Capitalism isn’t as well done as Sicko, Moore’s previous film. But it’s well worth seeing for its disturbing insights and information, brought into vivid high relief by Moore’s inimitable style. The film’s main themes are:
- Capitalism is not the great moral good that we’ve been taught it is since childhood. In fact, it’s an evil system with incentives that inevitably lead to a small number of people amassing vast wealth, while a large majority of workers can’t afford the basics of life. Ironically, although the pro-capitalist religious right has appropriated Christianity to itself, capitalism goes against all the precepts of Christianity and Jesus Christ. Moore backs up this assertion with numerous and persuasive expert interviews, and some shocking facts of which most people are unaware.
- Capitalism is actually not small-d democratic at all. The hierarchical structure of large corporations is fascist, not democratic. You have no say; you’re a cog in a machine owned and run by others. You do what you’re told or you’re fired. Capitalism was not part of our founders’ vision. There is no reference to capitalism in the Constitution, and in fact many of our founders – including Thomas Jefferson and John Adams – warned against it. Jefferson said, “Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.”
Capitalism makes its main points well, but has some weaknesses:
- The film gets off to a unpersuasive start, showing families losing their homes to foreclosure, but without enough backstory. You certainly get that these people are sad and angry, but the film doesn’t connect the dots back to the greed and dishonesty of the financial sector. By omitting the backstory, the film leaves open the possibility that these famililies did something boneheaded to bring this on themselves.
- The portrayal of Obama is overly positive, not balanced. I like Obama, too, but come on – you can’t highlight the past bad acts of Larry Summers and low-life worm Timothy Geithner, and then somehow leave out that Obama appointed these two men to manage the US financial system. Or somehow leave out the fact that Obama himself voted for the $700 billion no-strings-attached bailout of the banking industry. The film does disclose that Goldman Sachs was the largest corporate contributor to Obama’s campaign, but then – on no evidence – suggests that Obama remains beyond its influence nonetheless. I’d like to think that’s true, but I haven’t yet seen the proof.
- The narrative is a bit disjointed. The film demonstrates the fact of wealth disparity, but doesn’t nail down why capitalism – even if regulated – will always lead to this result, as asserted. It’s also a little fuzzy on what to do about the problem, beyond a vague call to demonstrate and rebel (against what and for what?).
The great strength of Sicko was its clear call to action. Not only did it make the problem clear, it make the solution clear. But what is the solution to capitalistic exploitation in this country, and the stranglehold that monied interests exert on our so-called democratic process? At this very moment, 80% of the American people are in favor of a public option for health insurance, and yet – because of the pressure of the insurance industry – the chance of Congress approving a public option is well below 80%.
After seeing Sicko, I felt there was a solution I could help work towards. Capitalism, on the other hand, left me feeling helpless anger and despair. I don’t know how we get our country back from the greedy, amoral people who amass great wealth at the expense of others, and the greedy, amoral economic system that allows it. What is the solution?