As usual, the hype behind a Michael Moore movie does not adequately explain what lies beneath.
Capitalism: A Love Story has many interesting points and it is unfair to cast off 100% of what any individual says. While Moore does a fine job at making observations and identifying problems in his social commentary, he (as usual) fails as usual to provide any solutions or alternative courses of action.
A major theme throughout Moore’s movie is the supposed tension between capitalism and democracy. Moore, having been influenced by Catholic priests his entire life, views Capitalism as an inherent evil, citing examples such as Walmart getting insurance payouts upon the death of low-level employees, or a former judge in Pennsylvania who received kickbacks for giving excessive sentences to juveniles housed at a privately managed prison. But after chastising others for worshiping capitalism with supposed irrational exuberance, Moore does the same with democracy, despite glossing over a brief point made in the movie by the Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore that democracy can also mean two wolves outvoting a sheep and deciding to have the sheep for dinner.
Moore does do a good job highlighting the bank bailout faux crisis from last fall by showing how political leaders, on both the left and right were either scared or scared their colleagues into voting for that $700 billion abomination with little or no hearings and few congressmen even having read the bill. Wow! That sounds a lot like this current healthcare debate. To his credit, Moore specifically calls out the Democratic leadership in Congress for having enabled the legislation forward with specific references to Barney Frank and Chris Dodd’s involvement in the Countrywide scandal.
But this is where Moore is full of contradictions. He tries to frame the world into groups of “good guys” and “bad guys.” Obama, in his eyes of course, is a good guy who represents the hero of the proletariat masses who have risen up against their capitalist oppressors on Wall Street. Yet Obama, just this weekend flew out to Connecticut to campaign for that very same criminal Christopher Dodd. And it was Obama that took record amounts of campaign donations those bailed out banks in the presidential election. And it was Obama who appointed Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary, a man who Moore’s movie portrays as another puppet of Wallstreet whose only claim to fame is having screwed up the federal bank of New York in a previous tenure.
And Moore conveniently overlooks the fact that the banks getting money from our government treasury to function is actually a great example of socialism and not capitalism. And while much of the financial industry in this country was rotten to the core, in a truly capitalist system, the best way to have cleansed the situation would have been to allow those very bad bank’s to fail and go out of business.
Moore highlights a few interesting companies in the movie such as an electronics factory in Wisconsin and a bread factory in California, which are both run as cooperatives. The workers have more than stock options, they share in the decision-making power of the company, and it is implied that Moore provides these examples as alternatives to capitalism. However, despite decrying the evil profit motive throughout the movie, Moore boasts of the fact that these companies actually increased their profits by going to this business model. And in a truly free society, how are such examples in any way inconsistent with capitalism? Moore constantly refers to capitalism as a “system” and implies that a few powerful people at the top must have designed it like any other political regime. But this interpretation fails to acknowledge the invisible hand and spontaneous order. And a brief web-browse to either Craigslist or stubhub.com will show you that trading goods among people (whether or not they use currency to complete the transaction) is a habit that for we humans is as old as time.
To sum it up, Moore confuses corporatism (or what Ron Paul would consider fascism) with pure capitalism. And he fails to provide us with a clear alternative that is supposedly better.
And if capitalism is so bad, then why was I charged $8.75 to see this movie when Moore could have shown his “public service announcement” for free?
Dan Sheill is an attorney and Republican Liberty Caucus National Committee member from Michigan.