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Superman lacks super understanding of economics, causes of crime

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In Action Comics #8, published in January of 1939, Superman decides that housing conditions are responsible for juvenile delinquency. If only kids didn’t live in slums, they wouldn’t be getting in trouble with Superman. But what to do about the existence of slums? Superman sees a newspaper article that gives him an idea (click on any image to enlarge).

Residents are warned to remove their belongings from the homes. Then the world’s strongest man springs into action.

Yes, you’ve read that right. Superman enjoys a good workout as he destroys the entire neighborhood slum. And the residents — whose homes were destroyed without their permission or even their notification — are fortunate to have had their homes destroyed.

So, you see, if people are living in poor conditions, it is good that a cyclone or Superman or any other force (war?) destroys their homes, because they end up with “splendid housing conditions” when the government rebuilds, at least in the world of early Superman. (No mention is made of where these people live while the housing project is being built.)

Superman has not only apparently never heard of the broken window fallacy, but seems to believe that by destroying the decrepit housing, he is helping to rid the town of “filthy, crime festering slums.” As if the very same people who had lived in the slum, once they are living in government “huge apartment projects,” will no longer commit crimes or be plagued by those who do. 

Ah, the good old days of crime-free government housing projects.

Scott Stein is editor of When Falls the Coliseum and author of the novels Lost and Mean Martin Manning. His short comedic fiction, book reviews, and essays have been published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Oxford University Press Humor Reader, The G.W. Review, Liberty, National Review, PopMatters.com, Art Times, and Reason. He is a professor of English at Drexel University. Scott tweets @sstein. His author site is scottsteinonline.com.

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