission violations notwithstanding.

NEXT: Guns and Guitars

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  1. How timely!!

    Joe Exotic is in jail for 20 years because he used her trademark without permission. (that offense drove him into bankruptcy due to the absurdly high fine) Fork the judge who set that fine!!

    1. No he was sentenced for conviction on a attempted murder conspiracy charge as well as several dozen counts of animal cruelty.

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  2. A collection of meth heads who breed big cats for their cubs for kids to play with and then kill them when they get dangerous? This is your idea of a libertarian paradise? You sure you want to go with that?

    1. Yeah, that was my response, too. There is considerable evidence that Joe Exotic and some of the other big cat owners featured in this show routinely kill tigers when they pass the age at which they’re useful for tourist visits, and that they mistreat the animals when they’re alive as well.

      This show might be many things, but it’s definitely not something that any animal lover should feel good about.

    2. I can’t believe I’m agreeing with Vanneman on anything, but he’s right. The whole series was like watching Jerry Springer with wild animals. It took Joe getting thrown in prison to reflect on the zoo and whether he had actually done it for his own self-aggrandization rather than the animals; the part where he talked about the two chimps who he kept in separate cages and hugged each other when they were placed together in another facility was heartbreaking.

      There’s a wildlife preserve in Colorado’s eastern plains that took a bunch of the tigers that were at this zoo. Hopefully they’re more comfortable and at peace there.

  3. “The star of the show is Joe Exotic, a gay, gun-toting, polyamorous former zoo owner who is currently serving out a federal prison sentence for an abortive murder-for-hire scheme ”

    Sure, just ignore 8 counts of violating the Lacy act and 9 counts of violating the endangered species act.

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