Meditations On Moloch

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Scott Alexander presents his meditations on Moloch, referring to Allen Ginsberg’s Howl:

What has always impressed me about this poem is its conception of civilization as an individual entity. You can almost see him, with his fingers of armies and his skyscraper-window eyes…

A lot of the commentators say Moloch represents capitalism. This is definitely a piece of it, definitely even a big piece. But it doesn’t exactly fit. Capitalism, whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen? Capitalism in whom I am a consciousness without a body? Capitalism, therefore granite cocks?

Moloch is introduced as the answer to a question — C. S. Lewis’ question in Hierarchy Of Philosophers — what does it? Earth could be fair, and all men glad and wise. Instead we have prisons, smokestacks, asylums. What sphinx of cement and aluminum breaks open their skulls and eats up their imagination?

And Ginsberg answers: Moloch does it.

There’s a passage in the Principia Discordia where Malaclypse complains to the Goddess about the evils of human society. “Everyone is hurting each other, the planet is rampant with injustices, whole societies plunder groups of their own people, mothers imprison sons, children perish while brothers war.”

The Goddess answers: “What is the matter with that, if it’s what you want to do?”

Malaclypse: “But nobody wants it! Everybody hates it!”

Goddess: “Oh. Well, then stop.”

The implicit question is — if everyone hates the current system, who perpetuates it? And Ginsberg answers: “Moloch”. It’s powerful not because it’s correct — nobody literally thinks an ancient Carthaginian demon causes everything — but because thinking of the system as an agent throws into relief the degree to which the system isn’t an agent.

Bostrom makes an offhanded reference of the possibility of a dictatorless dystopia, one that every single citizen including the leadership hates but which nevertheless endures unconquered. It’s easy enough to imagine such a state.

Power to the People’s Proxies

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Democracy does not decentralize power to the people, Eric Falkenstein finds — it does the opposite:

As the Occupy movement showed, unorganized mass movements get nothing done, so successful parties are those that channel public legitimacy into a small set of essential rights too important to be outside state dominion. Go to a school board meeting and watch how insiders anticipate idiotic comments from the rabble, and so control the outcome to make such meetings basically Potemkin village town halls. Eventually the organization-committed people take over the organization and the mission-committed people become frustrated and leave (see a description of the recently created regulator CFPB’s quick descent into solipsism). They set up national plans for health care, education, energy, etc., and slander choice and variety as a ‘race to the bottom.’ Thus, teachers unions and Medicare/Medicaid focus on preventing choices that might take away from centralized power, competition from other providers and exit by consumers is outlawed.

Roman and American Immigration Comparison

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Roman conservatives fought against extending citizenship even more violently than their American counterparts, Randall Collins notes, but they still lost:

True, the conservatives had the law on their side; and they were right when they accused reformers and ethnic aliens of breaking the law. But the laws were made in their own interest by the conservatives, and their unwillingness to reform made the struggle turn outside legal channels.

The country which is the world center, where wealth and power is concentrated, is inevitably a magnet for those who are poorer and less privileged. Sometimes the magnet does it own expanding, just as the Roman alliances and conquests brought more territory under Roman control, and attracting even more people to Rome. The USA expanded in much the same way, from colonial times, through the Indian Wars, to the Spanish-American War (when we got Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines). Today’s struggle to secure the Mexican border is the same struggle that started in the 1830s, only then it was ethnic Anglo-Americans who settled on Texas land that the Mexican revolution had inherited from the Spanish empire. All the borders that we are militarizing now against illegal aliens — from Texas and the Southwest to California — were part of the peace treaty that ended the Mexican-American war in 1846, including the Rocky Mountains states on up to Oregon. It was the biggest land conquest in our history; but the geography is the same and people are still moving across it.

A wealthy and powerful country attracts outsiders not only for economic reasons, but because of its prestige. Its lifestyle becomes dominant in the world, setting the standards others imitate, and especially when its citizens have the most rights. Its magnetic attraction for outsiders operates whether peacefully or in the aftermath of its conquests. It has been the same with the other great colonial empires, England and France, both of whose homelands became flooded with immigrants from their former colonies.

Bottom line: as long as the USA is rich and dominant, immigrants will keep on coming, by legal means or illegal.

And the historical lesson is there is nothing that can be done to stop it. Nothing humane, at any rate; doggedly conservative states that stake their identity upon ethnic purity become the nastiest of regimes; when they succeed, it is only through the moral outrages of ethnic cleansing and genocide. America is unlikely to go that route, above all because we have already gone through so much ethnic assimilation in the past so that universalism has become one of our celebrated values.

The Roman comparison shows a silver lining. Despite their violent struggles over citizenship, the aftermath was surprising rapid in putting the issue behind them. Within a generation after full citizenship was granted, ethnic divisions were no longer important for Romans. If we can get to the same resolution, the time-table of our future should be about the same.

And with those struggles behind it, Rome was finally able to flourish. Right?

When Middle East Conflicts Become One

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

In 1979, the Israeli-Palestinian situation was fluid, David Brooks says, but the surrounding Arab world was relatively stagnant:

Now the surrounding region is a cauldron of convulsive change, while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a repetitive Groundhog Day.

Here’s the result: The big regional convulsions are driving events, including the conflict in Gaza. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become just a stage on which the regional clashes in the Arab world are being expressed. When Middle Eastern powers clash, they take shots at Israel to gain advantage over each other.

Look at how the current fighting in Gaza got stoked. Authoritarians and Islamists have been waging a fight for control of Egypt. After the Arab Spring, the Islamists briefly gained the upper hand. But when the Muslim Brotherhood government fell, the military leaders cracked down. They sentenced hundreds of the Brotherhood’s leadership class to death. They also closed roughly 95 percent of the tunnels that connected Egypt to Gaza, where the Brotherhood’s offshoot, Hamas, had gained power.

As intended, the Egyptian move was economically devastating to Hamas. Hamas derived 40 percent of its tax revenue from tariffs on goods that flowed through those tunnels. One economist estimated the economic losses at $460 million a year, nearly a fifth of the Gazan G.D.P.

Hamas needed to end that blockade, but it couldn’t strike Egypt, so it struck Israel. If Hamas could emerge as the heroic fighter in a death match against the Jewish state, if Arab TV screens were filled with dead Palestinian civilians, then public outrage would force Egypt to lift the blockade. Civilian casualties were part of the point. When Mousa Abu Marzook, the deputy chief of the Hamas political bureau, dismissed a plea for a cease-fire, he asked a rhetorical question, “What are 200 martyrs compared with lifting the siege?”

Democracy in Moderation

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Democracy, like all things, is good only in moderation, Eric Falkenstein says — it is a means and not an end:

Taken to an extreme it is highly dysfunctional, as decisions are not helped by making them mass plebiscites or town hall meetings.  Go to a school board meeting and watch how quickly thoughtful discussions get sidetracked. Philip Howard’s Rule of Nobody outlines an interesting consequence to increasing public participation in big decisions. As the number of stakeholders grows each interest group seeks its own group’s ends without moderation, they are single-issue advocates nobly advancing their righteous cause (e.g., Native Americans, aquifers, unions), and so veto action unless they are basically paid-off. The result is that usually nothing happens, and so the days when we could build the interstate highway system, the Hoover Dam, or the Empire State Building in only a year, are over.  Small ‘d’ democratic control of property leads to stasis, why government spending today is mainly on transfer payments and studies, not roads and bridges.

Successful Ethnic Assimilation

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Rome’s was a surprising example of successful ethnic assimilation, Randall Collins suggests:

After about 60 BC, most of the famous authors and politicians had been born outside of Rome: Cicero, Catullus, Virgil, Horace, Livy, and Ovid all came from remote parts of Italy. During the following centuries of the Roman Empire, virtually none of the famous names were born at Rome, and they came not only from Italy but from the provinces. At least in the wealthy and educated classes — the only people that we hear about in the histories — ethnic distinctions had disappeared. Latin became the universal language throughout the western provinces; all traces of local cultural identities disappeared. In the eastern part of the Empire, where the provinces had been under Greek-speaking rulers, Greek continued to be spoken but Latin was used in official matters. With the end of a few areas of die-hard resistance, one hears no more of ethnic nationalist movements. The upper classes and the upwardly mobile, at any rate, lived their lives as Romans.

And They All Lived Happily Ever After?

Well, not exactly. The rich kept on getting richer, the poor more displaced from anything except seeking handouts. Generals became politicians and vice versa. Although the ethnic citizenship issue was settled, the struggles turned into civil wars over personal power, until domestic peace was finally established by a hereditary monarchy.

Boas Wasn’t Boasian

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

When anthropologist Franz Boas died in 1942, his Boasian school had been defined by Ruth Benedict, in her book Patterns of Culture:

The word “define” may surprise some readers. Wasn’t Boas a Boasian? Not really. For most of his life he believed that human populations differ innately in their mental makeup. He was a liberal on race issues only in the sense that he considered these differences to be statistical and, hence, no excuse for systematic discrimination. Every population has capable individuals who should be given a chance to rise to the limits of their potential.

He changed his mind very late in life when external events convinced him of the need to fight “racism,” at that time a synonym for extreme nationalism in general and Nazism in particular. In 1938, he removed earlier racialist statements from his second edition of The Mind of Primitive Man, and the next year Ruth Benedict wrote Race: Science and Politics to show that racism was more than a Nazi aberration, being in fact an ingrained feature of American life. Both of them saw the coming European conflict as part of a larger war.

This is one reason why the war on racism did not end in 1945. Other reasons included a fear that extreme nationalism would lead to a second Hitler and a Third World War. How and why was never clear, but the fear was real. The two power blocs were also competing for the hearts and minds of emerging nations in Asia and Africa, and in this competition the West felt handicapped. How could it win while defining itself as white and Christian? The West thus redefined itself in universal terms and became just as committed as the Eastern bloc to converting the world to its way of life. Finally, the rhetoric of postwar reconstruction reached into all areas of life, even in countries like the U.S. that had emerged unscathed from the conflict. This cultural reconstruction was a logical outcome of the Second World War, which had discredited not just Nazism but also nationalism in general, thereby leaving only right-wing globalism or left-wing globalism. Ironically, this cultural change was weaker in the communist world, where people would remain more conservative in their forms of sociality.

Ruth Benedict backed this change. She felt that America should stop favoring a specific cultural tradition and instead use its educational system to promote diversity. To bring this about, she had to reassure people that a journey through such uncharted waters would not founder on the shoals of unchanging human nature.

A Gentle Introduction to Neoreaction (for Libertarians)

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Andrea Castillo presents a gentle introduction to neoreaction (for libertarians):

I first learned of these rapscallions after one Steve Sailer left a comment on an old Ümlaut article poking fun at Malcolm Gladwell. The article he had linked was interesting enough, so I added his blog to my RSS feed. Another fellow libertarian! Why not?

But something was amiss. Interspersed among the interesting enough commentary on movies, politics, and demography was uncomfortable discussions of international PISA scores and potshots at feminism—thoughts far from the libertarian brand. I left the comfortable sterility of my RSS reader to do some digging and found a treasure trove of top-shelf heterdox samizdaty badness. His website quickly primes you for what to expect: “Immigration – Darwinism – Race – Sports – Gender – IQ – Mexico – Genetics – Politics – Crime – Interracial Marriage.” Oh my. This intrepid Sailer clearly left no stone unturned. Then of course came the dust-ups with Bryan Caplan. But Steve Sailer was really just an early layer. Things got weirder from there.

Intellectuals should run everything as the vanguard of the people

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Liberals consider Piketty’s book a must-read, but only, Eric Falkenstein says, because, like Marx’s Capital, it’s a great safety blanket for Liberal prejudices:

The end-game is exactly what progressive conventional wisdom (e.g., the common New York Times or Harvard professor view) has been preaching for over 50 years: enlarge the state. The key point is a highly credentialed academic wrote a long book proving that some abstruse mathematical inequality (r>g) implies we need to raise taxes on the rich and regulate wealth more democratically. It’s really the debating tactic called ‘spreading’, which is top put forth so many arguments, none sufficient or necessary, that you can always claim victory. For example I could question his many empirical assertions, such as how could German inflation have averaged only 14% from 1913-1950 (p. 545) given inflation was 10^10 in 1923, or how depreciation affects his r/g=C/I steady state equilibrium, but that would leave another 20 assertions unstained, and so those who want to euthanize renteirs can retain faith in their big picture.

Piketty is a modern progressive, best defined as someone who thinks intellectuals should run everything as the vanguard of the people, which is why academics, journalists, and writers are predominantly progressive. Hayek noted that scribes have always been egalitarian, probably always lamenting the fact that the idiots in power don’t write nearly as well as them, and thus, are objectively less qualified but via some tragic flaw in the universe, end up in power. It forms the common reverse dominance hierarchy so common today, where obsequious, hypocritical yet articulate and confident leaders pander to the masses and rule via democracy, focusing their envious eyes on those who aren’t interested in that game, such as those concerned with business, religion, or their own family. As Piketty notes, “if we are to regain control of capitalism we must bet everything on democracy” (p. 573), he says from his inegalitarian and very undemocratic position at the Paris School of Economics.

It never occurs to them that the main problem with subjecting markets to democratic control is that those who end up wielding power will be incompetent or tyrannical, and that ‘the people’ have never ruled directly, only their various proxies. Every totalitarian government of the 20th century has rested on at least the perception of massive popular support, which is why they have all ruled in the name of The People. An unchecked democracy becomes mob rule, which becomes tyrannical and highly illiberal, why the Founding Fathers, so familiar with Greek history, were careful to put checks and balances in the US constitution and emphasize the republican nature of government.

Rome’s Liberals

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Rome’s illegal alien problem came to a head after 146 BC, Randall Collins says, when Rome emerged as the hegemon, the dominant state in Mediterranean world:

Partisan factions developed in the Roman elite itself; conservative defenders of the old Republic, but also a “democratic” party in favor of redistributing public land, handouts to the poor, and widening the franchise. These were not merely idealists; they had a strong practical concern, that the basis of the old Roman army — self-sufficient small farmers — was disappearing and needed to be revived. This the reformers never did achieve; but army reform and franchise reform tended to go in tandem. Leading liberals often came from the ranks of the most successful generals, like Marius and Caesar. The first famous reformers were the Gracchus brothers, who ran for the highest office under proposals to extend the Roman franchise to at least some of the nearby Italian allies. Tiberius Gracchus was killed by a crowd of angry senators in 132 BC, as was his brother Gaius ten years later.

The younger Gracchus did succeed in passing a law instituting the dole: the state undertook to import grain to sell to citizens of the capital below market prices. Handouts by the liberal state became permanent, no conservatives being strong enough to brave the crowds’ demand for the staple of food. Rome created the early welfare state, in effect a massive food stamp program. Poor citizens were never supported to the level of the prosperous classes but their numbers as a political force kept them going for centuries on the public dole. Supplying “bread and circuses” became the path to popularity by subsequent Roman politicians. The elite undertook to keep the people entertained by sports and other spectacles, in stadiums and colosseums that Americans imitate today.

Although franchise reform was defeated, one political crisis after another kept opening loopholes for more resident aliens to become citizens. Around 100 BC, Marius reformed the army; eliminating the old militia in which all land-owning citizens were called each year, and putting in its place a standing army recruited from the impoverished proletariat. Soldiers were now long-term volunteers, supported by regular pay, and rewarded by allotment of lands when their 16-year tour was up. Such armies were much more expensive, and generals had to be capitalists in their own right to raise an army, and aggressive conquerors of new territory in order to pay for it. Marius’ nephew, Julius Caesar, would become the great master of this path to success — a liberal reformer who made an alliance between some of the richest capitalists and the urban poor.

In the meantime, full-scale war broke out over the question of the franchise. In 91 BC, another liberal reformer, Livius Drusus, ran on a program to give the Roman franchise to all Italians. He was murdered before the vote, giving rise to the Social War that went on from 91–88 BC. It was so called because the Latin word socii meant allies — the war of the long-suffering second-class non-citizens. This time the aliens had strong support, in the liberal faction of the Roman elite, and their new-style popular generals. The Social War dragged on for three years, fought in communities all over Italy. It ended in a compromise, since foreign provinces were taking the opportunity to revolt; peace terms offered Roman citizenship to all those who laid down their arms. Another bloody civil war went on down to 83 BC between the conservative general Sulla and the liberal Marius; the democrats were defeated but in the aftermath the franchise was conceded throughout Italy. Both sides had come to depend too much upon non-citizen communities for soldiers and support; and so many Romans from high ranking families were killed and expropriated in partisan purges that it brought considerable opportunities for upward mobility.

With Julius Caesar, the pattern was repeated on a larger scale, this time outside of Italy. Caesar recruited large numbers of Gauls, Spaniards and others into his legions; and during his conquests he bargained with friendly tribes by offering some form of citizenship. By the time of his assassination in 44 BC, Caesar was planning to erase the distinction between Italy and the foreign provinces. When peace was reestablished in the reign of Augustus Caesar in 27 BC, all this came to pass. Henceforward, Senators were appointed from all over the Empire, irrespective of origin. The highest offices were open to any citizen, without distinction of ethnicity or geography (of course there were other criteria, such as being rich, and above all a supporter of the ruling faction); emperors themselves came from all parts of Italy and the distant provinces.

Running Education

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Liberals are completely amnesiac about how they’ve been running education for a long, long time, Steve Sailer notes:

For instance, I went to a Catholic parochial school with nuns, and there was a little knuckle-rapping still going on in the mid-1960s. But by the time I got to St. Francis de Sales’ 7th grade in 1970, the younger teachers had staged a coup and organized a junior high school teaching collective that was more relevant. Most of my schooling in 1970-72, as far as I can remember, consisted of listening in class to album sides from Abbey Road, Deja Vu, Hair, and Jesus Christ Superstar for examples of symbols and metaphors, and sitting in a circle and rapping about how the deaths of Hendrix, Joplin, and Morison bummed us out.

And this was at a prim parochial school. I went to public Millikan Junior High for summer school those years and it looked like Dazed and Confused. Granted, St. Francis de Sales is just over Coldwater Canyon from the Sunset Strip, so we were probably a year or two out in the lead of the rest of the country, but your junior high school probably went through the same changes within a half decade.

Roman Slaves and Capitalists

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Rome’s city population swelled from an influx of non-citizens — favor-seekers, merchants, professionals, entertainers — including many slaves and ex-slaves:

Somewhat surprisingly, being a slave in an important Roman family was a path to upward mobility, since slaves did most of the household and administrative work (being a slave in agriculture or mining was a different story) and many of them were eventually freed as an incentive for loyal service.

Since old Roman conservatives looked down on business, ex-slaves became part of the growing capitalist class. Most important of all was a class of capitalists who leased the state’s public land, since they had the capital to achieve economies of scale in working large plantations, mines, timber, and importing the food supply to feed the population of Rome. It was a minimalist state in most respects. Rome owned vast properties but had few public officials, and they were appointed to very short terms. Hence most public enterprises were leased out; capitalists undertook to collect taxes, advancing cash for state needs and squeezing what they could out of subject peoples.

The New Testament gives us a glimpse of these Roman citizens out in the provinces: Jesus offended local ethnic loyalties by converting tax collectors; and Paul himself was a Roman citizen. Since the most important state organization was the army, the biggest state-related business was supplying it with weapons, armor, food, ships, and harbors. Rome thus developed its “military-industrial complex”, similar to the US since late 20th century in outsourcing as much as possible to private contractors.

Live According to Nature

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

In his Letters, Seneca exhorts us to live according to nature:

1. I commend you and rejoice in the fact that you are persistent in your studies, and that, putting all else aside, you make it each day your endeavor to become a better man. I do not merely exhort you to keep at it; I actually beg you to do so. I warn you, however, not to act after the fashion of those who desire to be conspicuous rather than to improve, by doing things which will rouse comment as regards your dress or general way of living.

2. Repellent attire, unkempt hair, slovenly beard, open scorn of silver dishes, a couch on the bare earth, and any other perverted forms of self-display, are to be avoided. The mere name of philosophy, however quietly pursued, is an object of sufficient scorn; and what would happen if we should begin to separate ourselves from the customs of our fellow-men? Inwardly, we ought to be different in all respects, but our exterior should conform to society.

3. Do not wear too fine, nor yet too frowzy, a toga. One needs no silver plate, encrusted and embossed in solid gold; but we should not believe the lack of silver and gold to be proof of the simple life. Let us try to maintain a higher standard of life than that of the multitude, but not a contrary standard; otherwise, we shall frighten away and repel the very persons whom we are trying to improve. We also bring it about that they are unwilling to imitate us in anything, because they are afraid lest they might be compelled to imitate us in everything.

4. The first thing which philosophy undertakes to give is fellow-feeling with all men; in other words, sympathy and sociability. We part company with our promise if we are unlike other men. We must see to it that the means by which we wish to draw admiration be not absurd and odious. Our motto, as you know, is “Live according to Nature”; but it is quite contrary to nature to torture the body, to hate unlaboured elegance, to be dirty on purpose, to eat food that is not only plain, but disgusting and forbidding. 5. Just as it is a sign of luxury to seek out dainties, so it is madness to avoid that which is customary and can be purchased at no great price. Philosophy calls for plain living, but not for penance; and we may perfectly well be plain and neat at the same time. This is the mean of which I approve; our life should observe a happy medium between the ways of a sage and the ways of the world at large; all men should admire it, but they should understand it also.

(Hat tip to Sebastian Marshall.)

The Illegal Alien Crisis of Ancient Rome

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Randall Collins turns his sociological eye toward the “illegal alien” crisis of Ancient Rome and considers its implications for America’s future:

The historical comparison gives us a time perspective we lack: we know what happened down that road. The illegal aliens won; in less than 100 years, ethnic and geographical origins ceased to make any difference in Roman society.

Citizenship had its privileges — and, originally at least, its duties:

Ancient Rome was a self-governing republic. Citizens had the right to vote, and the duty to serve in the army. Since they won every war for about 300 years, territory under Roman control expanded, first to all of Italy, then to surrounding regions. The pattern was not unlike the small thirteen colonies that became the United States of America; Romans too sent out colonies to settle on conquered territory, including the Wild West of its time, the tribal frontier of Spain and France. The Roman state became rich in public land — farmland, mines, forests, etc — which it could dispose of to its citizens either as property grants or as leases. This meant that Roman citizens did not have to pay taxes, unlike the conquered peoples. Roman citizenship was a valuable possession.

Rome began as one of many small Italian city-states, and it expanded by making treaties with others. Since independent states might ally themselves with an enemy, Roman alliances tended to have strong elements of threat — they were forced allies, similar to US policy of interfering in the internal government of weaker states during the Cold War. Rome’s allies were required to send troops in time of war (which was most of the time) and to pay for military expenses. Thus being a Roman ally had considerable disadvantages; they were “friends of Rome” but definitely not citizens. Among other things, they were not allowed to marry Roman citizens, since that would provide a legal path to citizenship (again, some similarities to American laws). Hence there was considerable pressure from the allies, especially those attached to the Roman armies, to be treated like Roman soldiers who shared in the spoils of war.

Roman conservatives resisted widening the franchise. Their center of strength was the Senate, the upper body of the Roman legislature, which appointed most of the officials and generals. Senators were from the long-standing patrician families; but new members of the Senate could be appointed, and so there was some upward mobility — from former plebian families that had become wealthy and distinguished, and even ex-slaves and former allies who had risen in importance. Conservatives, however, looked down on the newcomers, as merely vulgar rich (although the old families were rich too), and above all lacking in the heroic virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice that made up their historic (and somewhat mythological) self-image.

Over time, the aliens squeezed through the cracks. The Roman army kept getting larger, as its conquests grew. War casualties, especially in the long fight against Carthage (264-146 BC), its most powerful rival, created a need to raise more soldiers from the allies, and more of them were rewarded by becoming integrated in the Roman legions. Roman soldiers were serving longer and farther away from home, and the small farmer-citizens who were the basis of the militia lost their land; hence they migrated to the city of Rome itself, where they joined in the popular assembly, exercising their voting rights, and more importantly, made a riotous crowd that pressured the decisions of the Senate. What to do with impoverished citizens became a standing problem. One solution was to plant colonies, rewarding ex-soldiers with land from conquered peoples. At first these were in Italy itself, where citizens lived in enclaves next to locally self-governing communities of non-citizen allies — a condition that made the legal distinction into a form of ethnic segregation. Roman colonists could vote and seek favors from the Senate, but only if they traveled to Rome to exercise their right — since voting was done only in the public assembly.

How long would Batman’s identity remain secret?

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

If Batman were to operate in real life, how long would it take for his identity to be revealed?

In the Legends of the Dark Knight story Prey, which takes place about 18 months into Bruce’s career as Batman, Hugo Strange figured out Bruce’s identity through some basic investigative work, similar to how Ra’s al Ghul claimed to have discerned Bruce’s identity in the Bronze Age.

  1. Examining the remains of equipment that Batman left behind at various scenes allowed Strange to deduce that Batman was well funded and had lots and lots of access to capital as well as fabrication resources.
  2. Batman’s targeting of criminals from all walks of life indicated to him that Batman has a sincere grudge against the underworld, likely because he felt wronged by Gotham’s criminal element, and likely suffered a great loss at their hands.
  3. First hand accounts of Batman’s athletic prowess and visage provided him a fairly reasonable physical profile to go on: White male, age 20-40, excellent physical conditioning.

From there Strange skimmed though police reports of notable murder cases in the GCPD’s archives for 0-40 years searching for persons of interests who could fit those criteria today, before finally arriving at the conclusion that it was Bruce Wayne.

Another significant clue that Strange didn’t consider but probably should have was that Bruce Wayne’s much publicized return to Gotham roughly coincided with the first reported appearance of the Batman.

And that was basically just one guy working on his own. If it were real life I think Bruce would also have the full attention and might of every alphabet soup agency in the country on his ass 24/7 trying to track him down.

Another take:

Exactly one month after being coming to the attention of the Federal authorities.

A crazed vigilante is riding around an American city using military grade weaponry and committing crimes against civilians on a record scale? It would not take long at all to deploy the necessary resources to the scene.

Several Blackhawks and Little Birds from the BATF and FBI be orbiting on shifts doing surveillance, waiting for a signal that the unsub has begun activity.

He would leave to patrol in the Batmobile, and as soon as his distinctive black vehicle’s turbine-driven heat signature was located, a Predator drone would be re-tasked to orbit and follow. That tango in question is very versatile, active, and potentially lethal when engaged so nothing would be done that night, however every illegal activity he performed would be caught on IR-enhanced video, including the multitude of assaults, breakings and enterings, trespasses, abuse of public property, use of prohibited weapons, substances and hazardous materials, perhaps even failure to register a motor vehicle and violating speed restrictions, and several counts of obstruction of justice.

His citizen’s arrests would be logged and the suspects duly charged in any and all assaults against him, as well, however a few suspects will likely be audited for their willingness to testify both against their compatriots and the vigilante.

At some point his most recent crime spree will end and he will head for home. The Predator will follow, a barely visible line in the inky black Gotham sky, camera eye recording the Batmobile’s every move.

Of course the Batmobile will disappear into some rocky outcropping or waterfall or some other land feature and it’s destination will be unknown.

The very next day special operations elements of the DoJ will be at the location, planting temblor sensors and concealed cameras. This is Batman so it will be a few days before he uses the same entrance again, but he will, and when he does, the triggering of the sensors will activate the cameras, and FBI analysts will see the long stretch of tunnel inside the entrance and start doing calculations.

The length of the entrance tunnel until loss of focus or a turn will be calculated, and the direction and distance of that stretch of the tunnel will be known. Immediate records will be pulled for every building in the area, and every microsecond of the next day will be spent sifting through the possible combinations of owners, buildings, knowledge wealth and access to technology.

This will continue with each of the Batman’s movements, and piece by piece a picture of his activities will become known. Information, bits and pieces will be gleaned from his victims, the various residues from his smoke bombs, gases and shark repellents will be analyzed, the Batarangs and grappling hooks researched down to the atomic scale.

Once there is a database of products and substances, the FBI will start rifling through purchase orders and BATF registrations for shipments of the necessary fuel for his Batmobile, and the explosive charges for his bat-grapples, and the avionics for his missile’s warheads, amongst the other detritus he leaves after his battles.

Eventually the source of gear will be deciphered: Wayne Industries, and at that point, the cat is out of the bag. Wayne’s home is within the perimeters of the Batmobile disappearances, and a thermal flyby will reveal he’s using the same electricity as an small industrial plant does when only two or three people ever live in that mansion. Analysis of company records will reveal the massive levels of graft and embezzlement required to hijack all these prohibited and classified materials to the mansion, and the deliveries of the materials will tagged and traced.

The is enough evidence to present Bruce Wayne with a warrant for his arrest based on the very least on corporate malfeasance, embezzlement, falsification of tax records, Illegal trafficking of prohibited agents, weapons and substances falsified BATF filings, and aiding and abetting multiple criminal acts.

Since he is an important personage in the city, they’ll do him the favor of sending one very polite agent armed with a single piece of paper, to wait in his office. What happens after that is up to him.

Conversely a team of agents and a ground-scanning radar van will arrive on the grounds of Wayne Manor and present Alfred with a warrant for his arrest and a search of the premises.

This will occur at the exact same time as Tim Drake, Jason Todd, and Dick Grayson are brought into custody, and James Gordon upon getting notification of a pending warrant against his daughter, will take the day off to go try and convince Barbara to turn State’s witness.

All identified suspects that were encountered during the surveillance will be swept up as well on that day.

Wayne’s excellent lawyer will have him booked and released on bail, at which point mysteriously enough a limo from the Themiscyran embassy will pick him up and he will not be seen again until he submits his US passport and a letter revoking his citizenship, and announces himself a citizen of the city-state of Atlantis.

When asked, they will plainly refuse extradition.

A dissenting opinion:

No No No. You’re describing how they’d catch some regular guy who was using military grade gear every night like a punk, not batman.

You’re disregarding his super power. Superman flies, batman plans. Superman can see through walls, Batman sees through YOU.

Those drones you suppose will find the batmobile for you so handily? I guarantee those drones are Wayne Electronics Products, Running Wayne Industries OS. They will report whatever batman tells them to report.

In fact Wayne Enterprises is the biggest corporation in the DC universe, bigger then lex corp, bigger then google+facebook+sony+3m.

Wayne Industries runs their own mines and R&D labs and everything else batman needs to build the batmobile from scratch and have it come out of untraceable thin air. Who’s to say that 12 tons of steel were smelted and not 10 as the books say? Who’s to say exactly how much fuel was refined when it all came out of the ground just yesterday? Compared to global scale commerce, a few tanks of jet fuel aren’t even worth writing off as loss. I bet more evaporates during transport. I bet more sticks to the side of the shipping containers.

Wayne shipping handles billions of tonnes of freight each month, Wayne Yards builds Aircraft carriers for the Navy. This man can make whatever he needs, and I guarantee it would be child’s play for him to simply not report to the ATF. BATF registrations are what punks who buy too much fertilizer have to worry about, not Batman.

And lets not forget, the bat computer already has access to everything the intelligence networks get, and more. He has his own satellites, his own drones, he runs analytic s the NSA hasn’t invented yet. The minute the government starts paying any serious attention to gotham city not to mention himself the bat-computer will alert his heads up display with 20 countermeasures.

Planting cameras everywhere will never catch batman. He can access your networks. Using technology just makes it easier for him to watch you. He can feed you false video, he knows what you know.

As for using his victims as informants? Ridiculous. These guys won’t snitch on the Joker, they would definitely be too afraid to snitch on Batman. They’re a superstitious and cowardly lot. Besides what can they say except they got beat up by a man dressed in a bat suit?

All that is just Batman’s built in advantages. Then he’ll run countermeasures.

  1. Political, Through his copious connections in through the Wayne Foundation your boss’ boss’ boss will start getting serious heat from some senators about wasting funds chasing Batman when there are criminals to find.
  2. Hacking, All your gear will betray you. Your drones will find Batmobile everywhere, your cellphone will start dropping calls, your requisition forms will fail to make its way through the bureaucracy… Wild goose chases ensue.
  3. Psych ops … don’t get me started. Batman loves to mess with your mind. He’ll make you sit on stake out until your mind goes numb. When you’re going completely crazy from boredom he’ll convince you your fellow agents are on his side, he’ll convince you your fellow agents are Batman! Paranoia! After that he’ll make you believe the Joker is after you personally. Panic! Then He’ll convince you you need to become Batman to save yourself. Then when you try, he’ll end up saving your life.
  4. Decoys. Everyone has been a batman decoy. Robin, Nightwing, Commissioner Gordon, even Superman did it, not to mention the robots… Did you know there are two batcaves ? (there’s another one under the Wayne foundation building). The FBI/ATF are not ready for this.
  5. PR. People mostly love batman. The only serious complaints come from uptight law enforcement types. Pray Pray Pray the Penguin doesn’t try to take over the city during your investigation. The press will eat you alive.

In the end the investigation will become an expensive fail, and the plug will be pulled from higher up. Not before some federal agents learn some valuable lesson about themselves and the need for the Dark Knight.