With Detroit’s bankruptcy, we’ve seen much of Robocop come to pass – all except for the actual Robocop. But there was a sequel. Thankfully events in Robocop 2 haven’t happened, and don’t even have a chance of happening…yet.
And when I say “haven’t happened,” I’m not talking about the cybernetic police officers. I’m talking about much more important stuff.
As I and many others have already written, Robocop was quite a prescient movie, written in the 1980s and dealing with the city of Detroit near bankruptcy. Public services were being privatized. Benefits were being cut. Companies had plans to replace human employees with machines. Sound familiar?
It got me to thinking, if Robocop was so insightful, what about Robocop 2? Will we now go in that direction?
Where Robocop 2 takes us
If you’ve found this post in a Google search, I know I don’t have to remind you what happened in Robocop 2, but for all other readers I’ll provide a brief summary.
It isn’t until Robocop 2 that Detroit actually hits bankruptcy. The private company (that also happens to make Robocop) is poised to foreclose on the city as part of a lager scheme to completely take over Detroit. If the city can’t pay its debts to this company, then the company gets the city’s land and other assets. The Mayor attempts a fundraiser to block this privatization of the entire city. The fundraiser is about to fail pathetically until drug dealers offer to bail out the city with one caveat – Detroit had to legalize drugs. The city is caught between a rock and a hard place. One one side are the drug dealers and organized crime. On the other side was a huge corporation that was just as criminal.
And in the background, the company is making a new Robocop — Robocop 2. Hopefully this new Robocop would stamp out crime — and also squash any public dissent. If the company could only control crime with robots then there would be no need to have to deal with human police officers and unions, which don’t always do what the corporation wants. Robocop 1 turned out to be too human. Robocop 2 was supposed to be different.
Why this can’t happen….yet
Thankfully in Chapter 9 bankruptcy, which is for municipalities, there is no liquidation of assets. In other words, a city or state doesn’t have to sell all their stuff to pay off creditors. This is much different than an individual bankruptcy where assets like jewelry, real estate, investments, etc. will be taken to pay creditors.
Now, you may say, “Public institutions should have to sell their stuff to pay off creditors. If they get into debt, why should they get a free pass on having to sell their stuff?” Well, Robocop 2 shows exactly why this notion, while initially logical, is not a good idea. It could eventually lead to a privatization of governments themselves (which was suggested in Robocop 2. The CEO said that if you want a vote, buy their stock).
It can’t happen, so does it matter?
I had initially dismissed the premise of Robocop 2 since it is currently impossible in today’s legal environment. But the point is that it should remain that way. Legal and political environments can evolve over time. Just because something can’t happen today doesn’t mean it won’t be done several decades in the future. And since Robocop 1 was so prescient, I am a bit worried.
Are we turning a corner in the wrong direction?
I mentioned Greece in my last Robocop post. Look at what is going on there. Have you heard any proposed solutions that are something like this: “Greece should sell some of their islands.” or “Greece should sell some of the treasures in their public museums.” Hmm….a public institution being forced into liquidation. Sure, it sounds logical initially. Greece is an economic basket case. It is easy to think they should face the consequences and be forced to liquidate land and other public assets. But ultimately a policy like this could lead down a dark path. Don’t say you weren’t warned. Robocop 2 warned you.
What about the military and prison systems? Have you seen any privatization going on there? Currently the level of privatization in these institutions may not be a problem, but what if it goes further? Don’t say you weren’t warned. Robocop 2 warned you.
[on a side note, I will not be commenting on Robocop 3. Everything in the Robocop franchise aside from Robocop 1 and Robocop 2 has been a complete disaster. As far as I am concerned, the first two movies are the only real Robocop movies. From the plot summaries I have read, I expect the new Robocop coming out in 2014 to be awful.]
Image by TheNerdPatrol