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"Don't make any more movies."
-- A Wall Street professional in response to Michael Moore's ambush-style solicitation for suggestions.
I won't go quite that far, but after wasting 120 minutes of my weekend on Moore's new documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story, I certainly sympathize with the sentiments.
Traditionally, I've tolerated his carefully chosen "evidence" and faulty leaps of logic because I've found him thought-provoking.
I'm tired of everyman Michael Moore, replete with ballcap and Mom jeans, accosting various corporate headquarters with a bullhorn full of shocking demands. Putting crime scene tape around AIG (NYSE: AIG ) and other bailed-out companies was clever, but Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) conspiracy theories, politicians' participation in Countrywide's "Friends of Angelo" mortgage program, General Motors' problems, and the concept of a financial coup d'etat have all been done before ... and better.
The rest of the movie is just a series of tangential anecdotal evidence about the perils of capitalism:
- Companies, including Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) and numerous banks, taking out "dead peasant" policies that pay out when rank-and-file employees die.
- People facing foreclosure ... including one scene in which the bank paid a family $1,000 to get their house ready for sale.
- Kids sent to a juvenile detention center on trumped-up charges because a judge was getting kickbacks from the private detention center.
- Airline pilots getting crappy pay.
- The thoughts of this dude from The Princess Bride ... he is apparently a "Friend of Michael."
Some scenes are heart-wrenching. Some made me angry. But few make any sense. At least not as an indictment of capitalism.
Moore plays on our emotions to hide his lack of rationality. In a country with 300 million stories to be told, it's easy to pick out a few that show the ugly side of capitalism. He asserts that the U.S. should take care of all its people by redistributing wealth. He goes on to voice support for Franklin Roosevelt's concept of a "Second Bill of Rights," which basically says we have the right to live in a utopia where the security, health, and prosperity we all strive for as humans is guaranteed.
In Moore's mind, we live in the richest country on earth, so everyone should be taken care of. What he fails to grasp is that capitalism is the main reason we have our riches. He also fails to grasp any concept of personal responsibility. Capitalism is a man-made system, so there are plenty of problems -- and we must strive to fix them. But a nanny state with no incentives or personal responsibility is not the answer ... it's a bigger problem.
So, here's hoping that Moore takes an introductory econ course and audits a logic class or two. Then we can talk about his next movie.
What do you think? Want to sound off on Michael Moore? Have you seen Capitalism: A Love Story? Post a comment below to share your thoughts.