Swanson’s staunch libertarianism is sprinkled throughout the series — and he’s a hero of the show, not a heel of all the jokes (as you would expect from Hollywood.) A great example is the episode that featured Swanson’s “Pyramid of Greatness.” But the best explanation of Swanson’s libertarian philosophy — smartly presented, for a sitcom — is in the episode “Road Trip” from Season 3.
Ron Swanson, a local government manager who hates government, explains to a 4th grade girl the incompetence (and perils) of government. By eating her lunch, an exposing her to John Locke, Swanson (Ron … please), has planted the seed of liberty in a skull full of mush the government education complex.
Here is the complete transcript of Ron’s interaction with the girl — and later, the girl’s mom … who is aghast that Ron filled her head with such thoughts. (At the bottom of the transcript is a video someone took by filming his TV during the scenes. It’s very low quality, but at least it’s on the record). We begin:
RON SWANSON: Lauren. My name is Ron Swanson. And I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about the miserable, screwed-up world of local government.
LAUREN BURKISS: You have mustard in your mustache.
RON: Don’t sass me Burkiss. … Life, liberty and property. John Locke.
RON: This is your lunch. Now … you should be able to do whatever you want with this, right? If you want to eat all of it, great. If you want to throw it all away in the garbage, that’s your prerogative. But here I come … the government. [Ron takes a big bite out of Lauren's sandwich.] And I get to take 40 percent of your lunch. [Ron eats Lauren's chips and takes a big sip from her juice box.] And that, Lauren, is how taxes work.
LAUREN: That’s not fair!
RON: You’re learning … Uh oh! … Capital gains tax. [Ron takes another chunk out of Lauren's sandwich.]
RON: And that, Lauren, is how FDR ruined this country.
TEACHER: Lauren, ready to head back?
RON: Well, I guess it’s time for you to head home. I’ve really enjoyed talking with you. You are — and this is not a joke — much smarter than most of other people who work in this building.
LAUREN: I liked talking with you, too, Mr. Swanson.
RON: Ron … Hang on, hang on. I have something for you. This is a claymore land mine. Use that to protect your property.
LAUREN: Thanks, Ron!
RON: You got it. [smiles broadly]
LAUREN’S MOM: Are you Ron Swanson?
RON: I am.
LAUREN’S MOM: What exactly did you teach my daughter?
RON: Ahh … you must be Mrs. Burkiss.
LAUREN’S MOM: Lauren was supposed to do a paper on why government matters. This is what she wrote. [Slides paper on the desk.]
RON: [Grins, reads the paper] It doesn’t. Well said.
LAUREN’S MOM: Is this a joke?
RON: No, ma’am. I legitimately believe that. I’m a libertarian.
LAUREN’S MOM: Oh, that’s nice, but she’s a fourth-grader. And fourth-graders aren’t supposed to have their minds crammed full of weird ideas. They are supposed do cute reports and get gold stars
RON: I’m sorry …
LAUREN’S MOM: And you ate her lunch! And you gave her a land mine!? Really!?
RON: Well, it seemed appropriate at the time …
LAUREN’S MOM: How?!
RON [to Lauren]: All I’m saying is, keep an open mind for a while. Listen to your teachers, and read all the books you can. Then, when you’re 18, you can drink, gamble, and become a libertarian.
LAUREN: The drinking age is 21.
RON: I know. Another stupid government rule. … So you’ll write a new paper?
RON: Can you autograph this one for me?
RON: [Smiles contently.]
[End of Show, roll ending credits.]