Bryan Caplan

Libertyman

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Technological Determinishm... Leviathan Montgomery...

I just came across a surprising bit of libertarian trivia that didn't appear in Brian Doherty's magnum opus. Steve Ditko, the co-creator of Spiderman, was a self-identified Objectivist. He even created two explicitly ideological superheroes. The first, the Question, inspired the legendary Rorschach of Watchmen fame:

The Question is one of the more philosophically complex superheroes. As a tireless opponent of societal corruption, the Question expounded Ditko's belief in Objectivism, during his career as a minor Charlton hero...
But it's Mr. A that I can barely believe saw print:
Mr. A's name comes from "A is A", an often used way to represent the Law of Identity...

Mr. A is one of the clearest examples of Ditko's belief in Ayn Rand's Objectivism. Typical stories will have one character convince him or herself that doing just a few illegal acts to get ahead in life will not make him or her a bad person. This character's crimes escalate when they must either take action to cover their previous misdeeds or are now too closely tied to more dangerous criminals to simply walk away. The stories invariably end with Mr. A confronting the criminals and telling them that they are all guilty, including the character who had wished to remain good. A staple for most stories involves this character trying to justify his or her immoral actions to both others and him or herself, blaming things such as environment and society rather than taking responsibility...

Detractors have said that Mr. A is an unfeeling character who offers no remorse or mercy to criminals. In the stories themselves Mr. A says that he feels only for the innocent and victimized. His brand of justice might seem harsh to some, but on the other hand his punishments for criminals arguably fit the crimes they committed. People who commit "just one crime", such as accepting dirty money are turned over to authorities to stand trial for what they have done. Mr. A refuses to overlook their transgressions, even if they profess they will be good from then on. Killers and would-be-killers generally find themselves in situations where they need Mr. A's assistance to save them, but since they had no respect for innocent lives then he offers no aid for their guilty ones. It is only when an innocent life is directly threatened that Mr. A will kill, and when he does so it is without remorse.

Just in case you think libertarian fanboys are reading too much into these stories, here's Ditko himself. The prose is tedious, but the one-page comic on "Mutual Consent or Force" is sweet.


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