This abusive relationship has gone on long enough. Sure, capitalism was charming at first, all about “freedom of choice” and “giving and taking.” But let’s face it: Lately, it’s done you wrong. It’s hurt you. In short, it’s not the economic system you married. If the recession is a blood-curdling cry for help, Capitalism: A Love Story is documentary filmmaker Michael Moore’s stab at — bring tissues — an intervention.
Maybe he’d be satisfied if capitalism did a stint in rehab. 1950s America had its share of problems, to be sure, but through the eyes of a pipsqueak Michael Moore, capitalism wasn’t one of them. Home-video sequences highlight a hunky-dory early childhood, over which Moore explains that his father, a GM employee, was once able to comfortably support the whole family on just his income. The house was paid for, the family vehicle was replaced every three years, the kids attended parochial school, and the whole gang loaded up for a trip to New York every other year.
Hindsight is, of course, 20/20, and Moore does not take for granted that at that time the U.S. wasn’t digging itself out of the literal rubble of World War II, as its international industrial competitors were across both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Buying American wasn’t so much a way to spend, it was the way to spend.
But, in the words of his Bobness, money doesn’t talk, it swears: Obscene greed led to rampant union-busting, massive deregulation, and relaxed taxation of the rich. Moore places a hefty chunk of the blame on spokesmodel-in-chief Ronald Reagan and the Bush administration, all but ignoring Mr. Bill despite his sandwiched two terms in office.
“I thought the free market is you sink or swim,” ponders one interviewee, addressing recent corporate bailouts. Sink-or-swim is still a way of life for working-class folks and small-business owners, but of late the good people running our economic system — their own special iteration of capitalism — have made exceptions for a select few deemed “too big to fail,” and a reverse Robin Hood scenario played out before our very eyes: The poor got robbed to line the pockets of the wealthy.
Capitalism: A Love Story might end up making a few more common criminals. The Glenn Becks of the world don’t want to share their spending money, and even if they did, paying to see this movie would only perpetuate a system Moore’s film seeks to dismantle. Good thing you already keep tissue next to the old home computer.