Friday, July 01, 2005

Back off Batman 

LS and I finally got to see Batman Begins; it was the best movie she's ever seen, she says. I think it was better than any superhero movie since XMen, and I might actually like it better. I don't do movie reviews, though; see Chumley's at Plastic Hallway, which agrees with my assessment mostly. (I am extremely jealous of him seeing it at IMAX.)

Shawn Sarazin was at the MOB Road Show and said he doesn't get his politics from his movies. Me neither. So what the hell is with these people?

Specifically, we learn that Thomas chose to disassociate himself with Wayne Industries - the family business - and instead pursue the more noble profession of medicine. During one scene, he grins at his wife and tells young Bruce that he has left running the company to "more interested men." Viewers later learn that he does have at least one role within the business - spending its money. The butler informs Bruce that Thomas nearly drove Wayne Industries into the ground financing a massive public transportation system that Thomas claims would "bring the city together" during a time of economic depression.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with philanthropy, the implicit message is that such actions are morally and economically superior to running a successful industry. Wayne Industries is presumably the largest employer in Gotham, but never once is the firm's success or failure mentioned as a determinant of economic stability. Bankrupting the company by pouring money into a monorail is hardly the best way
to benefit those in need of jobs and security.

In fact, as Ludwig von Mises explains in The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, "Nobody is needy in the market economy because of the fact that some people are rich. The riches of the rich are not the cause of the poverty of anybody. The process that makes some people rich is, on the contrary, the corollary of the process that improves many peoples' want satisfaction."

This misunderstanding of how capitalism functions carries over into the movie's depiction of Wayne Industries itself.

Yet Wayne Industries is a private company that never appears to approach bankruptcy -- taking it public is one of the subplots in the story -- and it was Thomas' money to do as he pleases. He is under no obligation to "benefit those in need of jobs and security", as I thought folks at the Mises Institute would understand. Choosing to delegate day-to-day operations to those more interested is not unreasonable if one thinks that others can create wealth out of inherited capital (Thomas was not the founder of Wayne Industries) better than oneself. Thomas never required anyone else to pay for his light rail.

I find libertarian critique of Batman misguided for this point as well: Batman is an individualist. His fight with the League of Shadows is a fight against a moralistic group that wishes to impose its will on society; Batman seems unconcerned over personal freedoms that give way to licentiousness. At the end of the movie (I don't think this is a spoiler) the good cop who helps Batman says (I'm paraphrasing from memory), "I never did say thank you." Batman's reply is straight out of Ayn Rand: "And you will never have to."