I’m looking forward to the upcoming movie Captain America: Civil War, which promises to be a blockbuster. The movie will be loosely based on the 2006 Marvel Comics series Civil War which pitted Captain America against Iron Man. In the comic series, Iron Man wants to enforce the Super Hero Registration Act, which requires anyone with super-powers to register with the government. Captain America strongly opposes the Act, as he believes it is a violation of each person’s civil liberties. The movie is also a continuation of Captain America 2: Winter Soldier, which had Cap fighting against NSA-type surveillance and control.
Also read: Dismantle the Surveillance State
What I didn’t know until recently was that last summer Marvel launched another Civil War series, this one set in another universe where the original 2006 Civil War never ended. The war becomes entrenched, and the nation rips into two separate lands: “The Iron”, led by Tony Stark (Iron Man), and “The Blue,” led by Steve Rogers (Captain America).
Captain America is
Steve Rogers, er, Ron Paul?
What is most fascinating about this new Civil War comic series is how they describe each nation. First, “The Iron:”
“Stark asserted order. He established laws. He made things safe. He made a land, and the land came to be called The Iron.”
So Tony Stark’s nation seems to be the stereotypical Republican dream: law and order, and most importantly, control. Sounds like Chris Christie’s fantasyland.
Now Captain America’s “The Blue:”
“Captain America made a land with only two laws…hurt no one, and help when you can. Otherwise, settlements governed themselves. Most lived in peace and happiness. But everyone knew: attempt to break Steve Rogers’ laws and his Avengers would come…This was The Blue.”
My first thought when I read the description of The Blue was, “This is a libertarian paradise.” The first law of The Blue – “Hurt no one” is basically the non-aggression principle, where “aggression” is defined as “the ‘initiation’ of physical force against persons or property, the threat of such, or fraud upon persons or their property.” For many libertarians, the non-aggression principle is the one abiding principle of a healthy society.
Safety or Freedom – a false dichotomy?
I had noticed during Captain America 2: Winter Soldier that Steve Rogers sounded a lot like Ron Paul: distrustful of big government, and suspicious of surveillance activities that assumed everyone was a potential criminal. This new comic series makes it even more explicit. In fact, later in the issue, there is an exchange between Stark and Rogers:
Stark: You’re nothing but a rogue state.
Rogers: Wrong. We are a free state.
Stark: Freedom? Freedom is not having to worry about super villains blasting in your bedroom door in the middle of the night.
Rogers: Now who’s listening to their own propaganda? The Blue is safe.
This is one of the main divide between conservatives and libertarians: How much freedom is too much? How much can we sacrifice freedom for safety?
I will admit to being somewhat torn by this divide. If there were a scale of 1 to 100, where 1 is Chris Christie and 100 is Ron Paul, I’m probably around 80-85, but the average conservative seems to be scaling under 10 these days (and even many so-called liberals are pretty low on the scale with Obama in charge). I strongly believe that there is too much surveillance today, and too much infringement of civil liberties by our government (and this extends to both parties). So in most arguments, I will take the libertarian position and argue against attempts to backdoor encryption, expand the NSA’s powers, and extend the American Empire. However, I’m not really completely in the libertarian camp either. I don’t think the non-aggression principle, by itself, is enough a rule of law to succeed in our fallen world. I think the best government is very limited government, but not no government.
Ultimately, in our current situation I think we need to seriously curtail the scope and size of government, and move towards Captain America’s The Blue. But without a real-life Captain America to enforce the two laws on the books, I don’t think we ever want to get completely there.