Capitalism A Love Story
Perhaps there was a time when the state of the global economy had little if any bearing on the lives of the regular people but that is certainly not the case at this time. Bad decisions made by the lofty captains of industry now trickle down to the rank and file worker in a matter of days or even hours. Unemployment is at an all time high and an ever increasing number of people have lost their life savings and any hope of a realistic retirement while a very small minority of the population increases their personal wealth literally by hundreds of millions of dollars. The stock market is no longer just something for the rich; regular people now are in it with pensions, retirement funds and property values. In just the last year many went from a fairly stable economic life to having no job, no home and no hope for the future. With something hitting the working class this hard it was only a matter of time until the self proclaimed watchdog of the middle class, Michael Moore, grabbed his camera and hit the road. The result of his latest cinematic journey into the collaboration between big government and big business is aptly named; Capitalism: A Love Story’. I have always had mixed feelings about Moore’s documentaries. They are brilliant from a cinematic perspective and raise questions that are vital to the health of our society and must be asked. Then he goes off on a tangent of unfounded conjecture or forces an example past reason frequently with some very adept editing. This, for me, has the effect of diluting the importance of his message. It has to be remembered that Moore is part investigative reporter, part documentary filmmaker and part entertainer. You should not watch his work without out keeping that three cornered hat of hid in plain sight.
Michael Moore might better be described as a polemicist rather than a straight forward documentarian. The latter term is more applicable to a film maker that objectively records his topic while the former provides a strong, predetermined position to his work. Both are necessary for a thriving society and I feel that much of the criticism of Moore’s movies is founded on a misunderstanding or at least a misapplication of those two terms. As a polemicist Moore is not under the same obligation to show all sides of an issue any more than a writer of an op-ed piece in a respectable newspaper. With that said the film being considered here is by far one of the best Moore has brought out to the public. Having moved on from his frequently vehement tirades directed at former President George W. Bush he now focuses his keen eye on the root of our current economic crisis; the interaction of capitalism with democracy. He still is quick to cite names and examples and still goes for a few rather over the top stunts but the bottom line of this movie is an eye opening account of what happened to our money.
One of the first thing Moore does is defines a few terms necessary to understand his premise. First the classic definitions of capitalism with aspects like free market place and profitability. True capitalism should not be harmful to the public but we currently have something else: a combination of both plutocracy (rule by the rich) and oligarchy (rule by an elite class) called a Plutarch. By design this form of rule is not meant to be benign; the upper one percent has a vested interest to keep the lower 99% happily ignorant and blissfully hard at work. Moore points out the traditional American dream is not possible in this climate but for the Plutarch to succeed the illusion of moving to a high caste must be maintained. What the current financial crisis has done is shatter that dreamlike state awakening the population to what is being done to them. Moore personalizes the plight by show footage of a working class family being forcibly evicted from their home. In inter cuts home video from the family inside the house with shots of the sheriff’s office ramming the door down. Much to his credit Moore lays out the causes of the dilemma in a logical progression albeit with his trade mark darkly humorous approach. As Moore presents his argument he provides a little historical foundation. For example it was a memo from banking giant CitiGroup that initially describe our society as a Plutarch. Moore takes several comments from government official stating that capitalism is God’s will. He juxtaposes those clips with old movie of Jesus with dubbed statements such as refusing to heal someone because it was a pre existing condition. This ‘supply side Jesus’ has little love for the working poor. Moore does offer some possible alternatives including the second Bill of Rights proposed by FDR to assure the right for a descent job and pensions. He also focuses on a couple of businesses owned and run by the employees. These collective apparently have excellent profit margins without having to abuse the workers. Finally Moore wraps up won a political note with the election of President Barack Obama including addressing the allegations that he is a socialist.
Moore manages to rum his audience through the full gamut of emotions. Watching families struggling to get by forcibly removed from their homes will move you close to tears. He balances that with his antics on Wall Street going from one bank to the next with a bag demanding our money back. He also circles building with crime scene tap demanding to perform a citizen’s arrest on the CEOs. Say what you will about the man but he knows how to craft a movie.