Thursday, October 01, 2009

Capitalism

Saw the new Michael Moore movie today. Curious to see how it actually does.

At this point, "responding" to Mr. Moore's movies is obviously pointless: These aren't a guy making his case in a debate, they're polemics - and there's nothing wrong with that. Sure, as always one can point to obvious places where he's playing fast and loose with the facts, or mischaracterizes his opponents, or goes to dubious lengths to hit emotional buttons (at one point he runs some Katrina footage and mock-ponders why "it's never Bernie Madoff waving on the roof," which I imagine even the most 'liberal' fan may respond to with "uhh... because he didn't live below sea-level?") or opts for dramatic effect over facts; but to complain about that is to mistakenly conflate the word's "Documentary" with "News Reporting." These are the facts: That Michael Moore believes that Capitalism is a no-longer-functional economic model (though he stops short of an outright endorsement of "that other 'ism,") that "Capitalism: A Love Story" is a film in which he uses staged comedy bits, archival footage, news and interviews edited together in order to express this belief; and that it's quite successful in that aim.

The attention-grabbing title ("OMG! A movie against capitalism!?") is actually a pretty good encapsulation of the whole enterprise: it LOOKS a lot more controversial than it really is. While Moore states onscreen "Capitalism is evil" (as part of an ironic fake-out where he somberly calls for it to be replaced by... DEMOCRACY!) and for good measure has a bunch of Catholic priests agreeing with him, the film itself is less concerned with debating economic philosophy than it is with fanning the flames of outrage over the subprime meltdown and the bailouts. In a Q&A that followed the showing, he compared the 21st Century debate over capitalism and socialism as the rehashing of "a 16th Century economic system and a 19th Century one." Of course, "Predatory Banking Practices in The Early 21st Century: A Love Story" isn't as snappy a title.

Interestingly, it's kind of strange to see a Michael Moore movie that winds up being essentially upbeat: As of the film-proper, Moore is still obviously high on the election of Obama - which the film frames as the ultimate result of a literal citizen's revolt which Moore sums up as "Holy SHIT!" - and leaves off with the impression that things are looking up. As such, is less of a "call to arms" and more of a "pep rally," so I wonder if that'll make it more or less popular.

Of special note to history buffs will, of course, be the fact that Moore and his researchers actually managed to uncover the famous Franklin Delano Roosevelt "Second Bill of Rights" speech film footage, which had been presumed lost and is featured in the film in it's entirety.

5 comments:

Mykal said...

Well he does stir the pot with his films wither they be good or not. Though each of his movies so far have the same sense as a crazy post on a forum that has some reason in it. Don't know if it is something good or something bad of an ok movie. Never know if they are good or not simply because they do the job of stirring the pot and not much else. Sorry if I don't make much sense, but that ambiguity of it is best way I can express my thoughts on this post.

untra said...

I want to see this before I share an opinion, however Im not quite sure what the next economic structure is america should try out. As far as Im aware, the two main "isms" of now are capitalism and communism, and we all know how well that second one works out. The only other economic philosophy I can name is Mercantilism (get all your shit in gold NOW).

ThatFellowWithTheHat said...

Not really related to the topic, but have you seen this yet?(chances are you definitely have if you have a public email address)
http://kotaku.com/5371633/2009-can-not-end-soon-enough

A Twilight Game made by Konami. At least it's SceneIt, and not a Castlevania spin off, huh?

Lemuel said...

On the topic of "mistakenly conflat(ing) the words [sic] 'Documentary' with 'News Reporting'," I think the implication that there's a difference between the two within the context of bias is off. Certainly both a documentary and a news report can appear unbiased, but in fact pick and choose the facts which support a biased case. What Moore is guilty of is what too many people are ...

I call it "argument from position paper," named for early college writing assignments where the professor would ask for a position paper that cited at least 3 supporting facts (or arguments), and maybe one refutation of the opposing point of view. Such a technique doesn't encourage one to look at an issue objectively o impartially, but to make up one's mind ahead of time, and cherry-pick what supports the argument.

Such cart-before-the-horse thinking drives most modern reporting and documentary films, and I think it's as irresponsible as it is epistemologically incorrect. Free speech is awesome - so use it to tell the truth, not just air a personal opinion or push a political agenda; truth is so much better.

Vincent said...

I don't know if anyone else will see it this way, but I really dislike the way people frame the economic argument as Socialism vs Capitalism, as if they lie at the absolute extremes.

I'd prefer to think of the economic spectrum as having full socialism at one extreme, capitalism in the middle, and full libertarianism (in the economic sense, not the civil rights sense) at the other extreme.

Full socialism is at one extreme for obvious reasons: it is disastrous for societies, it has never worked, etc. Full libertarianism is at the other extreme also for obvious reasons: it leads to wild market fluctuations, leads to extreme inequality, greed and corruption, etc.

Capitalism is in the middle. By capitalism I mean capitalism in the sense in which it is practised throughout most of the developed Western world: private ownership of property, the ability to innovate and be an entrepreneur, the law of supply and demand, but with some regulations and a bit of government oversight to keep things from getting out of hand. When people criticize capitalism they usually mean to criticize the doctrine of wholly unregulated free markets, but most countries on Earth that call themselves capitalist have fairly extensive regulations while also allowing markets to dictate prices, goods, services, etc.