If Michael Moore’s new documentary “Capitalism: A Love Story” were a love song it would be the Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love?”
This is the question that Moore ponders in his newest effort to chronicle the major problems the United States and its government have caused the world. Apparently, capitalism “is just not that into me (or you)” anymore. Harsh, Michael Moore, harsh. Especially since school and my parents taught me that when capitalism slaps me in the face, it’s just because I didn’t try hard enough, and that he still loves me no matter how many times he makes me cry. I guess they were wrong. The two middle-aged men who also attended the Monday 4:10 showing alone, were shaken by the news as well. It was obvious that none of us were doing too well in the romance department. Luckily, Michael Moore was there to help.
The premise of Moore’s film is simple: Capitalism is severely hurting our society, and if not stopped could lead to its downfall (like hubris causing the fall of ancient Rome). Moore uses a variety of evidence to support his claim, including personal anecdotes, historical footage, Moore’s own rants, interviews with politicians and economic experts and a new addition — my personal favorite — Youtube videos, including the famous fake Cleveland (“We’re not Detroit”) tourism video. And of course, like “Sicko” and “Bowling for Columbine,” Moore presents his evidence in a clever and funny way that makes it nearly impossible for the viewer to holistically reject his viewpoint.
The most convincing aspect of Moore’s plot is his use of personal stories. Capitalism, a faceless monster, is not frightening until you watch a hardworking middle class family incinerate their furniture as they are evicted from their foreclosed home, or when you learn that many well-known companies (Bank of America, for example) take out life insurance policies on workers they feel are particularly apt to die. All right capitalism, we are done. I will no longer pine for your love.
Perhaps even more interesting to Yale students is Moore’s choice to interview a Harvard professor and graduate to find the definition of several financial buzzwords, including a derivative. To Moore’s dismay, and my Harvard-despising delight, the Harvardians were at a loss to define the terms, perhaps due to their flexible nature.
But those Harvardians are not the only ones who hold a soft spot for the c-word, even my Econ 115 professor seems to despise Moore. In class on Monday, he remarked that Moore’s thesis was blatantly wrong: the definition of capitalism is a group of firms seeking to maximize profit. For him, it is a fundamental law of nature, and he compares it to a lion consuming a gazelle. According to my economics professor, any ecologist would verify this information.
His argument must have some validity, seeing as he does teach the most popular course at Yale. Yet, I could not help to think that behind the production functions and marginal products of labor there was someone fired from their job with a bunch of hungry children while a rich CEO enjoyed a Caribbean vacation. How important is it that we train a lecture course of a few hundred kids to keep striving for this profit maximization at the cost of human worth?
This kind of questioning is the beauty of Moore’s work. Yes, he is ridiculous, and many of the facts he spurts out are either fabrications or extreme hyperboles. But many of his points are valid and are at least useful as jumping off points for conversation. During the film’s 120 minutes its explanation of Congress’s perspective and general history can seem a bit heavy handed, but I like to think that Moore’s heart is in the right place.
As with any good romantic comedy, this one has a happy ending. Unlike many of Moore’s films, he finally presents a clear and viable solution: democracy. “Capitalism” shows us that democracy creates corporations with equally owned shares and the possibility for foreclosed homeowners to successfully and nonviolently resist eviction. So maybe there is hope for the single men and me who were sitting in the theater. By the end of the film, we were singing a more inspired tune, this time to the institution of democracy, “It’s a love story, baby just say yes.”