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Capitalism: A Love Affair. Positive and Negative Impacts

Introduction

Capitalism and its negative impact on the American society are taboo subjects. Not many people will have the courage to advocate for the overhaul of the system, given that it benefits the few while the majority continues to suffer. Nevertheless, this is not the case with Michael Moore, one of the most influential documentary filmmakers in America. In fact, this man seems to have a passion for flirting with the controversial, if his documentaries are anything to go by. His latest documentary is a case in point. Aptly titled Capitalism: A Love Affair, this 2009 film address the historic 2007/2009 financial crisis that rocked the global economy to its very core. The film also criticizes the response adopted by the American policy makers of issuing a recovery stimulus package to the financial institutions that were on the brink of collapse.

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It is a fact that the film has some weak points, some of which are endemic in all of Moore’s productions. Critics have fiercely accused Moore of been too simplistic in his presentation of the facts that surround the economic crisis. In other words, he lacks analytical skills, and all he does is present a one-sided argument without looking at what the opposition has to say. However, despite these shortcomings, Moore touches on an issue that has bedeviled the American public, yet not many people have had the courage to address it.

When addressing capitalism and the negative effects that it has on the society, Moore seems to be restating the views of Karl Marx presented years ago. Some parallels between Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party and Capitalism: A Love Affair are evident. Both adopt a pessimistic view of the capitalist system, and they all advocate, albeit in varying degree of emphasis, for the abolition of the same. While Karl Marx explicitly states the need to replace capitalism with communism, Moore seems to avoid this term, but says that democracy should take the place of capitalism.

A Comparison between Moore’s and Marx’s Arguments

As earlier stated, there are some parallels palpable between the arguments expounded by these two men. This is despite the fact that they lived in different societies and in different times. The issues they address seem to affect these different societies uniformly and hold pertinence to the different periods.

The message that Moore’s film sends is perhaps stated clearly as the film ends. This man says that “capitalism is evil, [and] you cannot regulate evil. It needs to be replaced with something better [called] democracy” (Laurier & Walsh: 3). This means that there is no hope for capitalism. It is an inherently “evil” force that cannot be transformed. There is no way you can regulate evil. This is not only impossible, but it is also unethical. The only solution is to overhaul the whole evil system and replace it with something entirely different. Trying to transform the “evil” by toning it down with a positive force will also not work. This is because the evil will profane the good. As such, capitalism, been the evil that Moore is alluding to, cannot be transformed. It can only be replaced with a new system, a better system.

Moore’s sentiments echo those of Marx and Engel as contained in chapter one of the Manifesto of the Communist Party. These two scholars equate capitalists to bourgeoisie, who are the owners of the factors of production. Marx opines that under the rule of the bourgeoisie, the proletariat, or the working class, continue to “sink deeper into pauperism” (Marx, Engels and Jones 52). In not so many words, Marx is trying to paint capitalism as an evil force in the society. He sums up his argument by stating that “society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie ….its existence is no longer compatible with society” (Marx et al 52). As such, it needs shunning. Nevertheless, society cannot exist in a vacuum, and another system has to come and take up the space vacated by capitalism.

This far, Marx and Moore are in concurrence. They both feel the need and urgency to replace this oppressive system. However, while Marx makes a case for communism, Moore seems to be lost as to what should replace this system. He settles for democracy, although the finality of this position is debatable.

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The unregulated feature of the financial markets caused the current economic crisis, according to Moore. This led to greed and desire to accumulate more profits as competition went out of control. Moore traces this feature of unregulated markets to President Ronald Reagan, who is viewed as a president who was against the rights of the workers and a covert campaigner for the interests of the bourgeoisie (Laurier & Walsh: 4). The uncontrolled financial markets made the financial institutions lend money to creditors with no potential to service the loans. The greed made them speculate on the ephemeral real estate bubble. The borrowers were unable to read the “fine print” of the terms and conditions of the mortgages and other funding that they got. It is in this light that Moore blames both the government and the financial institutions for the current economic crisis and the collapse of the housing sector (Laurier & Walsh: 5).

On both counts, the writer tends to concur with Moore. When the greedy Wall Street prospectors made it easy to access loans, people with little or no understanding of credit terms were able to get credit. They were unable to pay the debts, and en masse, loan default inevitably followed. This is what brought the real estate in America down on its knees. Families, like the one depicted in the film from Lexington, North Carolina (Laurier & Walsh: 5), were evicted from abodes that they had called home for generations. The greed of the financial institutions and the inability of the government to control the financial markets are obvious in all of these developments. In fact, these two phenomena appear inextricably intertwined, one leads to the other. This is because lack of government control led to the greed and speculation of Wall Street operatives.

Capitalism has some positive attributes, although it is a dash too ambitious to expect to see this highlighted in the film. For example, competition stimulates economic growth and to some extent, financial accountability. However, there is need to exert some form of control on this system. The government should take an active role in regulating the markets, financial or otherwise, in order to safeguard the wellbeing of the majority of their citizens. The aim should be to ensure that the capitalists do not exploit the society for their selfish gains. According to Moore, as he puts it forth in his film, decline of market regulation started with the advocacy for the interests of the industrialists by Ronald Reagan’s administration. Political corruption by economic lobbyists has also contributed to this decline (Laurier & Walsh: 2). This development has led to what Marx terms as the “essential conditions for the existence and sway of the bourgeoisie” (Marx et al 53). This is the formation and differentiation of capital between those who have and those who do not. The two classes seem to be in competition with each other, and periodic confrontations are inevitable. For example in the film, the have-nots who were been evicted from their houses were in conflict with the haves, the owners of the banks.

Conclusion

When Marx advocates for the abolition of capitalism, he seems to suggest that laissez faire form of capitalism, where everyone seems to benefit, is next to impossible. However, this is not to be taken without some measure of doubt. Is laissez faire capitalism impossible? This may not be the case as Marx and Moore wants us to believe. Capitalism is a juggernaut, and if society is able to harness the force of this run-away train, more benefits than costs are accrued. The only way to harness the force of this juggernaut, the only way to make capitalism work for society, is through regulation. Regulation here does not mean the blanket form of regulation by government where every facet of the economy is under scrutiny. Rather, it is control by the majority, democratization of capitalism. In this system, the government, through the mandate conferred unto it by the citizenry, will control the capitalists and ensure that it benefits the society as a whole, but not the minority.

Works Cited

Laurier, Joanne & Walsh, David. Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story. International Committee of the Fourth International. 2009.

Marx, Karl, Engels, Friedrich, and Jones, Gareth. The Communist manifesto. New York: Penguin Classics, 2002.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 17). Capitalism: A Love Affair. Positive and Negative Impacts. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/capitalism-a-love-affair-positive-and-negative-impacts/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 17). Capitalism: A Love Affair. Positive and Negative Impacts. https://studycorgi.com/capitalism-a-love-affair-positive-and-negative-impacts/

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