Steve Bainbridge on Batman:

Steve Bainbridge responds to my post on Batman here, linking to an earlier post of his claiming that Batman actually causes more harm than good because he damages property during his car chase in the first movie and violates corporate law by diverting corporate assets to serve his own personal agenda. The first point is easily dispensed with. Yes, Batman did destroy a lot of property during the final car chase in Batman Begins. However, given that the car chase was necessary to save the entire city from being destroyed by the League of Shadows and most of the inhabitants from being killed in the process, I'd say that the tradeoff was worth it. Perhaps Bruce Wayne should compensate those who lost property in the chase (and maybe in the time that passed between the two movies he did). But even if he failed to do this, the good he accomplished in this scene surely outweighed the harm.

The corporate law point is more interesting. I'm no expert on corporate law, but I'll assume that Bainbridge (who is an expert) is right to conclude that Wayne violated those laws. However, I don't think this aspect of the plot is integral to the message of the movie. Indeed, I'm not even sure that the filmmakers intend for the audience to regard Wayne's actions as illegal. If, as Bainbridge suggests, Wayne violated the rights of minority shareholders, one would expect some of them to sue. And if large amounts of corporate assets were being diverted to unproductive personal projects of Wayne's, one would expect shares of Wayne Industries stock to precipitously decline in value as potential shareholders recognize that buying Wayne stock is a money-losing proposition.

Yet in the second movie, Wayne Enterprises seems to be as successful as ever. Indeed, as I suggested in the original post, diverting some corporate funds to crimefighting might well be in the interests of the stockholders because Gotham City's high crime rate discourages investment and thereby reduces of the value of Wayne Industries stock. As for Bainbridge's claim that Wayne violated antitakeover laws when he regained control of the corporation at the end of Batman Begins, this - if correct - would be consistent with the libertarian theme I identify. After all, most libertarians view antitakover laws as unjustified government restraints on the market. Wayne's takeover of Wayne Industries might well have made the firm more profitable by removing less capable incumbent managers. There may be similar libertarian objections to at least some of the other corporate laws that Bainbridge accuses Wayne of violating. Perhaps the movie can be interpreted as a critique of government's role in the corporate world as well as its role in traditional law enforcement.

In any event, Wayne's corporate lawbreaking is hardly a central focus of the movie. By contrast, the skepticism about government and (relative) optimism about private initiative that I stress in my post really are key themes in both movies, especially the second.

Ultimately, criticizing Batman for violating corporate law is a bit like criticizing the coach in Hoosiers for using basketball strategies that wouldn't work in the real world. The criticism is technically correct, but misses the point of the story.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Steve Bainbridge on Batman:
  2. The Libertarian Law and Economics of Batman: