I just got back home from seeing Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story, and I almost walked out (I probably would have, had I not been watching with my mom and brother). I’m not a Michael Moore hater; I actually kind of liked some parts of Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11. But this was just awful. The gonzo stunts that Moore has become known for were uninspired duplicates of scenes from his previous films, and he didn’t have any particularly funny jokes. Humor took a backseat in this film to Moore’s incredibly misguided critique of capitalism.
Moore highlights some tragic, probably legitimate injustices in the movie (although their presentation is surely slanted), but the movie overall is not just misleading; it’s a truly despicable piece of trash that makes people who watch it stupider and reduces the quality of public discourse.
As W. Jerome wrote last month, Moore conflates capitalism with corporatism throughout the film. Among the vignettes that Moore uses to condemn capitalism are a judge who takes cash payments to imprison juveniles and increase profits of his detention facility owning friends, legislators and cabinet officials who get special deals on home loans, and former Wall Street executives who use their powerful posts in the treasury department to funnel taxpayer money to their old employers. Moore uses the word “capitalism” to refer generally to “things that are evil” (he even says, “capitalism is an evil, and you can’t regulate evil”).
For reference, here is Wikipedia’s definition of capitalism: “an economic and social system in which the means of production (also known as capital) are privately controlled; labor, goods and capital are traded in a market; profits are distributed to owners or invested in new technologies and industries; and wages are paid to labor.” Moore uses this movie to obscure for his viewers what the word “capitalism” actually means. Therefore, when a free-market friendly person defends capitalism, people who have seen Capitalism: A Love Story will attribute a different meaning to that person’s words than that person herself intends. It’s impossible to have a meaningful, productive conversation when the participants are literally not speaking the same language. Moore cultivates confusion on a topic which badly needs conceptual clarification.
There is nothing wrong with a critique of free market economics (see? I can’t even use the word capitalism here, because I’m afraid that it will be unclear!) on its merits, but Moore’s movie is nothing of the sort. And I’m honestly ashamed (although not at all surprised) that one of my beloved home state’s senators (Bernie Sanders) makes a cameo appearance. Yuck.