With a name such as mine, I have always emulated Robin Hood as a kind of patron saint. It was therefore with great anticipation that I went to see the new Robin Hood movie.
I was not impressed. The film offers neither good character development nor the type of sustained suspense of an action thriller. Completely bereft of all poetry and romance (not to mention the absence of any sword fighting or a good quarter staff brawl), the movie had little continuity with the Robin Hood of myth.
But there was one thing the movie gets right: Robin Hood was no socialist.
We know very little about the historical Robin Hood. But we do know that he was not a proto-Obama figure, redistributing wealth to achieve a utopia of economic quality.
But didn’t Robin Hood steal from the rich to give to the poor? If the legends are to be believed, he merely attempted to give back to the people what the government and the corrupt clergy had taken from them. Ridley Scott gets this exactly right in portraying Robin Hood as the defender of a people being taxed to death by a corrupt government.
Confusing Rulership with Ownership
When the Normans invaded England in 1066 (a dark year in the annals of English history), it was the first time England had a king who believed that he actually owned all the land he ruled. This was a completely novel concept in the annals of British history.
Thinking that all of England was his own private backyard, William the Conqueror began to systematically dispossess English landowners of their property in contravention of Proverbs 22:28. He handed over these stolen lands as gifts to his French supporters. Following suit, these nobles then enslaved the populations in their territories, leading to the establishment of feudalism in England. (Yes, I know, feudalism helped people defend themselves, but the pre-Norman systems of defence worked pretty well, when patriotism was rooted to the land not in loyalty to a ruler – a much better motivation).
The Domesday Book documents William’s project of expropriation, showing that by 1086 only 5% of land in England south of the Tees was left in English hands. Moreover, William turned 36 parishes of the New Forest into his own hunting ground.
The Norman kings that followed William continued to work within this totalitarian paradigm, believing they had the right to help themselves to whatever land they wanted. Essentially, everyone became slaves to the king until the rule of law was re-established with the signing of the Magna Charta in 1215.
This forms the political context behind the legends of Robin Hood – that rascal who poached the King’s deer out of a forest that had once supported the common people.
"Robin Hood Economics"
Although Robin Hood is frequently said to have “stolen from the rich to give to the poor,” he was certainly not a proto-Obama .
In fact, the opposite is the case: Robin Hood defended the rights of the common people against unjust taxation and a redistributive system that defrauded the people to increase the wealth and power of their rulers.
“Robin Hood Economics” was more akin to the tea party movement than the socialism with which it is usually associated. As Gary DeMar pointed out back in 2008, Robin Hood opposed the political tyrants of his day to defend property rights. “If a Robin Hood movie were being cast today,” wrote DeMar, “Barack Obama would be cast as Prince John.”
Ridley Scott’s recent movie gets pretty close. There is something Obama -like in Oscar Isaac’s portrayal of King John, who taxes his people to death in order to finance his wars in the Middle East. But there is one difference. Obama is more clever than King John. Instead of demanding outright that the poor hand over their hard-earned dollars to finance his wars, Obama pretends to only tax the rich. But meanwhile he is devaluing the poor’s hard earned dollars through the hidden taxation of debt-spending (read more about that HERE). At least with King John, what you saw was what you got.
To sum, while the grim, haggard, demobilized Crusader that Crowe plays just doesn’t quite capture the spirit of Robin Hood, he does capture his economics. And while a good message can never substitute for good art (which is why I struggle with most contemporary “Christian” films), I am at least thankful for that.