Earlier, we discussed the notion of superhero externalities in our post about "reigning" in superheroes. Specifically, I had mentioned the following:
One involves the damage to public and personal property caused by super-battles, which we discuss at some length in our post about superhero insurance. Another is the constant violation of civil liberties. Often superheroes, such as Batman, will forcefully "coerce" criminals for information and will use sophisticated spy technology (see The Dark Knight film) to monitor suspicious citizens. A third involves the notion of escalation (this is particularly evident in Batman -- see Batman Begins, The Dark Knight Returns, Ego, the Killing Joke), whereby the mere existence of a superhero actually breeds more creative and dangerous supervillains.
However, superheroes and supervillains (and all metahumans) have the potential to do much more than this. In fact, there are many ways in which those with access to specific powers or technologies could take advantage of the the market and economy. Of course, many superheroes choose not to, viewing such acts as violations of their vows to uphold the law.
Nevertheless, it is generally regarded that as more metahumans turn up, there is a significant danger of having them abuse their powers. And not just in your standard, smash-and-bash, hold-em-up-for-ransom ways. Lex Luthor has often paid vast amounts of money to weaker metahumans in exchange for new, alien technology, which he would then use simultaneously to promote his villainous schemes and to profit his billion-dollar company, Lexcorp. In a recent Detective Comics storyline, Hush (though not a metahuman) used his surgical prowess to disguise himself as Bruce Wayne and siphon off millions of dollars from Wayne enterprises. In Garth Ennis' The Boys, superheroes are portrayed as careless automatons, who receive millions of dollars from comic book publishers and toy companies, as well as government pardons. All they have to do in exchange is occasionally save a hostage and support certain political candidates.
Here are some other ways that heroes, villains and metahumans could use the market to their advantage:
1) Insider Information. The superhuman community has access to a wealth of valuable information that is kept comfortably hidden from the general public. Every superhero in the Marvel universe is kept abreast of Reed Richard's latest gizmos or Dr. Strange's latest potions or Tony Stark's latest weapons upgrade. This goes on in the DC Universe as well. The Justice League watchtower contains technology that most humans could not even wrap their minds around. This includes technology that was given as gifts by the New Gods. Also, let's not forget Batman and his Brother Eye, an autonomous, global surveillance system that has the capability of watching over every superhuman on Earth.
Suppose that you were a recently admitted member of the Justice League (or of Checkmate) and had access to this technology, as well as, possibly, plans and schematics for constructing new, similar devices. Or suppose you took a call for a space battle and as a result gained access to an entirely new gadget that not even the Justice League had previously seen. You would stand to make a fortune from selling these plans to Earth companies, especially Lexcorp. This would ensure your termination from the League, but as we all know, fighting crime doesn't pay.
2) Insurance and Asymmetric Information. One of the biggest problems with market insurance systems is the notion of asymmetric information. Often those who take out individual insurance policies have access to information about themselves that insurance companies do not. If you are a heavy smoker, for instance, you pose a significant health risk that would warrant your insurance company to charge a higher premium. Of course, many people do not tell their insurance companies that they are smokers. Extrapolate this scenario for the superhero community. If you are someone like Spider-Man, who often gets injured in battles against supervillains, you are a risky candidate for insurance. However, to my knowledge, insurance companies in the Marvel Universe do not yet underwrite for superheroes. That is, there is no question on the insurance application that asks, "Are you a superhero, supervillain, metahuman, crime fighter, or vigilante of any kind?" As such, Peter Parker would likely be able to get away with utilizing more health care for a cheaper insurance premium.
I am sure that there are plenty of other ways that superhumans, heroes and villains could use the market to their advantage. I open it to the readers to name some others. Again, the most creative answer will win a prize.