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Why Grandpa Vanderhof?

I am not a grandfather, nor is my last name Vanderhof.  So why is this freedom-loving blog called “Grandpa Vanderhof Says . . .”?

LionelMartin Vanderhof is the eccentric, happy, philosophical old man in Moss Hart’s and George S. Kaufman’s classic play You Can’t Take it with You, referred to by most of the others as “Grandpa”.  Grandpa, played by the immortal Lionel Barrymore in Frank Capra’s 1938 film adaptation, is an anarchist hero of mine.  He was once on a trajectory to be a Wall Street big wig, too big too fail, until one day he realized he wasn’t having any fun.  So he road the elevator down to the lobby, walked out, and never returned to the doom and gloom of the financial world.  He devoted the rest of his life to a philosophy of simplicity, doing only what he pleased, allowing no one to restrict his freedom in any way.  Think of his as a happy-go-lucky Sartre.

At the time of You Can’t Take it with You, he has lived this way for thirty-five years.  He has never paid an income tax, because he doesn’t believe in it, and simply smiles in bemusement at the government goon who come banging on his door trying to ruin his fun.  He prays twice in the play, reminding God that “all we ask is to just get along in our own little way.”  He is impulsive, completely sincere, and has absolutely no use for the government and its schemes.  As it happens, I portrayed Grandpa once, and thus feel a certain connection with the character.  His lines drip with simple wisdom and practical advice, though always with a touch of transcendence.  So many libertarians and anarchists are full of dread and fear of the government, while Grandpa to me represents a positive outlook on the cause of liberty – that anarchy isn’t a political cause, but a lifestyle which each and every one of us can embody.