Monday, May 28, 2018

Number 2186: Black Condor, fake Condor

Black Condor had a Tarzan-like origin: Tarzan was a baby adopted by a mama ape...Black Condor was a baby adopted by a mama condor. He was raised by condors and he even learned to fly like them! If you can get by that then you can accept that when the boy grew up and came to the USA he was able to get elected to the United States Senate. I have an opinion of senators I would call bird brains, but apparently Senator Tom Wright, who really does have something of a bird brain, does okay in his day job. One wonders how he gets away from roll calls, votes, committee assignments and hearings in order to flap around Washington DC righting wrongs.

This story is of labor trouble, and an evil, greedy company owner whose workers are in peonage, paid in scrip good only at the company store, forcing them into debt they can never repay. It features a fake Black Condor, who runs when being pummeled by workers. I haven’t any idea how he can jump off the roof of a tall building and simulate flight, landing on the workers who pummel him. Ah, comic books...where anything that can be drawn can happen.

Art by Lou Fine. From Crack Comics #14 (1941).


Daniel [] said...

Perhaps the story was changed later, but originally the Black Condor was not elected to the Senate — at least not in the sense of having been selected by legally prescribed means. Instead, he took over the identity of Tom Wright, who had been murdered, and Wright's fiancée was not informed of the substitution. The biology, the physics, and the ethics were all askew.

So were the economics. In the face of stories of workers being exploited by payment in scrip, the questions that a proper economist wants to ask about company scrips and company stores is that of why workers would settle for less purchasing power (in the form of scrip or otherwise) than they could get from another employer. (Even if we assume that, at the time, there was no other employer in the area, others ought to have been attracted by labor that could be got on the cheap.) So far, to the extent that the matter has been empirically investigated, the conclusion has been that workers didn't settle for less than competitive compensation — that scrip was used for some of the same reasons as workers are now-a-days often paid with checks rather than with cash, and that, when prices in company stores were higher than elsewhere, it was because the locations involved things such as greater transportation costs.

I'm not sure what we're supposed to assume happened to the fake Condor, but it looks suspiciously as if the Black Condor killed someone who had not committed what would be regarded as capital offenses, and who was less responsible for any crimes than the man whom the Black Condor did not drop.

The art is not Fine's best work, but it is still far, far better than most of what could be found in comic books at that time and for many years to follow.

Pappy said...

Daniel, were these economists some of the same guys who wrote that slaves were happy being slaves?

What I showed was a story published just out of the Depression, when a lot of people had some pretty bad experiences. I am sure the Black Condor story was probably reflecting an opinion of that era.

Daniel [] said...

No, the claim wasn't that workers were happy or well-off with prevailing wages and prices; it was that scrip and company stores didn't cause workers somehow to receive lower purchasing power in exchange for their labor than they would had they been paid cash and had someone else owned the stores.

The Depression was, after all, a grim time for workers who got paid in cash and lived in communities with many rival stores.

Opinions as to the cause and possible cures for the Depression. abounded. Most of them simply couldn't withstand any scrutiny.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

I would really need to see the data suggesting that working for scrip / chits was simply the law of supply and demand in happy equilibrium, lol. Most likely the supply curve had shifted far to the right given the depression.

Like Pappy implies, slavery was where the supply and demand curve happily met for Africans whose were not even considered Americans, NOT.

Daniel [] said...

Charlie Horse

Given your professed need, you should Professor Price V. Fishback, and the University of Arizona, who published research in The Journal of Economic History about this matter. But I really think that you need a coherent theory of why workers would accept less purchasing power through payment in scrip than they would through payment in dollars. Hand-waving is not how to proceed.

Nothing about the Great Depression would have done much to push out the supply of labor; instead, what it did was to contract the demand for labor, as businesses that had been employing collapsed.

The economy was not in or near equilibrium in the run-up to the Great Depression. The Federal Reserve System had greatly expanded the money supply, which distorted patterns of investment. Subsequently, the Fed failed to brake the contraction of the money supply that followed, which caused a different set of distortions. (Economist argue over which was worse, the expansion or the contraction; but Fed policy produced each.) First Hoover and then Roosevelt thought that the cure was to keep prices high, as if this would restore prosperity. Their actions prevented the relative price adjustments needed to move the economy towards equilibrium. (The economy is never in equilibrium, because equilibrium is a moving target, but it can be close to that target or far away from it.)

As American slaves did not become so by selling themselves, your claim (which was not made by Pappy) that they simply faced a bad market is grossly inappropriate. Enslavement wasn't trade; it was theft. And the leading theoretical defended of slavery, George Fitzhugh, was consistent not simply in supporting slavery but in opposing the use of markets more general for economic allocation. Like most opponents of the market, he claimed that those not allowed to trade their labor in a free market were better-off for their loss of liberty.

Darci said...

I wonder if Wendy Foster ever found out that the Senator was Richard Grey, not Tom Wright? She was in the feature from the first impersonation (#11) to the end (#31). AFAIK she never appeared again. Did he maintain the Tom Wright ID after he moved to Earth-X?