Sunday, September 6, 2009

Some Bloke Thinks You Should Listen to him (again)

Michael Moore thinks capitalism is evil, apparently, and so has made a film that he hopes will be a commercial success in order to tell us so. We can tell he wants it to be a success because he has spent a considerable sum marketing it.

It might help if he knew what capitalism was. He thinks capitalism is evil because 'it lets some people get rich while the rest are not.' That is, of course, its greatness. The free movement of capital, along with freedom of production and of trade, and minimal state interference, is what allows societies as a whole to become wealthy, meaning the poor become less poor and more rich people exist. Michael Moore is one of the rich people, and he has become rich (or perhaps merely wealthy, but compare him to a Puerto Rican barman in Harlem if you want to know what inequality means) and he has been able to do that because the country he lives in is not some socialist tyranny but a place where people are free to do many things, including investing their own money as they see fit.

Wasn't this film a gamble, by the way? Despite the money (whose?) invested in it, it might be a flop. There could be losses. Shouldn't this sort of thing be confined to the roulette table? Dirty capitalist. Shame on the man.

OK, so he's just one more self-important little hypocrite, and God knows there are plenty of them, but I have a feeling he'll get a lot of attention, and be taken fairly seriously, when the film comes out.


Vincent said...

Michael Moore is not the prophet the world needs to lead it out of capitalism, methinks. But hats off to him, he speaks up in a country whose fabled respect for freedom does not extend to allowing a socialist to be considered a patriot.

I don't like socialism either. The evil that capitalism does is not to let some people get rich while the rest are not, since that happens in every kind of system.

Capitalism merely perverts human values, especially when it is praised. It's a bad system like representative democracy is, and feudalism was in its time, and slavery in its time too. Recognising that these things are bad systems instead of praising them may reduce their perverting effect.

Maybe we'll get a better system one day, but as I said to start with, I don't expect Michael Moore to be its prophet.

CIngram said...

The problem is precisely that it is very hard to find a better system that might actually work in practice(Moore suggests democracy, but I suspect he means something much more totalitarian). Representative democracy is, as you say, a bad system, but everything else that has been tried has turned out to be much worse. On the other hand, feudalism and slavery were both defended in their day on the same grounds, but much better, and workable, ways of arranging society have been found in those cases.

Capitalism is essentially (and it may be me who misunderstands this) the use of money to make money, and in the bad sense it means doing this without creating anything of value. In this it is distinct from speculation, manufacture, business in general, which incidentally provide benefit to others and create wealth.

These things are so tied up together (and with free commerce) that it is hard to see how they can be restricted without seriously damaging the economy as a whole, and many important freedoms.

Certainly capitalism is at times the expression of naked greed, which is ugly and base, but it is not clear to me how it makes people poorer than they would otherwise be, which appears to be an implicit assumption in all criticisms of it.

Vincent said...

I would never criticise capitalism for making people poorer than they would otherwise be, so I wonder if this helps refute your last sentence.

I criticise capitalism for applying a rich-poor yardstick to human behaviour, implicitly assuming that richer is an incentive and poorer is a disincentive; and then helping condition people into viewing life in these terms, so that they see no alternative but to perpetuate the system.

I don't think you can separate capitalism as you define it (making money out of money) from value-producing enterprises. They are interdependent. But you admit this anyhow.

The model I look to, for replacing capitalism, is found in primitive societies living close to the land, without concentrations of power, without a relentless drive to efficiency at all costs.

(concentration of) power and constantly ratcheting-up efficiency are the achievements of Western civilisation. They also are the greatest blights on human values.

I don't have answers, just criticism. I don't want anyone to evangelise these things and say they are good.