Game of Thrones takes place in a feudal setting, so notions about ideology are not prevalent. Most characters are deeply conservative, certainly by today’s standards: they believe in traditional values, adhere to monarchic principles and are classical power players never shying away from the power of force. Liberals are much more difficult to find. Although the notion of freedom is important to a number of characters, most interpret it in a very different way from contemporary liberals.
Take Daenerys Targaryen, the “Breaker of Chains”, who used much of her power – and political capital – to free slaves. Yet her primary goal remains conquering Westeros; she is willing to give an amount of personal freedom – but no political rights. Anyone who does not bend the knee is an enemy.
I would argue there are three contenders for being at least “proto-liberal”. Tyrion Lannister, in addition to always looking out for minority groups, believes there should be rules in place that prevent Westeros from falling into anarchy once a popular ruler leaves the scene. This sounds like an attempt to have institutional checks in place – a forerunner of liberal democracy. Another contender is the now deceased Petyr Baelish. Littlefinger was a self-made man: he created his fortune not through inheritance but by hard work – and a little economic scheming. He should have stayed away from politics: as long as he concentrated on his business interests, he thrived despite his lowly birth.
The real liberals – or rather, libertarians https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojubI-sYwho – of Westeros are the wildlings. The “freefolk” as they call themselves pay no taxes, do not bend the knee to anyone, elect their own king and have liberal attitudes to sexual and moral codes. They survived despite attempts by the Night Watch, the Northern houses and the Whitewalkers to wipe them out, showing how resilient a free society can be. If only the weather had been a bit better, we could have seen mass exodus of the oppressed of Westeros to beyond the Wall.
Author: Dr. Csaba Tóth, Director of Strategy at Republikon Institute, a liberal Think Tank based in Budapest. He is also author of two books on Science Fiction and Politics.