Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Capitalism, A Love Story... Review

I watched “Capitalism-A love Story” a couple of nights ago. I don't think Michael Moore's definition of capitalism is the same as mine. He seems to think it is a political system, and I don't. It is true some people confuse fascism and capitalism, but capitalism is the free market at work without government involvement, the second the government gets involved in a transaction between two parties it ceases to be a free market transaction and becomes something else. Whether that interference is through regulation, taxes, government granted monopoly, or other medium, it is no longer a free market transaction and should no longer count as an act of capitalism, at the minimum it becomes an act of corporatism.

I often wonder if Moore believes his own crap, since in his movies he seems to find the worst examples of the point he is trying to illustrate and this to me hurts his overall message and I wonder if it is intentional.

In the case of Capitalism, he cites a corrupt government judge who shut down a government youth prison, contracted with a “private” firm to build a new youth prison and then the new prison and the judge shared the profits that were made by imprisoning teenagers. I just don't see a company hired by the government, getting all of its business from the government and working with the government courts to pull off a scheme like this as being capitalistic in any way. When a “private” firm, earns 100% of its revenue through government contracts can it still be considered to be independent from the government?

He profiles two people who had their homes repossessed and expects us to feel sorry for how they were mistreated by the banks. I feel sorry for some people who have had their homes repossessed, but he seemed to find two of the worst examples possible. First was a guy whose family had owned the property he was living on for four generations. To me this sounds like he inherited property that should have been paid off 100 years ago, so how the hell did the bank lay claim to it? The only explanation is that he refinanced the property and cashed in on the equity at some point and then was unable to pay it back. Second example, a family that had owned their home for 22 years before it was repossessed. 22 years and they still are upside down? They had 22 years to pay off the house and never did? You know my philosophy on home ownership is that if it takes more than 15 years to pay off your home, you cannot afford it. Besides how much could they possibly owe on the original mortgage after 22 years? That house was not an expensive house now and 22 years ago it would have been far less expensive. It is hard to feel sorry for them knowing the likely back story is that the kept refinancing the equity in their house even though they are poor as dirt, until it came back to haunt them. Also the true failure of capitalism in this case is that the banks gave so many loans to those who never should have gotten them, and they did this because of political pressure and unspoken guarantees of a bailout.

He spends a lot of time focused on a couple of regional airline pilots and how little money they make. The thing is that capitalism is a supply and demand equation, there are far more people who want to be pilots, then there is demand for commercial pilots, this means a pilots skills simply don't command high salaries, especially those only certified for smaller airplanes. I feel somewhat sorry for them, but really if you can't live on a pilots salary, don't go into the field.

He acts like a fool driving around an armored car to various banks trying to get taxpayer money back. However, the banks (as evil as they are) did not take the tax money from the citizens in the first place, nor did they have the authority to bail themselves out with tax money, only the government had that authority, so it seems like a problem with the government misallocating tax money more than a problem with capitalism.

Overall I was not impressed. He made almost no convincing arguments, his solution at the end was stupid “support democracy”. There were a few funny moments, where he had clipped together funny bits, but it was not enough to save his movie from the overwhelming problem of showing government failures and blaming them on “capitalism” and showing peoples poor choices and blaming them on “capitalism” as well. Maybe the movie would have worked better if he had defined his meaning of capitalism at the beginning of the movie so we would all be on the same page while watching it. Because if his definition of capitalism is the government using its power to force companies to bribe government officials and then reward the companies who are the best at bribing them and harm companies that are the worst at bribing government officials, then I would agree capitalism under that definition sucks.

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