I really enjoyed the reader response to the previous post. Thanks to everyone for the insightful comments.
The question posed is whether Tony Stark, as inventor of the Iron Man armor, has the right to control and destroy his creations when these creations are enormously powerful and can greatly affect the course of human history. Does Tony Stark have the right to distribute this technology as he sees fit?
To use an analogy that I think is somewhat effective, should Robert Oppenheimer be allowed to keep atomic bomb technology in his house and only give it to people he likes?
I think not, especially since Tony Stark has shown himself to be an a rather unstable person and hasn't shown the best judgement regarding his armor.
For years in Iron Man comics (namely in the first Michelinie/Layton run and Denny O'Neil's run), Nick Fury has tried to get the specifications for the Iron Man armor. He even went so far as to try a hostile takeover of Stark Enterprises. The tone of the stories seemed to paint Fury as the villain but who was really right in that struggle? Nick Fury, who wants to use the Iron Man armor to protect the lives of his agents and make S.H.I.E.L.D. a more capable international peacekeeping force? Or Tony Stark who wants to prevent his armor from falling into the wrong hands? Granted, Nick Fury hasn't always shown the best judgement in the past, but he's usually been on the side of the angels. And he has the decision making power of an entire international peace-keeping force behind him. Had Tony given in to Fury's request, how many lives of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents could have been saved by protective Iron Man armor? How many threats could S.H.I.E.L.D. have dealt with directly without having to wait hours for superheroes to show up? How many lives could have been saved in that time? Finally, who would be more effective in Iron Man armor, trained military agents or a former alcoholic billionaire playboy?
Tony's bad decision making continued in the Armor Wars, when Justin Hammer used industrial espionage to steal Tony's armor designs and sell them on the black market. Tony's response was to go on a rampage and destroy the armors of all individuals (heroes and villains) who could have had elements of his armor designs incorporated into their suits. In the process of this, Iron Man took down the Controller, the Raiders, the Beetle, the Titanium Man, and the Crimson Dynamo. Unfortunately, he also took down the Mandroids of SHIELD and the Guardsmen who protect the superhero prison the Vault. Tony also beat up Stingray thinking his armor used Iron Man technology (it didn't) and beat up Captain America while attacking the Vault. In addition, Iron Man's attack on the Vault actually released several super-villains including Mr. Hyde, Titania, the Griffin, Vibro, and the Armadillo. Iron Man's actions caused him to become a wanted criminal. He actually had to fake his own death to avoid getting arrested. Tony's armor designs were safe but he left a lot of destruction in his wake.Iron Man v1, Issue #225, art by Bob Layton
Later in The Best Defense storyline, the U.S. government found some of Tony's left over armor and reverse engineered it, integrating some of the components they found into their weapons and tanks. Unfortunately, the technology was poorly adapted and the lives of U.S. servicemen was put into jeopardy by malfunctioning tech. What was Tony's solution? Become the Secretary of Defense in order to personally supervise his tech.
In Execute Program, Tony's specialty armors were hacked by a virus and went on rampage. His armors went on to beat up the Avengers, Namor, and ironically clobber the Fantastic Four. Only Tony was able to dismantle them using his personal knowledge of his own tech.
Iron Man v4, Issue # 12, art by Adi Granov
In all of these cases, Tony Stark has shown increasingly poor judgement regarding his Iron Man armor. He has shown egotistical paranoia regarding his designs, withholding them from the international community. The ostensible reason for this is to keep his technology out of the wrong hands. This doesn't really seem to work though. Villians continually get their hands on and misuse Iron Man designs. In fact, all Tony has done is remove the ability of other heroes and the federal government from utilizing his technology. He's also shown that his Iron Man designs are sufficiently advanced to out-fox Reed Richards in the short term. The end result of this is that stolen Iron Man tech is unbeatable unless Tony Stark is there to stop it.
Clearly from the evidence listed above, Tony Stark is not a man who is mentally stable to hold complete dominion over the Iron Man designs. But that brings us to another, more current question. Does Tony have the right to erase his mind as he has done in "World's Most Wanted" which just finished in the Invincible Iron Man title?
This is a problematic question. Naturally, Tony's memories, thoughts, and emotions are his own. He should be allowed to do with these as he wishes. But his brain doesn't just contain emotion and memories. It contains designs, ideas, and the secret identities of every registered super-hero which he took illegally. That information belongs to the government and Tony's theft of it definitively makes him the the titular "World's Most Wanted." Granted, in the current state of the Marvel Universe, the power of government has fallen into the hands of a decidely evil bastard, Norman Osborn (a truly ridiculous turn of events, but hey... its comics). But Norman Osborn was put in his position by elected officials and therefore has more right to the info than Tony does. Stark may have the moral high ground in this case but legally (as some readers pointed out in the comments for the previous post) he's wrong.
But Tony isn't only destroying his identity and a superhero's secret identities. He's also destroying all his knowledge of current and future technology. Tony's erasure of his mind reflects his lifetime pattern of egomaniacal control of his Iron Man designs. When he can't control the use of the Armor, he destroys it. In Tony's mind, no one else can properly use his technology. Now, as always, Tony seeks to hoarde his technology and prevent the positive development that could result if his designs were opened up to the scientific community. At the very least, Tony's armor designs could be used to make better pacemakers for people with coronary heart disease. But all that is gone because Tony took it upon himself to destroy all of his knowledge. At least until 4 issues from now when everything goes back to normal.
By the way, anyone who didn't read the comments on the previous post definitely should. You folks have a lot of well-formed arguments and I'm interested to hear what else you have to say.