The 1984 movie Ghostbusters isn’t just about ghosts, the iconic Ecto 1 and Dr Venkman chasing after women, it’s also a testament to Reagononics and the republican economic policies which helped put the US economy back on track following a shaky start to the 1980s. The main underlying theme of the Ghostbusters is the magic of the free market and the power of the US private sector.
As Ray Stantz told Peter Venkman when they were contemplating their futures after being fired: “Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities, we didn’t have to produce anything! You’ve never been out of college! You don’t know what it’s like out there! I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results.”
When the Ghostbusters opened in June 1984, Reagan’s re-election into his second term as president hadn’t happened. However, the ideology that is Reagononics was just beginning as the government were cutting taxes and reducing spending on social programs. The anti-government rhetoric was gaining momentum.
And the movie itself is full of references to the economic policies of the Reaganomics era. For example, risky lending from banks, who were increasingly loosely regulated under Reagan’s government, helped boost consumer spending and economic growth … bad banking practises like these also helped cause the savings and loan collapse. Ghostbusters pays homage to this in the scene where the paranormal investigators acquire funding for their business venture as a result of some questionable underwriting by Manhattan City Bank.
As the scientists exited the bank, Venkman said: “You’re never gonna regret this, Ray.”
Stantz, clearly perturbed, responded: “My parents left me that house, I was born there.”
Venkman: “You’re not going to lose the house. Everybody has 3 mortgages these days.”
Stantz snapped back: “But at 19% interest! You didn’t even bargain with the guy.”
Spengler, whilst calculating, interjects: “Ray, for your information, the interest rate [payments] alone for the first 5 years comes to $95,000.”
Venkman, Spengler and Stantz then identify a gap in the market for paranormal investigations and eliminations and use all of their entrepreneurial ability to enter that market and turn a profit.
Reagan’s government also spurred economic growth by ploughing their green dollars into the military. This is touched upon in the Ghostbusters scene where Dr Venkman and co get an uneccesay but bad-ass looking military escort during the drive to the skyscraper where they have their final confrontation with Gozer.
Reaganomics itself wasn’t what the American public supported though, it was the anti-federal government rhetoric. Mirroring this, the real villain in Ghostbusters isn’t Gozer the Gozerian, it’s Walter Peck, a bureaucrat from the Environmental Protection Agency. And just like the US government does to the private sector whenever they become too meddling, Walter Peck unleashes hell on New York when he cuts the power to the Ghostbsuters’ spectral containment unit in their basement. And it’s the private sector that saves the day when the Ghostbusters blow-up the Stay Puft Mashmallow Man.