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.