No subliminal messaging there, just some pun fun. Michael Moore’s movie, Capitalism, A Love Story, is premiering in theaters everywhere tomorrow. Naomi Klein interviewed him for The Nation, and one exchange struck me.
NK: All right. Let’s talk about the film some more. I saw you on Leno, and I was struck that one of his first questions to you was this objection–that it’s greed that’s evil, not capitalism. And this is something that I hear a lot–this idea that greed or corruption is somehow an aberration from the logic of capitalism rather than the engine and the centerpiece of capitalism…
Why is it so hard to see the connection, and how are you responding to this?
MM: Well, people want to believe that it’s not the economic system that’s at the core of all this. You know, it’s just a few bad eggs. But the fact of the matter is that, as I said to Jay [Leno], capitalism is the legalization of this greed.
Greed has been with human beings forever. We have a number of things in our species that you would call the dark side, and greed is one of them. If you don’t put certain structures in place or restrictions on those parts of our being that come from that dark place, then it gets out of control. Capitalism does the opposite of that. It not only doesn’t really put any structure or restriction on it. It encourages it, it rewards it.
I’m asked this question every day, because people are pretty stunned at the end of the movie to hear me say that it should just be eliminated altogether. And they’re like, “Well, what’s wrong with making money? Why can’t I open a shoe store?”
And I realized that [because] we no longer teach economics in high school, they don’t really understand what any of it means.
The point is that when you have capitalism, capitalism encourages you to think of ways to make money or to make more money. And the judges never could have gotten the kickbacks had the county not privatized the juvenile hall. But because there’s been this big push in the past twenty or thirty years to privatize government services, take it out of our hands, put it in the hands of people whose only concern is their fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders or to their own pockets, it has messed everything up.
I don’t disagree with any of this exchange, but I think it falls short of offering an insightful critique of capitalism. To be insightful, there would need to be some discussion of class, i.e. “who is in a position to make greedy decisions,” or “who is almost always affected by these greedy decisions?”
Immediately after this exchange, they broach the idea of democratically-run workplaces, which are the borderline-cliched favorite alternatives of many on the left. Even that brief discussion does not seem to take the class issue head on. I wouldn’t think Moore is afraid of the accusation that he is engaging in class warfare, so what’s the downside of speaking on these terms?