How Would We Really Treat Mutants?
By Bryan Caplan
In the X-men comics, t.v. series, and movies, normal humans instinctively treat super-powered mutants with fear and disgust. The popular mutant policy options are: (a) register them as deadly weapons, (b) preemptively imprison them, or (c) kill them one and all.
Is this how real-world humans would actually react to the emergence of super-humans? I seriously doubt it. As long as the mutants accepted conventional norms of their societies, we’d treat them like celebrities or sports stars. Each country would take nationalistic pride in “their” mutants, just as each country now takes pride in their freakishly talented countrymen in the Olympics.
Of course, popular acceptance wouldn’t extend to mutants who openly embraced or acted upon an ideology of mutant supremacy. But as long as mutants spoke like loyal citizens of their nations of origin, we’d treat them better, not worse, than normal. We’d fawn on mutants even if they were arrogant jerks. See the folks on the covers of our supermarket tabloids.
My main doubt: How many bad apples in the mutant community would it take to turn public opinion against their kind? Suppose 5% of mutants tried to kill off our leaders and assume dictatorial control. If they failed, perhaps we’d try to intern the remaining 95%, leading to mutant polarization, leading to human polarization, with only one side left alive in the end.
On reflection, though, even this scenario doesn’t hold water. If 5% of mutants tried to seize power, existing authorities would almost certainly recruit the remaining 95% to defend themselves – and hasten to add that “The best defense is a good offense.” If the U.S. and U.S.S.R. could competitively embrace former Nazi scientists after World War II, it’s hard to believe that the world’s leading governments would ever decide, “The only good mutant is a dead mutant.” The leading slogan, instead, would be, “Our mutants have to beat their mutants.” X-men is a timeless parable of prejudice and group identity, but its hypothetical predictions aren’t credible.