Hand it to Michael Moore to make a movie like Capitalism: A Love Story. His career since the late 1980s has been chock-full of provocative documentaries that are suitable for rousing conversation or heated argument (depending on how you like to communicate). That is because he always brings not just interesting topics to light, but also relevant ones that consider current issues. In this film, if not throughout his entire career, he seeks solutions to correct a destructive culture of greed.
It’s a story of people who have suffered under capitalist culture and how that culture has advanced its agenda to make a privileged few very wealthy. In the process of this plan for maximizing profits, Wall Street and the American big banks painted themselves into an economic corner and caused the US housing market to crash. The film shows three example families turned out into the street, victims of badly controlled banking schemes. An event that shook the world markets, the crash of 2008 and subsequent government bailouts show the destructive effects of unregulated and predominant capitalism.
Moore investigates both historical and recent events to explain the path that led to the crash. Footage of Jimmy Carter criticizing American greed in a presidential address gives the audience a clear sense of the flaws of American consumerism thirty years before it would be questioned seriously in the mainstream. The film then shows how those thirty years devolved the American industrial complex and destroyed the labour movement. Skilled professionals such as airline pilots are now like many other vital labour markets: vastly underpaid in the US. With manufacturing and the unions destroyed, what replaced them was a series of specialized stock market and insurance products that provide no one but Wall Street with a profit.
The people hurt through unemployment and crooked refinance loans are the reason the public good should be considered over the profits of a bank. Whether they be fired union workers in Chicago, or a Miami family being put out of their home, society loses in the face of that much instability. Fortunately, these types of stories are giving rise to a new outlook, made evident by the increase in alternative business models and organizations. Co-ops and nonprofit enterprises featured in the film show the potential for businesses that have other goals than profit alone.
It’s as though in the process of making a dollar, somewhere along the line we forgot to love what we are doing to earn that dollar. A business that exists to fulfill a need in society but does not cut corners for profit is a philosophy of work that ensures that society itself will come first. And since there is no economy without society, it begs the question: Why cater to the needs of a private company over the people?
This movie was a blast of information to the brain. A solid and thoughtful premise, Capitalism: A Love Story is a worthwhile expense of time away from a busy life of capitalist slavery.
Michael Howe is an opinionated freelance writer who pops up on the Internet from time to time.