Love him or hate him, there's never been any question about
where Michael Moore stands ideologically. In some ways Moore's newest film, "Capitalism: A Love
Story," muddies the water, but in the
end all it really shows is that Michael Moore doesn't
actually know what capitalism is.
Apparently, he thinks it's a system where the government
bails out and controls the financial sector, or one where a few rich people
dominate the entire structure and keep everyone else poor. Both are caricatures
with nothing in common with what capitalism really is, as described by its
first and best exponent, Adam Smith.
film needs a new title. Perhaps something like, "Corporatism: What the Left
Thinks Capitalism Is."
rail against corporate bailouts in the early scenes, a free marketeer might
wonder if perhaps the filmmaker has inadvertently blundered into the truth. Among
other things he rips apart the notion that government and big business
partnering up is good for the little guy.
About half-way through the movie, I actually caught myself
thinking: Do Michael Moore and the Mackinac
actually agree? (It's few and far between,
but it does happen).
Eventually the film drifts leftward, criticizing "excesses"
such as high foreclosure rates, individuals hurt by (downward) stock market
swings, problems with a privatized jail and, of course, the fact that rich
people are, well, rich (ironic coming
from a guy worth millions). Moore
also makes a faux-religious argument, asking some priests, "What would Jesus
Many on the left similarly cite such "excesses of
capitalism" as their reasons for opposing a free-market system. The reality of
course is that most of these have nothing to do with capitalism. Indeed, things
like high foreclosure rates are the result of government policies that subsidized and virtually forced banks to
give mortgage loans to people who couldn't afford the home. The financial and
stock market crashes of a year ago were byproducts of the inevitable collapse
of that house of cards.
But alas, excesses
and villains are what sell movie tickets. Perhaps Moore will expand on
the theme with films about the excesses
of non-capitalist systems: The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia (2 million
murdered), the Soviet Union (65 million dead), Communist China (70 million
Moore incoherently argues
that we need to replace "capitalism" with a true American system: "Democracy."
A true capitalist
system is the best and most pure
system of the democratic ideal — individual consumers and producers engaging in
purely voluntary and mutually beneficial exchanges. This could not be more
different from government and politics, the hallmarks of which are coercion and
Here's how economist Walter
Williams defines capitalism and the proper role of government in such a
"Capitalism is an economic system characterized by private
ownership and control over the means of production. The distribution of goods
and services and their prices are mainly determined by competition in a free
market. Under such a system the primary job of government is to protect private
property, enforce contracts and ensure rule of law."
Capitalism is a system that has pulled millions upon millions out
of poverty, but Michael Moore is profoundly ignorant about any of that. When
pressed in an interview he said he "doesn't want to get caught up in titles."
Or in truth either, apparently. But condemning a system without understanding
its basic principles sells movie tickets and earns the praise of others who
share Moore's worldview.
Before the film was released Moore
wrote, "The time has arrived for, as Time
magazine called it, my 'magnum opus.' I only had a year of Latin when I was in
high school, so I'm not quite sure what that means, but I think it's good."
Michael Moore may have only had one year of Latin, but he
either skipped or flunked Econ 101.
Jarrett Skorup is a 2009 graduate of Grove
City College with a
dual major in history and political science. He is a research intern at the Mackinac Center for
Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich.
Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the
author and the Center are properly cited.