Saturday, March 13, 2010

On Capitalism: a love story

Another movie review? I'm running short on things to say as of late and can't help myself on this one.

I'm not going to judge this film on its cinematography, because Moore clearly knows how to make a documentary. Rather, I'm going to briefly tirade against the dishonest, illogical drivel that makes up the films content. I'll limit myself to two case studies for the sake of brevity but I could probably annotate the entire film with counter arguments and objections to populist cheap shots (should we somehow feel convinced that Priests and actors know what the hell they are talking about with respect to the economy?).

The first is that we should somehow feel bad that airplane pilots don't make as much money as Michael Moore thinks that they should. Sure I'd love to pay them more, but does anyone think that the majority of Americans are willing to pay extra money on the cost of the airfare to pad pilot's salary? Their job requires education and great responsibility, but how else are we supposed to reward them if not by letting customers decide how much they are willing to pay for their services? Their income is decided not buy some bureaucrat or industry executive, but by the American public voting not with their hopes and wishes but by putting money where their mouth is.

Maybe low income levels will discourage young pilots-to-be from getting their pilots lisence, this dimished supply will inturn lead to a higher demand for well trained pilots who can thus demand a higher wage(!). Artificially setting their wage, however, will encourage an excess supply of people wanting to become pilots and having to compete for a limited number of jobs. We would thus have a large number of pilots, many of whom are unemployed while the rest make a great wage but are ready to be fired on a whim because there is always someone else waiting in the wings to take their tenuous job. I say that having a supply of pilots that meets demand even if their wage isn't as 'fair' as some might like is a far better option.

Moore also goes to an electronics manufacturing co-op to espouse how great it is when companies are run and owned by their members. Somehow through all of this we're supposed to forget the fact that he is in Michigan, and that the capitalist system that he denegrades throughout the film clearly allows, nay enables, this to happen. I say yes to more worker owned co-ops who pay their workers a decent wage, and I bet a majority of the population does too.

Of course, we say this, but are we willing to pay extra money for it? This co-op that he visits seems to be doing a good job, and more power to them. If they were able to produce quality goods at a low price, there would probably be a lot more of them. Even if they weren't able to bring costs down as low as large corporations, if the majority of this country really valued their manufacturing and ownership process higher, there would be more of them because they're not limited by the government or by evil corporations.

Their success is limited by how many people are willing to vote with their money and buy products produced from worker owned co-ops. I belong to a food co-op, and I pay a premium for it. But really, the fact that its across the street from my house is a prime motivator and I'm not willing to pay a 10% surcharge on a car, computer, etc. just to know that it was made from a factory that was owned by its employees. And even if I was willing to do so, I could under our terrible capitalist system...

As best as I can remember, I liked Bowling from Columbine and Farenheit 9/11. I was of course a young, idealistic, liberal college student at the time but can recall that many arguments that Moore made resonated with me to the point of being ready to grab my pitchfork and descend upon the District. The faint recollection of these other films and my agreements with them made my stomach churn as I listened to one illogical argument after another in this movie.

Oh how I hope that his earlier films really aren't this awful upon reviewing. It will make me so jaded about the entire liberal college aged crowd to which I once belonged as well as personally ashamed that I couldn't recognize poorly crafted arguments. For now, I'll simply say that this film is a two hour lesson in half baked economic populism with no understanding of economic reality and no solutions/suggestions for the areas where problems clearly do exist. Instead, we're left with a tried and true delusional argument (I hate to even use the word) about how great life was in the 50's, how ruinous it has since become, and how terrible it is when factories close down because someone else can produce a product better and cheaper.

If democratic socialism is the goal, how is it possible to not once visit or talk about Scandinavia? There is a cogent argument to be made against U.S. style capitalism. I'm not sure I agree with it but I at least acknowledge that if your value systems differ, the Scandinavian model can be an appealing alternative that trades a certain amount of technological innovation for a larger social safety net. This film, however, isn't the place to learn about it or anything else for that matter.

*posted on my blog, fingerprints.and.snowflakes*

1 comment:

  1. I haven't seen the movie, and I don't know what MM is saying. I'm sure the movie is littered with illogical microeconomic reasoning. However, your analysis in no way touches on the corruption and greed that pervade our current economic and political systems (or should I say 'system' in the singular...they really are so convoluted). I'm afraid ... See Morethe simple cost/benefit, supply/demand argument that you outline here misses the point that corruption imposes a huge negative externality, which effective masks any positive benefits free-market capitalism can bring.