Making the Grades
Michael Moore makes his socialist leanings quite clear in his latest documentary Capitalism: A Love Story. The controversial filmmaker also introduces a religious element to this script, going so far as to consult local priests and parish leaders about the moral value of capitalism while putting words in the mouth of the Christian deity Jesus Christ.
To his credit, the economic system has its problems. Job losses, bankruptcies and the number of working poor are soaring. Those who contribute heavily to the welfare of our society—teachers, police officers, emergency personnel, pilots and health care workers—are dismally underpaid while too many government and political officials appear to be cozying up with the boards and directors of leading bank and financial institutions. But to chalk all of the country’s economic woes up to capitalism seems rather strong. (He easily glosses over the fact that Canada and the United Kingdom, both countries with more socialistic policies, are also facing some of these same troubling situations.)
To show how bad things are from a “history-repeats-itself perspective”, Moore begins by comparing the current crisis with the Roman Empire shortly before its demise. He parades viewers into the gilded lobbies of some of the country’s most prominent financial buildings, or at least tries to before being stopped by beefy security officers. He contrasts those luxurious edifices and the trading floor of Wall Street with endless shots of abandoned, decaying homes, razed businesses and evicted families. He also addresses the devious business practices of major companies that take life insurance plans out on their unknowing employees, and others that set up for-profit organizations, milking the public tax system for millions of dollars.
Some of the claims are shocking (which they are meant to be) while others are so one-dimensional it makes viewers wonder if they have the whole truth or just Michael Moore’s version of truth. If nothing else, these allegations will spark debate. (Discussions in this documentary become heated, emotional and include several sexual expletives along with other infrequent profanities.)
After belaboring his case against the capitalist love story, Moore focuses on a love fest of his own with U.S. President Barack Obama and the concept of socialism. While Moore lauds Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights (that include among the promises, a good job, a decent home, adequate health care, and protection from economic fears for every American), he avoids addressing many of the issues that have led to the current crisis from a grassroots level. Pointing a finger of blame squarely in the direction of big business and government, he shows families who have lost homes and livelihoods because of job layoffs, health issues and other circumstances out of their control. What he doesn’t tackle are the individual Americans who have made their own avaricious or unwise economic decisions.
Perhaps what Moore should have condemned are greed and corruption. They are the human vices at the root of the issue and unfortunately, they can surface in any economic system.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Capitalism - A Love Story.
How financially literate do you think most Americans are? What kinds of attitudes about wealth drive people to take high-risk loans or become involved in get rich quick schemes? Who should take or share the responsibility for the economic crisis?
Moore lauds the governments of Japan, Germany and Italy (among others) for providing what he feels are basic economic rights? What issues do these countries face that Moore does not include in his documentary?
Moore addresses many of the negative aspects of capitalism. What are the positive (if any) features of it? Is capitalism really evil? Is socialism really an ideal solution? How does greed and corruption play into capitalism? Can they have the same impact on socialism, communism and dictatorships? What would you propose as a solution for the economy?