The film takes a hard look at corporate and financial America and the power these systems have over the democratic processes of the American government. In light of the 2008 American financial “meltdown”, Moore does not view capitalism as merely currently problematic, but a blatant evil that emphasizes greed, corruption, and immorality. This paper offers a brief review of the film and considers Moor’s views in relation to other scholarly views on the topic.
The overarching position of the film is dad clear within only a few minutes of the opening credits. The film begins with a comparison between the United States and ancient Rome. This comparison considers slavery (assembly workers), the forum and seats of power (Washington), and crowded slums (poverty and homelessness in the United States). The Roman emperor who ruled by decree is compared with American leaders. This comparison serves as a metaphor: the problems that plagued ancient Rome and brought it to its knees are the same problems facing the United States.
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The subtext seems to be that if the United States goes not shift away from greed and corruption, the state will ultimately decline and fail. Evidence of this possible decline and collapse comes in the form of the 2008 financial crisis, the effects of which are still readily felt in America and around the world today. Michael Moore asks the audience directly how later civilizations will judge the current one. Will they judge its excesses rather derisively as the current society views the excesses of ancient Rome? Mores film goes on to critique the ever-growing gap between the so- called Heave’s and Have Not’s in the U.
S. The argument Moore sets out, a giggly valid one, is that the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer. Indeed, Moore notes that 1% of the population controls 99% of the wealth. Even as the financial crisis led to mass home repossessions by banks, many within the banks were growing rich as the financial system and economy flailed. Ultimately, Moore blames the capitalist system for the financial crisis and for eroding many aspects of democracy. Capitalism and democracy do not seem compatible, he argues, for they operate with different value sets.
In particular, it is the brand of capitalism most reorient in recent years, those years since the Reagan administration, that have been the problem. The film compares capitalism of earlier generations with the capitalism footpad. The past was marked by a high level of success and profit that seemed to validate capitalist values. Families, for example, could survive and thrive on only a single income. Part of this success, claims Moore, comes from the fact that America had few if any industrial competitors following the Second World War. Wages and benefits were high, and the nation demonstrated significant economic success.
However, the advent of the Reagan administration led to a dramatic change in America’s capitalist system. Moore claims that the banks and corporations had a plan to remake America to serve their own interests. To do this, they needed an appropriate spokes model. This person was Ronald Reagan, elected as the American president in 1980. At this time corporate America and Wall Street gained complete control over the running of the American state. At Reggae’s inauguration address, for example, is the Chairman of Merrill Lynch, who took the key position of treasury secretary in order to enact the tax cuts that the rich wanted.
He later became the White House chief of Staff. From this point onward, the country began to be run like a corporation. Moore critiques this period, which saw a large-scale dismantling of America’s industrial sector for short-term profits and in order to destroy unions. Wages for working people remained frozen, while the richest Americans had their tax rate cut in half. Average people were asked to borrow money to make up for the lack of income. This had dire consequences for average Americans while serving the profit motives of corporations and Wall Street.
One case study demonstrating these effects of this process is Moor’s hometown of Flint Michigan where General Motors laid off thousands of jobs with the result that the local economy collapsed. By the final year of George W. Bush’s tenure, capitalism was being criticized as a system of greed, exploitation and failure. From this point on in the film, Moore considers some specific problems related to capitalism. For example, he notes the serious exploitation of workers in an effort to maximize profits. He further argues that today’s students can graduate from college with a detent loan of up to $1 00,000 or more.
The best and brightest American students end up working in the financial district. He also spends a great deal of time examining supreme loans and derivatives, which are ultimately complicated betting schemes designed to counter any serious examination of their legitimacy. During the economic collapse, Moore considers that many people were getting rich during this period, primarily the officers and directors of large banks and savings and loans, as well as specialty non-prime lenders and even members of congress.
The 700 billion dollar bail out cage approved by congress was highly orchestrated, argues Moore, demonstrating the power and ability of Wall Street and corporations like Goldman Cash. Even though congress originally voted “No” in response to the bailout package, a back room deal was made with the help of democrats. Moore suggests that this shows that non-democratic forces are in control of legislative processes in terms of the country finances. Overall, Moor’s arguments and critiques are highly compelling. However, in the end it seems unclear if Moore is arguing for regulatory change or the replacement of Capitalism with Socialism.
George Brandenburg (2009, p. 6) argues that “the Capitalist system is fundamentally sound” (p. 6). He adds that confidence in Capitalism can be restored if reforms can be agreed upon by both the left and the right. This is especially so since a shrinking middle class is putting a strain on the entire economy (Brandenburg, 2009, p. 6). Braveness’s view is not surprising. Even with the enormous global financial crisis that followed the American stock market crash in 2008, Moor’s views will not ring true to many Americans. That is, the system as a whole is viewed as sound, though in need f some tweaking or reform.
Machines & Foster (201 0), argue, for example, that many Americans are highly suspicious or skeptical of socialism (p. 1). The very word is a taboo. The authors add that capitalism is “effectively off-limits to critical review or discussion” due to an inherent belief in the efficacy of the system (Machines & Foster, 201 0, p. 2). They add that this denial is merely a way of refusing to engage in meaningful self-criticism. The very mysticism of the free market system has allowed the capitalist system to socially repress people as no there political system has.
Within capitalism, which group is fundamentally responsible for economic and social problems? The government blames corporations and Wall Street, while Wall Street blames market forces. Yet within this system, some are gaining at the expense of others. In agreement with this position and that of Moore, Ted Mace (2003) considers the problems with corporations in undermining the health Of the capitalist system. Mace traces the developments in the corporation that have led to the enormous financial problems that Moore is reporting on.
One remarry concern of corporations, for example, is that from a social and legal point of view, the ability of corporations to operate perpetually creates problems for holding corporations accountable for criminal behavior. This is clearly the problem in the United States according to Moore. Moore sees corporations like Goldman Sacks as criminally liable for their role in the financial crisis and in obtaining billions of dollars from the government. Even if a corporation could be held somewhat accountable for its actions, corporations also have the ability to morph in order to disguise itself or to reorganize as a new entity (Mace, 2003).
However, despite the criticism of Moore, Machines & Foster and Mace, an article in the economist suggests that confidence in publicly listed corporations has been dramatically shaken, and this has led to fewer public corporations, greater restrictions and regulations for such companies, and the possibility that such companies may be on the way out or at least slowing down (2012). This has given rise to a dramatic increase in American partnerships with unusual forms of corporate organization such as Limited Liability Limited Partnerships.
Alternatives to public companies are being praised, and this is no doubt due to the dramatic change in how Wall Street is viewed following 2008. Private companies that offer shares to their employees, making co-owners out of them, are being praised as new models of business organization. While corporate America has a long way to go in terms Of reforms and regaining the public trust, throwing out the entire capitalist model might be an unnecessary step. While Moore clearly associated capitalism with evil, the problem might be more closely related to greed and deregulation.
A more regulated Canada, for example, has largely weathered the financial storm while maintaining capitalist values. In summary, Moore offers a powerful and important critique of American capitalism by exploring the reasons for the 2008 financial crisis. Moore sees the changes in capitalism that have occurred during and since the Reagan administration as highly problematic. These changes have seen the rise of Wall Street and Corporate America In controlling fundamentally democratic institutions. However, Moor’s ultimate goal is unclear. Should capitalism be placed with socialism or simply reformed?
There are few that disagree reforms are needed, given the increasingly negative role corporations have played in relation to greed and a lack of accountability.