Is Michael Moore Right About Capitalism?

The premiere of "Capitalism: A Love Story" is past, but bloggers are asking whether there was a real point beneath the theatrics

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Liberal jester-polemicist Michael Moore's latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story, set off a fireworks display of first reactions. But now that the frenzy involving the premiere, the afterparty, and the Moore-ish public relations push has died down, people are beginning to get to the substance of the film. Capitalism: A Love Story paints a stark picture of a suffering underclass robbed by greedy financiers. But with the facts of the financial crisis hardly pretty to begin with, the film begs the question: is Moore making a point that we didn't already know from the news? As journalists, activists, and business bloggers digest the film, here's how they come down on whether Moore's indictment of capitalism was right:

  • Yes, So Give Him a Break on Being Crazy, argues Matt Taibbi at True Slant. The movie, he writes, shows "the rapid peasant-ization of most of the country," and "how far it's fallen, in the age of financial deregulation ... At least Michael Moore is getting us talking about the right topics." Of course Moore is a loony: "It's natural for Michael Moore to behave like someone who thinks he's taking on the world alone. Because he is, sort of. If we want him to stop behaving like this, it's kind of on us to do something about it."
  • Yes, and David Brooks Agrees, Too ... Sort Of Bob Burnett points out in the Huffington Post that both Moore and theoretically conservative David Brooks "believe American capitalism has a problem. Of course, Brooks and Moore don't agree on the nature of the problem," Brooks talking about, Burnett's words, "a malevolent culture" while Moore thinks it a matter of a "failed system corrupted by greed." But "[h]owever one defines the problem with American capitalism," Burnett writes, "it's unlikely to be remedied by political business as usual."
  • Quite Possibly, But In a Supremely Unhelpful Way First of all, writes Pia Varma at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, "[w]hat he is referring to is corporatism, or economic fascism, not free-market capitalism. But ... [t]o Moore, it's 'just' semantics." Second, Varma agrees with many of the complaints, but doesn't see Moore suggesting a workable alternative. "He sarcastically calls America's experiment with capitalism a 'love story.' But his solution is to replace it with a system of warfare between the classes, the sexes, and the races under the guise of 'brotherly love.' Go figure!"
  • No, And Good Grief He's an Idiot "I used to think," writes Kevin Glass at Townhall, "that Michael Moore was a reasonably smart filmmaker who purposefully distorted the truth to score political points." Thus, "he was in on the joke ... he realized the glaring omissions, inaccuracies and outright lies but thought this was tolerable in search of his larger point." Except now, Glass continues, "[w]atching interviews with him over his new film Capitalism: A Love Story, I've come to realize that Moore isn't in on the joke. To put it bluntly, Michael Moore is dumb." Moore wants "fairness and democracy defined by Michael Moore."
  • No, Because Quality of Argument Matters Heidi Moore at The Big Money tells of a reader who wrote that "Moore didn't make the argument perfectly, but thank god someone famous is willing to make it at all." That's silly, she says, and it's "like saying, 'Wall Street didn't make housing derivatives perfectly, but thank God they packaged them at all.' In short, the quality of the performance counts." One problem, among many:
Moore argues that capitalism is anti-democratic, but in fact, he mixes up corporate hierarchies with the actual practice of capitalism. Capitalism allows people to choose what products they want to buy--if that's not democratic, what is?
  • No--Let Me Tell You About the Capitalism I Know "I've known too many people," writes Nelson Davis at the Huffington Post, who started with next to nothing and built substantial enterprises to believe that the entrepreneurial spirit is anything other than positive and democratic." Futhermore,
Michael Moore needs to know more about the great capitalists whose names grace libraries, concert halls, and universities across the country. He should remember that democracy can only work if the business climate is healthy. Moore must acknowledge that he is now in an entrepreneurial business making a product for sale and that he couldn't do it without the capitalism that he rails about.
  • Sort Of--He's Right About Something "However awful" the film, writes the Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger, it "should not be passed off as irrelevant. Beyond the agitprop lie individuals screaming at political and economic institutions that are manifestly bogged down." But, he says,
If Mr. Moore and his gallery of weeping victims took a closer look, they'd see their problem is not capitalism but politics. Once elected, virtually all politicians in the U.S. or Western Europe join the Not Much of Anything Party, and that includes Barack Obama, or soon will.

In the U.S., both Republican and Democratic pols define capitalism as a system with economic activity sufficient to produce campaign contributions. But that ensures income stagnation for Mr. Moore's masses.

The most immediate problem facing the U.S. is not that we have too much capitalism, but that we don't have enough of it.
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