As I was working out this morning, I watched a taped version of Bill Maher’s interview the other night with documentary guru Michael Moore. The interview and brief glimpse of his new documentary, “Capitalism: A Love Story” seems really entertaining. No doubt, each of Moore’s films does a valiant job of shedding a few rays of light on particular parts of our “American way” that are broken and need some real fixing. But, my overall feeling about Moore is that he is an entertainer (much like Rush Limbaugh is at the other end of the political spectrum), versus a truly informed subject matter expert. I believe that the good people of America really need to understand this.
Please understand that I have nothing against Moore. I am not one of those conservatives who looks at him as the anti-Christ. Instead, I try to maintain an objective viewpoint to truly understand his story lines, facts and where he is generally coming from. The problem I have with taking Michael seriously is that his commentary is often distorted and sometimes it’s just plain wrong as Bill Maher really pointed out in this interview. Although his sensationalistic way of making consumers feel the issue at hand is both witty and unique. (That’s why his films do so well.) They also tend to misrepresent the absolute truth of the matter, versus correctly illuminating what the real issue should be.
Let’s take his current documentary. He came onto Maher’s show with great fanfare and to huge applause. (No surprise, Bill’s show is a sanctuary for those left thinkers.) After a few softball questions and answers, Bill asked a very good question. He said something like, “Michael in your film, you actually depict capitalism as evil. I don’t think it’s evil and disagree with you on that. Is that what you are saying?”
Moore’s response was, “I don’t mean that capitalism is evil. I just believe that we need to bring back the better days of capitalism when it was about the ‘American Dream’ and a much fairer system for all.”
Let’s see. I’d like to ask Michael a few (rhetorical) questions based on that response. Michael, do you mean that capitalism was much more fair for all Americans 20 years ago when junk bonds blew up on Wall Street? I seemed to remember that tens of thousands of people lost their jobs then (many who weren’t involved with Wall Street) and thousands of other innocent victims lost their life savings.
Right. You must mean that the “better days” were actually much deeper into our American past. OK. How about when capitalism treated everyone so fairly during that little episode known as the Great Depression (lasting almost a decade)? If memory serves, millions of average and below average ‘Joes’ lost their livelihoods, homes and pretty much all they owned in every town and city across America.
No? You actually mean earlier than that, Michael? Ok, let’s go back further into the 19th century. Michael, have you ever read about the depression of 1890? During this period, capitalism ran amok, as well. You see, too many people attempted to redeem silver notes for gold. A panic ensued because the statutory limit for the minimal amount of gold in the Federal Reserve was reached and US Notes could no longer be successfully redeemed for gold. Everything was heavily financed through bond issues, which of course had extremely high interest payments that couldn’t be paid anymore. (Can you spell excess?) From there, banks everywhere failed, giant railroads shuttered and over 15,000 companies went bankrupt, creating 25 percent unemployment in our “fair capitalistic” America.
I could go on and on by discussing the 1819 depression or the 1837-1843 depression, or even the 1869 depression. But, I won’t.
My point is that socialists like Michael Moore tend to be more about ideals than what’s really pragmatic. More to the point, our capitalistic society has never been fair to all (and in fact, has periodically broken down since its inception.) It simply wasn’t built that way. Instead, it’s a system that needs strong checks and balances to ensure that it can work reasonably well for most. But unfortunately, greed and the need for excess have caused the system to break down about every 10-20 years. This typically happens when the checks and balances aren’t really working all that well anymore because most everyone is living too fat and happy. That’s not good. But, it is the nature of this beast. The ‘American Way’ is something special that our form of capitalism does offer many Americans, though. Although the odds are long, there is a tall list of business people and entrepreneurs who came from no money and sometimes little education to become successful because of hard work, very smart decisions and a little fortune.
Michael Moore’s point of view really isn’t based on reality. That’s why I treat his films as entertainment. He wants to create a pure, socialistic society. But, that can never happen in America (at least in our lifetime.) If he really wants to live his dream, the man should just move to Sweden, where every day (for him) will be better than the one before it because capitalism just doesn’t exist.