It turns out that Ra’s al Ghul and John Galt have some common interests. They share the belief that corruption in society inevitability reaches an apex and must be met with utter destruction, and from the ashes society can be rebuilt. As Ra’s put it in Batman Begins, “ This is not how man was supposed to live. The League of Shadows has been a check against human corruption for thousands of years. We sacked Rome; loaded trade ships with plague rats; burned London to the ground. Every time a civilization reaches the pinnacle of its decadence, we return to restore the balance.”
Ra’s is the antagonist of Bruce Wayne. Wayne’s parents were killed by a homeless man, who later got off in return for testimony against a crime lord. Distraught by the corruption in the justice system, he creates Batman and directly combats the crime and corruption in Gotham City to save it. The League of Shadows, an ancient secret society that exists to restore balance in the world and headed by Ra’s, has other plans. The tool of destruction was economics, plunging the city in a depression, indirectly responsible for the death of Wayne’s parents. The Wayne family nearly bankrupt Wayne Enterprises to combat the depression, leaving the city hanging by a thread.
For Galt, the fictional destroyer from Atlas Shrugged, the government has taken away freedom in the name of the public interest and social welfare. The great industrialists are squeezed from both sides; being necessary to the economic viability of the nation and responsible for it’s inequity and injustice (says the man in Washington). The looters in Washington need their ability to create resources, yet blame them for any and every injustice.
Both men decide that the scale has tipped too far, and the only salvation is to tear it down and start anew. Galt travels the country picking up the embattled industrialists and whisking them away to the void. “We’ve heard it shouted that the industrialist is a parasite, that his workers support him, create his wealth, make his luxury possible — and what would happen to him if they walked out? Very well. I propose to show the world who depends on whom, who support whom, who is the source of wealth, who makes whose livelihood possible and what happens to whom when who walks out.” The League of Shadows takes a more literal approach; actual destruction.
While these are fictional stories, they are not completely unrealistic scenarios. With the populist wave sweeping the world, some might argue the pendulum is already swinging. What’s interesting to consider, is how one gets to such a point in the first place.
Assume for the sake of argument that all (most) humans are inherently good, and acts of violence, crime or corruption are out of desperation, depression or disease. There’s no shortage of examples of well intending people setting out to do something “good” and having horrible unintended consequences. In the complex world we live in today, it’s nearly impossible to predict the outcome of anything. Just look at the weather. The weather is something purely objective. There are well understood equations of motions that can be solved, and we have super computers doing just that. Even so, the weather can’t be accurately forecasted beyond a week. How are we to have confidence in the prediction of a policy outcome that directly involves human behavior, with no equations of motions, and hardly anyway to measure the outcome accurately? It’s easy to assess our performance with the weather. I predict tomorrow from 2–3pm it will rain, and then confirm by seeing if it rains tomorrow. A little bit harder to do with complex economic policy.
How often do we hear politicians say, “The American people want…” or “The American people will not stand for…” Over the course of recent history, the pendulum has swung from one political group to another, and back again. Each pushing their ever polarizing view of what the American people “want.”
The fact is, there is no perfectly idealized world, that any one philosophy can create. And our leaders would be lying if they said they have all the answers. Trying to push America from one extreme to another every time a majority is gained or lost is a surefire way to end up with a vote of no confidence in any elected official, and instead turning the country over to a radical demagogue, to thunderous applause.
The Bioshock universe explores what could happen in Ayn Rand’s idealized world of selfish capitalism. When ideals are taken to extremes, something inevitably snaps, resulting in a revolution. Everything in moderation. Learning to coexist with a continuum of philosophies is the only way to be successful in a free and open world. Everyone is different, and that’s what can propel us to new heights, or descend to the deepest hole. The choice, is ours.