Daddy Day Care

Steve Carr

9 May 2003

Khamani Griffin as Ben Hinton
Eddie Murphy as Charlie Hinton

Produced in 2003 by Revolution Studios, Daddy Day Care is a charming libertarian comedy starring Eddie Murphy as Charlie Hinton and Jeff Garlin as Phil.  The story, which concerns itself principally with the struggle between neo-mercantilism and the free market, evinces memory of the New Left analysis of the supposed Progressive Era.

When Charlie and Phil lose their jobs, they decide to open their own daycare service, calling it “Daddy Day Care.”  Why daycare?  For one thing, so they can spend time with their children; and for another, because they notice that there exists an underserved market for childcare services.

Anjelica Huston
as Miss Harridan

The two men do find a variety of small daycare centres, but none of which seem particularly desirable to the parents of the community.  There is also one large childcare company, Chapman Academy, run by a Miss Gwyneth Harridan—but it is rather pricey.  Charlie realises that there is demand for a new daycare centre, one with a lower cost to parents and a more-relaxed environment for the children, and thus Charlie and Phil open their new small business together.

While a couple mothers are, at first, a bit reticent about leaving their children in the hands of men, an important feminist theme is explored early in the film.  When the two women express their reticence, a third (Peggy) steps up and promotes gender equality.  “Can’t women do what men do and men do what women do?” she asks.  This point is found to be readily convincing for the reticent parents.

By day two, Daddy Day Care is taking care of eleven children.  Unfortunately for Miss Harridan (played by Anjelica Huston), it turns out that Daddy Day Care is siphoning students away from Chapman Academy.  She realises immediately that she is facing competition from the new start-up, and this does not please her one bit.  So what does she do?  She calls the government and gets it to step in!

That’s right.  She gets a government bureaucrat named Dan Kubitz (played by Jonathan Katz) to conduct a “compliance inspection” at Daddy Day Care.  (Compliance inspections are only conducted if a complaint is received; guess who made the “complaint.”)  This demonstrates the force of what we call “state capitalism” (also referred to as neo-mercantilism, protectionism, or economic interventionism).  If Miss Harridan is successful in getting the government to eliminate her competition, she can gain higher profits than she would in a truly free market.  As Dr. Murray Rothbard wrote in 1965,

Dr. Gabriel Kolko

The most thorough exposition of the origins of State monopoly capitalism, or what he calls “political capitalism,” in the U. S. is found in the brilliant work of Dr. Gabriel Kolko.  In his Triumph of Conservatism, Kolko traces the origins of political capitalism in the “reforms” of the Progressive Era.  Orthodox historians have always treated the Progressive period (roughly 1900–1916) as a time when free-market capitalism was becoming increasingly “monopolistic”; in reaction to this reign of monopoly and big business, so the story runs, altruistic intellectuals and far-seeing politicians turned to intervention by the government to reform and regulate these evils.  Kolko’s great work demonstrates that the reality was almost precisely the opposite of this myth.  Despite the wave of mergers and trusts formed around the turn of the century, Kolko reveals, the forces of competition on the free market rapidly vitiated and dissolved these attempts at stabilizing and perpetuating the economic power of big business interests.  It was precisely in reaction to their impending defeat at the hands of the competitive storms of the market that business turned, increasingly after the 1900’s, to the federal government for aid and protection.  In short, the intervention by the federal government was designed, not to curb big business monopoly for the sake of the public weal, but to create monopolies that big business (as well as trade associations smaller business) had not been able to establish amidst the competitive gales of the free market (“Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty,” Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought 1, no. 1 (Spring, 1965): 13–14.).

Kubitz conducts his so-called compliance inspection, and gives to Charlie and Phil a huge packet of government paperwork to fill out.  It is due, they are told, by nine A.M. the next morning; should Kubitz find that it is not completed by the deadline, the state will forcibly shut down Daddy Day Care.

Well, Charlie and Phil stay up all night long working on the tedious government paperwork, and present said paperwork to Kubitz the next morning.  Kubitz also informs the duo that, since they are now taking care of eleven children instead of nine, they have to hire a third care provider, as the statist regulation “specifically states that the ratio of children to care providers cannot exceed five to one.”  Apparently, Phil and Charlie were fully capable of handling ten children, according to the central planners, but eleven?  Heavens forbid!

The duo then becomes a trio, as they hire Marvin (played by Steve Zahn) to be the third “daddy.”  And things go just dandy, until the bureaucrat returns again.  You see, it wasn’t long before Daddy Day Care’s enrolment was up to fourteen kids, and, as Dan Kubitz explains, “According to state regulations, a childcare centre in a family home is limited to a maximum of twelve children.”

“We have plenty of room here for these kids,” the small-business owners try to explain.  Nevertheless, the government employee merely responds by saying, “I don’t make the rules, I enforce them,” which sounds remarkably similar to those Nazis who tried to justify their actions by saying they were “just following orders.”

In any event, Kubitz does have the guns of government on his side.  Because the state apparatus has the power to use violence to achieve its goals, stealing from and caging (if not murdering) those who resist, Charlie, Phil, and Marvin have no choice but to raise the money requisit to purchase a larger facility if they wish to remain in business.  In pursuit of this goal, they set up a little fundraising extravaganza called “Rock for Daddy Day Care.”  This leads us to what might be the best dialogue in the whole movie.


“Rock for Daddy Day Care—help us finance our new permanent home.”  Do you know what this means?


It’s a chance to improve ourselves through a little healthy competition?


No, you bobbleheaded idiot.  It’s a death sentence.

Lacey Chabert
as Jenny

Jenny, played by Lacey Chabert, is Miss Harridan’s assistant.  She tends to be a very endearing character, for as this dialogue indicates, her impulse is in the right direction.  Indeed, the attitude she exhibits here is the attitude those in business ought to adopt.  A little healthy competition on a truly free market would do a world of good—especially for consumers!

Alas, this is not the approach Miss Harridan takes.  She possesses a lack of business ethics, and has no problem with using aggression to achieve her ends.  Harridan had already displayed this tendency toward ethical nihilism in her willingness to try to use state power to push her competitors out of the market.  At this point in the film, she, along with her assistant, personally violates the property rights of the Daddy Day Care owners so as to sabotage their fundraising event.  Jenny expresses reticence, but unfortunately follows, as Harridan espouses the “virtues” of playing dirty.  Thus, we can see that although Jenny is an endearing character whose impulse is in the right direction, she is still at this point a follower.

Harridan’s efforts initially pay off, as Daddy Day Care finds itself unable to raise the funds necessary to purchase the space.  Phil and Charlie decide that perhaps it would be best to find new jobs, but when Charlie decides that Daddy Day Care is truly what he wants to do in life, he and Phil decide to continue the strive to purchase the space.

Steve Zahn as Marvin
Jeff Garlin as Phil

In a charming little dialogue between Miss Harridan and Charlie toward the end of the film, we see their differing views on children:


They’re children; they don’t know what they want.


Yes, they do know what they want—all of them.  And they’re all different.

There is indeed truth to what Charlie says here.  Just like adults, children are unique individuals, some preferring this, some preferring that.  Some are really into dinosaurs, others really into space exploration.  Some are better at math, others at history.  Every child is unique, and one of the reasons why Daddy Day Care had been so successful is that it actually took the time to listen to the children under its care—unlike the Chapman Academy.  It is precisely because every child is unique that one-size-fits-all education requirements usually do more harm than good.

The movie ends happily, with Daddy Day Care successfully institutionalised in its new home.  Jenny is now a Daddy Day Care employee, and—as for Miss Harridan?—not surprisingly, she has taken a job with the government.

Click Here to See the Trailer

Click Here to Watch the Feature Film