Review: Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story

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?

8 thoughts on “Review: Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story

  1. Sheryl,

    You say: “What is the solution?” I say: What is the problem?

    You say: How can we get our country back from the greedy?
    I say: We are the country! “We have met the enemy and he is us”

    Greedy, amoral people are a part of all systems. Is it the system of Capitalism that makes people greedy or is it something else? Do you think there is no greed in a Communist or Socialist system? It was neither one of the latter that built this country but, in my opinion, it will be Socialism that brings it down.

    80% of American people in favor of a public option for health insurance??

    According to the most recent national poll by Rasmussen, just 35% of U.S. voters now support the creation of a government health insurance company to compete with private health insurers. I am sure you must have consulted other polls that show a different percentage.

  2. Just for context, let me ask you… Are you one of the very rich, or are you one of those who has nothing but hopes to be one of the very rich and therefore votes against his own interest?

    Did you know that the discrepancy between rich and poor in this country is worse than in most third world countries? Our middle class is shrinking to the point of being almost non-existent.

    Have you seen Michael Moore’s movie? I’d be interested to hear your response to the specific facts and points he makes. There’s no question there’s a problem. But the solution is harder to come up with because people with no morals at all already have a stranglehold on our democratic process.

    The most recent polling says there is 65-70% support for the public option among Americans as a whole, and yet it was defeated in the Senate Finance committee yesterday. This is not how representative government is supposed to work. The Republicans arguing against the public option rely on analyses from a firm that is a wholly owned subsidiary of United Health Group – one of the nation’s biggest health insurers. A little conflict of interest there. And these Congress people take tons of money from health insurance companies to fund their campaigns. How do deal with all this corrupted power??

    Last Friday’s episode of Real Time with Bill Maher was very interesting. He had Michael Moore on, and he made all the same criticisms of the movie that I make in this blog post, so it was interesting to see how Moore responded. Then afterwards, there was a discussion about it with Paul Krugman and Elliot Spitzer. They argue that what we have now isn’t capitalism at all, but cronyism. They say capitalism with regulation works fine, and I tend to agree with that (and disagree with Moore on this one point). The problem is unregulated capitalism because humans are so incredibly greedy. There has to be regulation or you have what’s going on in China – antifreeze in the toothpaste, sweet-tasting poison in baby formula, lead in kids’ toys.

  3. I am neither very rich nor very poor though that is somewhat of a relative question. I vote for what I believe would be in the best interest of the country. Really, I do. 🙂

    Sometimes that means voting against my own self interest. Being for a government run health care program would help my kids out in the short term but I am not for it. I am not an advocate of legalized stealing from one to give to someone else in order that they can have something for nothing.

    Polls can be very misleading as pointed out in my first comment here on your Blog. Which Poll do you subscribe to? I quoted a fairly recent poll from Rasmussen.

    Look, we have fraud and corruption in all aspects of society in all parts of the world. I am all for better regulation that keep people more honest if thats doable.

    I see a problem with both Republicans and Democrats in that for a politician to be successful, he/she must bow to the leadership of their party even if it goes against what they personally believe or want to do. This is not specific to any one party. I see that as a fundemental flaw in the two party system. But, laws can not replace honorable customs, traditions and moral values in regulating human behavior. What we are seeing all over the place now days are laws replacing human decency. I don’t have a solution for that but I believe a growing secular society is partly to blame.

    There is an awful lot of demonizing of so called “big business” anymore. Thats a reaction that is being fed by lots of things including people like Mr. Maher and Mr. Moore through media. The right certainly has it’s problems with people like Hannity and Rush Limbaugh who, contrary to what some would have you believe, do not represent the Republican party.

    Its very ironic to me that the same people who fault our government and speak of cronyism, mistrust of their congressmen, also believe that “government” should fix the problem.

    Why is it that so many Americans are in favor of taking money they don’t personally own from some and having the “government” use it for what “they” view as a “good cause” for others. People love government because government, while having neither moral nor constitutional authority, has the “legal and physical” might to take the property of one American and give it to someone else.

    As to regulation, well we are not a China, not even close. Are you saying there is corruption in China! We do have regulation in this country. Quite a lot of it as a matter of fact and the trick is not to go too far with it.

    Maybe if Lincoln were alive today he would have changed his Gettysburg address to say something like “government of the people, by the people, for the people, and gently regulated shall not perish from the earth.”

  4. Sorry, forgot to answer a couple questions you posted.

    No, I have not seen Michael Moore’s movie(s) and its not likely that I would spend any time watching it simply because I have heard him interviewed and don’t find his views in concert with my own. Just not interested but I will give him credit for being provocative.

    The main thing I forgot to respond to in your earlier comments was the myth that this country is somehow in trouble because of a widening gap between the rich and poor.

    The Nov. 13, 2008 Wall Street Journal editorial “Movin’ On Up” reports on a recent U.S. Treasury study of income tax returns from 1996 and 2005. The study tracks what happened to tax filers 25 years of age and up during this 10-year period. Controlling for inflation, nearly 58 percent of the poorest income group in 1996 moved to a higher income group by 2005. Twenty-six percent of them achieved middle or upper-middle class income, and over 5 percent made it into the highest income group.

    Over the decade, the inflation-adjusted median income of all tax filers rose by 24 percent. What a country!!

  5. > No, I have not seen Michael Moore’s movie(s) and its not likely that I would spend any time watching it simply because I have heard him interviewed and don’t find his views in concert with my own.

    Too many of us (and I can be guilty of this myself) only take in perspectives that we agree with. I like hearing the other side of issues. The problem for me, lately, is the lack of intelligent argument on the right. The Republicans have become a party of crazy people, spewing blatant lies and misinformation to manipulate the outcome they want. I’m all for informed debate, but this isn’t real debate.

    I like to watch “This Week with George Stephanopoulis” because I get some intelligent balance there. I don’t often agree with George Will, but at least he’s smart and honest, and I like to hear what he has to say.

    I believe that government has a useful role to play, and when it does not play the role it’s meant to play, we get into trouble. Capitalism needs to be regulated or greed degrades into evil.

    > But, laws can not replace honorable customs, traditions and moral values in regulating human behavior.

    You can’t count on individual morality to restrain capitalistic greed. These guys only understand force. Laws are necessary.

    Did you know (fact from the film) that starting airline pilots make only $18-26k, and many are on food stamps because they can’t support their families on their salaries? Remember Sully, who landed his plane in the Hudson River? He testified before Congress about the airline greed that cut pilot salaries to this point, but it got no coverage.

    The health care situation in this country is a moral travesty. Let me start by asking you a few questions:

    1. What do you think of Medicare?
    2. Do you not see a problem with the incentive structure for insurance companies?

  6. I do listen to opposing views quite a lot. Especially with regard to news media. In the case of Michael Moore, yes I have listened to him being interviewed and am simply not interested in watching any of his films. It has nothing to do with not wanting to listen to a different opinion. It has to do with not being interested in wanting to watch his films. Hearing various points of view is important and I agree with you on that point.

    Medicare is a social program that is not needed but like Social Security, we have become addicted to it. I would gladly give up having money deducted from my paycheck in exchange for letting me take care of myself. Do you think that would be allowed?

    Social Security is a ponzi scheme not unlike Madoff pulled except tht social security is legal theft. We steal from the young worker to pay for the older retiree. We promise the young worker, “when you get old, you too will be taken care of.” Now we know better. Do you think social security will be there for those young men and women starting work today? Maybe but its going to cost their children a lot more out of their paychecks than it cost me. A lot more. Its a failed program that costs far more than expected and from most people’s point of view, its bankrupt.

    I don’t know what the incentive structure for insurance companies is. If you are speaking of profit, I say the more profit the better. Profit is what drives the economy and creates jobs. I am for all American businesses becoming profitable and wealthy.

    I don’t see a problem with private insurance. I much prefer it to being given something for which I have no say. I like the concept of free market with no bailouts. The strong survive and the weak are eliminated.

    Why is healthcare a moral travesty? We have great medical care for those who want to make it a priority and are willing to pay for it. And, for those who don’t want to pay, the government just steals what is needed from people like me and you and gives it to them in the form of medicaid.

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