Last night we went to see The Dark Knight, a wonderfully entertaining movie in the Batman series. While I admit freely that I loved the 60’s Batman TV series in all its hokiness, the movies have been an entertaining, if much more serious approach to the beloved superhero.
Somewhere around the middle of the film though, I became a bit uncomfortable. Without giving away too much of the plot, here’s how it plays out: The police department of Gotham City includes some corrupt cops, some incompetent cops, and a few who may actually know how to get things done. The district attorney is a class act, but can’t do it all alone. The mayor is a nice guy, but possibly clueless.
With poor Gotham City facing crime and chaos, it turns to Batman. Only Batman, who is really Bruce Wayne, can get it all done. Now here’s the catch: The reasons that Batman / Bruce Wayne can be successful in crime fighting are:
- Batman / Bruce Wayne is not bound by protocol or rules that would tie up governmental bodies in red tape. Little things like obtaining search warrants or refraining from bugging private conversations cannot stand in his way.
- Batman / Bruce Wayne doesn’t have to worry about budgets. He IS private industry, and therefore can invest in research and development of tools that he finds necessary. He does not need to appear before any oversight committees of the Senate or City Council.
- Batman / Bruce Wayne has the best people on his staff. He is surrounded by a small number of people that he trusts. Their jobs are not safeguarded, as far as we can tell, by the unions that represent police officers or other governmental employees.
Getting uncomfortable yet?
Yes, indeedy, the story is a metaphor. Here’s the translation: Big government doesn’t work. At best, it becomes unwieldy. Worse yet, it can be incompetent. And ultimately, it becomes corrupt.
The only solution is privatization. In the real world in which we live, that privatization has resulted in schools districts and prisons being managed by private companies, under contract by government. Thus, big government can be reduced, and free economy capitalists move into the vacuum. The capitalist entrepreneurs become the heroes. It is they who are able to rescue the cities of America from government employees who can’t close the deal.
I have no idea whether the writers of this movie, or those who invented the Batman characters, even imagined that their story is easily interpreted as an anti-big government diatribe. But in an election year, the underlying assumptions of the plot were just too, well, Republican for my tastes.
But go see the movie!