The film

The film, Capitalism: A Love Story is an American documentary film written and produced by Michael Moore. This film focuses on the financial crisis that America had begun to feel starting in the late 2000’s and on the recovery stimulus following that crisis. It is a firsthand account of how one can view the nature of capitalism, free enterprise, competition and the profit motive. America is dependent upon the economic system that it has put in place and the corporate world has a strong hold on how we function in society and progress forward. One comment that is made in beginning of the documentary is, “Capitalism, no one ever had it so good.” Moore is seemingly taken a cynical approach to the very idea of capitalism and casts doubt on the nature of a capitalist society.
He explores many different aspects of this crisis, but begins with a historical look into our society and the role that the economy has played in shaping it. Key economical changes that were made at the hands of political figures are explored, and how the negative and positive outcomes of these changes helped or hindered the economic society. In a look at Jimmy Carter he states “Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns.” This is true in the shift to a society focused on materialistic gain and that a person’s place in society is dependent upon their economic status. Following the stage set by Jimmy Carter, the next president Ronald Reagan followed suit and the way the country was run was reflective of a corporation. Some of the other ideas that Moore focuses on in the film include an in depth look at Wall Street, the low wages that many individuals are forced to accept, the housing foreclosure epidemic and how the very nature of capitalism has shifted and produces a lasting impact on our society. Moore also looks at the idea of capitalism through a religious standpoint where he questions the very ethics and core concept of what capitalism is and if we have taken the very nature of capitalism to far from its original beginnings.
These very thoughts on the idea of the relationship between economics and society and the function of capitalism are best explored by the theorist Karl Marx. Marx reacted to the terrible economic and social conditions with a belief that it was his job to change society. He believed that social class held the key to change because it would produce the necessary forces of production to change the economy for the better. “This class struggle is the catalyst for social change and the prime mover of history. This is because any mode of production based on private property bears the seeds of its own destruction by igniting ongoing economic conflicts that inevitably will away existing social arrangements and give birth to the new classes of oppressors and the oppressed.” The belief that Marx held in the power of the economy changing society developed his main theories aligned with the idea of capitalism. The very basic outline of capitalism as detailed by Adam Smith states, “that any and all should be free to enter and compete in the marketplace of goods and services.” In order to have a successful economic system that relies on capitalist ideas, it takes money to make money and to keep the nature of production and business profitable and thriving. Many of these same ideas and concepts are explored by Moore in the documentary.
One key concept from the documentary that Moore explores is the idea of greed, exploitation and scams. These show a movement away from the original ‘love affair’ that America had with the economic system of capitalism. He exposes the dark underside of what capitalism has to offer and how the profit motive is often a selfish gain. Karl Marx believed that the very nature of capitalism was that it was inherently exploitative. “While competition between capitalists may lead to greater levels of productivity, it also results in a concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands. One of the basic truths of capitalism is that it takes money to make money, and the more a business owner has at his disposal, the more ability he has to generate profit making schemes.” An example in the film that explores these very concepts was in looking at the juvenile delinquency center in Wilkes-Barre, PA. This facility is a for-profit facility that has the highest concentration of delinquents. It was created by two men who closed down the original juvenile detention center and opened a new multi-million dollar facility. The first problem that Moore finds with this is that they then in turn taxed it back to the town of Wilkes Barre and forced them to pay for a facility they didn’t want. In this instance capitalism trumped democracy and the for-profit of these individuals reflect the very ideas of Marx that the concentration of wealth falls into fewer and fewer hands. Furthering the problem of the facility, a business deal was cut with the judge to up the conviction rate and in turn received a two million profit deal. These men paid off both judges and employees who were the ones who decided when a child could be released. More and more children were being convicted at skyrocketing rates of harmless, non violent crimes so that these men could profit off of them. Eventually this facility was shut down and the greed and exploitation was not able to sustain their efforts in the capitalist system they created.
A second key concept that is explored by Moore is the treatment of workers both in terms of the low wages they receive and the treatment of them. Marx believed many of these same sentiments and discussed the alienation of the worker and how the work of production separates the individual from their true self. “They have no control over the product they are producing, while their work is devoid of any redeeming human qualities. Although capitalism produced self betterment for owners of capital, it necessarily prevents workers from realizing their essential human capacity to engage in creative labor.” While work is essential for individual survival, Marx sees this idea of production as harmful because the individual essentially loses themselves and becomes part of the production. Moore explores this idea of workers in his film and more specifically looks at the occupation of airplane pilots. In his research of the low wages of workers he finds out that some airplane pilots make less than a manager at taco bell and bring home less than a bus driver. This is shocking due to the very nature of the overworked and underpaid job they do and how continued cuts in safety make the job even more a risk. This idea of an individual losing oneself in the process of capitalism is a startling question that Moore raises. He discusses that when a plane goes down the media focuses on how the pilot has failed at his job, but they never focus on how the economy has failed in adequately paying them. The worker no longer is a separate entity, but they become an extension of production.
Moore ends the documentary with a look into the ethical foundations of capitalism and questions if the very nature of it is a sin. He sets out to interview various people to find out what people believe about the relationship of capitalism and a sin. A priest he found in flint Michigan said, “It is wrong and needs to be eliminated contrary to the common good, precisely what the holy books remind us is unjust. Capitalism is immoral, obscene, outrageous and radically even.” A second priest also in Michigan echoed those same sentiments stating, “The system doesn’t seem to be providing for the well being in all people, it seems contrary to what the books say. Moore seems to align himself with these same ideas believing that “somewhere along the way Jesus got hijacked by the corporations and became a capitalist, from the very beginning the rich have claimed him for this own. ” Throughout this entire film capitalism seems to be at the very core of the moral pitfalls of our societies. These ideas are found among the people that make up our societies and don’t believe that capitalism is living up to the very principals it was created on. The parallels between Marx and this film showcase just how much capitalism is both necessary and detrimental at the same time.


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