Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Arkham City Part I

Mayor Sharp unveils Arkham City.
Batman: Arkham City #2 by Paul Dini and Carlos D'Anda
DC Comics (2011)

What a bizarre concept this is. So, the Joker and his pack of ruffians take over Arkham Asylum, riots ensue, and then Batman has to save the day. There were many casualties. So now, Mayor Sharp decides to let these prisoners loose from Arkham Asylum and have their own, heavily policed section of Gotham City, where they can run around and, apparently, rehabilitate.

The benefits of this plan are...let's say dubious. Yes, Mayor Sharp is being controlled by larger forces (which I will not reveal for fear of spoiling), but he still had to convince the City Council--and Gotham citizens--that this plan is not only economically feasible, but that it has any benefits at all.

First of all, how many inmates does Arkham Asylum actually have? A quick count of notable (and other) inmates on Wikipedia suggests about 60 inmates. And these guys aren't ever in Arkham all at once. But still, let's be a little liberal with our estimate, and say that we have about 75 inmates at Arkham at any given time. If anyone knows of a better estimate, feel free to let me know.

Why exactly do these 75 people need half of Gotham City--one of the largest cities in the DC universe--all to themselves? It seems like an excessive waste of resources and space on 75 people. Couldn't he have just walled off a neighborhood? The equivalent of, say, the east village in NYC? And even that's being generous!

While we're talking about space issues, I'm also a bit confused as to how the government acquired this space. If half of Gotham is being declared a war zone and sectioned off exclusively for Arkham prisoners, then what happens to the citizens formerly living in these areas? What about the businesses formerly operating in them? Well, they can't possibly still be there once Arkham opens, right? No one would willingly choose to reside in neighborhoods where the most dangerous villains in the world are free to roam. And, unless your business is selling death rays, no one would choose to continue to go to work in Arkham City.

This means that, most likely, every citizen and business formerly operating in the now Arkham City has to pack up and move to another location. This has major economic implications. First of all, it is very likely that the government needs to subsidize the cost of moving for these guys. So that's an area of half of Gotham City that the city needs to finance. I suppose, alternatively, that Gotham could subsidize people for staying in Arkham City and willingly exposing themselves to danger. But then that would be more or less equivalent to just setting the prisoners free in society.

Here's another thing: moving people from one half of Gotham into another would almost surely cause major congestion and overpopulation problems. Not only that, but I imagine that many citizens and businesses will simply be lost in the transition. Small businesses might close if not fully subsidized and individuals might simply move outside the city limits. Gotham is losing a chunk of its tax base by creating Arkham City.

And that's nothing to say of the enormous amounts of money being spent to maintain this large prison. For one thing, Gotham needs to commission task forces and experts in order to determine the appropriate plans, and estimate the appropriate subsidies. Moreover, the wall needs to be constructed. The private military securing Arkham City's borders need to be paid.

Oh yeah, and let's not forget that the Mayor is also providing health care and essential social services to these former inmates.

It has been clear for many years that politicians and citizens of Gotham City have been prone to panic and mass hysteria. They have been portrayed as corrupt, fickle, and ignorant. But even in the grand scale of Gotham's historical blunders, Arkham City almost surely nears the top. Maybe top five.