While Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson could be crowned TV’s libertarian king, there’s another fictional character who deserves more attention from libertarian audiences: Jeff Winger, the darling of Greendale Community College. And unlike Parks and Rec, which is in its final season, Community is coming back for another season on March 17.
Over the course of Community’s five-year run, the show has made a few overt references to Jeff’s libertarian proclivities, most notably in the second-season episode “Intro to Political Science.” Motivated by the desire to mock his classmates’ political fervor, Jeff enters the race for student body president. An on-screen graphic displays his party affiliation as “Libertarian.”
But Jeff Winger’s libertarianism shows more in his approach to education than in his politics.
Community chronicles the lives of students, teachers, and administrators at a community college in the fictional town of Greendale, Colorado. Initially assembled as an ad-hoc Spanish study group, seven misfits quickly become friends, roommates, and occasional lovers. The group’s reasons to attend community college range from financial necessity to boredom — and everything in between.
Jeff enrolled at Greendale essentially as punishment. Community’s pilot episode reveals that he was once a proud and brilliant attorney. However, at the height of his career, he was disbarred. “The state bar has suspended my license,” Jeff says to Professor Ian Duncan (John Oliver), who happens to be a former client. “They found out my college degree is less than legitimate.” Jeff never graduated.
Jeff is a liar and a manipulator. But his personal character is beside the point. Adept at his profession, he successfully represented his clients. And he didn’t need a diploma to do so. Of course, the state bar disagreed.
Jeff Winger wasn’t disbarred for incompetence, or even for lying. His lack of formal education did not hurt his clients or the public.
He was disbarred because he did not possess the arguably arbitrary credentials.
Why is a formal education the nonnegotiable prerequisite for so many lines of work?