It's a common enough Internet refrain at this point: why doesn't the orphaned billionaire Bruce Wayne invest his money in social services and poverty reduction programs, instead of investing in weapons development so he can dress up in a bat costume and punch people with debilitating mental illnesses in the face?
It seems a valid point, at least on the surface. But British comics journalist Steve Morris provides an equally valid counter-argument over at Shelf Dust: that according to the rules of the fictional world of DC Comics, it is demonstrably better to concentrate wealth in the hands of a single billionaire with a strong moral compass. Because there is a statistical likelihood that any attempts to the contrary will be horribly awry:
Every single person in Gotham City is one bad day away from turning into a criminal, and Bruce Wayne's best bet is to hoard all his money and make sure that nobody else gets their hands on it.
If you use money to fund schooling, you get Maxie Zeus; fund rehabilitation programmes and you get Harley Quinn and Hugo Strange. Hush was a brilliant surgeon; Man-Bat was a genius scientist; Two-Face was the District Attorney. None of them could be trusted with power, or even with their own independent thought. What they need is to be punched by a billionaire until they go into a prison or asylum where society can forget about them.
What an… interesting message for a multi-million dollar publishing company to be putting out there for people. If you give poor people money, they'll turn into a danger to everyone else, so Good Rich People should be the only ones with the power, as they're the only ones who can be trusted. When somebody challenges that idea, they're normally wearing a mask and calling themself "Anarky". There is a message bedded deep within the Batman comics that money does not belong to the people, as they will simply spend it on bad things. Don't trust your neighbours: they might be Prometheus.
This is all deeply, deeply cynical: but that's because Gotham is meant to be a cynical, downtrodden, miserable place. There's a reason why half the vigilante heroes who keep the place safe are child soldiers, after all.
There's more to the argument, of course. But in its context, Morris makes a surprisingly convincing meta-point.
Bruce Wayne Should Never Give Any Money To Charity [Steve Morris / Shelf Dust]
Image: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)