Capitalism: A Love Story
Released November 5, 2009
In Michael Moore’s latest film one gets exactly what is expected, no more, no less. His usual outspoken, provocative and amusing self, he lodges a heartfelt attack on the economic system responsible for the growing imbalance of power between corporations and the everyman.
A large part of the blame, Moore claims, should be placed at the feet of Ronald Reagan, whose deregulation of the economy gave the banks newfound – and unmonitored – power. It has allowed the United States to evolve into a “plutocracy”, a state where the majority of power is controlled by the wealthy. This description was printed, astonishingly, in an internal Citibank report.
Equally as surprising is the revelation of some companies taking out “dead peasant” insurance on their employees, thus profiting in the event of their death, or the privately funded juvenile detention centre whose profits increased proportionately with the number of inmates. These segments are engrossing but blatantly manipulative. If he’s not appealing to our sentimentality, he’s pressing our buttons with Carmina Burana or Beethoven’s 9th.
And yet, Moore’s appeal is not only for his by-now predictable polemic, but as an entertainer. And Capitalism: A Love Story is nothing if not entertaining. Whether he’s wrapping the New York Stock Exchange in crime scene tape or jostling with security guards outside the GM headquarters, he demonstrates that he is unwavering in his convictions, even if the very same gimmicks act to diffuse some of his more persuasive arguments.
After the amusement of Moore’s grandstanding fades, what lingers most is the recently uncovered footage of Franklin D. Roosevelt presenting the “Second Bill of Rights”. He proposed that all citizens would be guaranteed a job, a home, an education, medical care, and “freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies”. If this seemed ambitious at the time, today it feels no less relevant and just as elusive. Roosevelt was dead the following year, and his goals remain unrealised.
It’s his sincere sentiments, more than those of the rabble-rousing Moore, which remain the most affecting.