Although it may seem like we’ve been living in a dystopian horror movie for the past three years, things could always be worse. We could be characters in the 2013 horror movie franchise The Purge where overcrowding in American prisons causes the government to enact annual 12-hour periods of “purging” where all crimes (including murder) are legal.
Luckily we’re not, because murder is scary — even though it would probably be pretty great (for our self confidence) to descend from the combined gene pool of the movie’s stars, Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey.
Could The Purge really happen?
However, American moviegoers are fixated on this idea. It’s half a day where you can do literally anything and get away with it. Some might use that time to erase all student loan debt. Some might want to use that time to murder their former math teacher. Depending on who you are and what you want to do during this period of no rules, it could be totally scary. But after four movies and a TV series focused on the concept, could The Purge really ever happen?
People would need to hold on to their anger... for a really long time
According to sociologist Lester Andrist, this kind of reality would depend upon people being full of rage and aggression. Then in order for this to work, people would have to store up their rage and aggression for that one special day all year when they can go absolutely ham.
It's an interesting and provocative idea and I like it as a device to tell a story. But in point and fact it's just not how it works,” he told Complex.
Dr. Carolyn Kaufman who wrote about the psychology behind The Purge for Psychology Today has a similar idea on humans and their ability to carry around rage for that long. “The reality is that acting out our rage is more likely to increase aggression than purge it,” she writes. “Also, even hypothetically speaking, carrying around a whole year’s worth of hatred just to act it out in a murderous rampage once a year isn’t likely to make people follow the rules better the rest of the year.”
It would ruin the economy.
Forbes argues that any sort of purge would actually severely mess up the insurance and business markets and on a greater scale, the economy. Because so many people would be getting murdered and/or businesses would be looted and destroyed, life and property insurance would have to add purge-related coverage which would send premiums through the roof that barely anyone could afford.
“It should be noted that premium raises right before the purge would be a terrible business strategy… a real-life purge would amplify economic and racial inequality; habituate significant numbers of economic and political elites toward constant violent predation; create tiered insurance systems that would further advantage wealthier citizens, businesses and communities; and further increase monopolization in the U.S. economy over time.”
Even though The Purge movie is really about population control, creating more institutionalized disadvantages to the impoverished, and scaring the pants off of you, the real American government can only do a tiny fraction of that to its citizens. So rest assured we’re safe… for now.