The leftist U.K. Guardian newspaper is celebrating an economics lecture from mockumentary filmmaker Michael Moore. The headline:
"Capitalism is evil...you have to eliminate it"
Moore told the Guardian's Chris McGreal for their Saturday editions that America needs a radical new economic order:
But what does it mean, to replace capitalism with democracy? He sighs and tries to explain. In the old Soviet bloc, he says, communism was the political system and socialism the economic. But with capitalism, he complains, you get political and economic rolled in to one. Big business buys votes in Congress. Lobbyists write laws. The result is that the US political system is awash in capitalist money that has stripped the system of much of its democratic accountability.
This is bizarre. In the Soviet Union, political tyranny and economic tyranny didn't go hand in hand? That's why it was called a totalitarian system.
As he prepares for the British release of his film Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore is a raging example of the comparative openness of capitalist society: that it's free enough to allow someone to freely advocate its demise. And Moore admits he's not really qualified to establish his new order:
"What I'm asking for is a new economic order," he says. "I don't know how to construct that. I'm not an economist. All I ask is that it have two organising principles. Number one, that the economy is run democratically. In other words, the people have a say in how its run, not just the 1%. And number two, that it has an ethical and moral core to it. That nothing is done without considering the ethical nature, no business decision is made without first asking the question, is this for the common good?"
This argument sounds a little tinny when the socialists are currently insisting on passing the health bills in Congress, despite the latest CNN poll showing 58 percent generally oppose them, while 38 percent would vote aye. It's also tinny considering Moore ends the article by telling McGreal that Obama told people he wanted to get a left-wing agenda accomplished, even if he's not re-elected (meaning he was not exactly acting in concert with "the people.")
McGreal's article isn't entirely positive. In fact, its opening is harsh:
Michael Moore has been accused of many things. Mendacity. Manipulation. Rampant egotism. Bullying a frail old man with Alzheimer's. And that is by people who generally agree with his views.
Nevertheless, McGreal argues "there's no denying some very powerful truths in Capitalism, one of which is that it didn't need to be this way in America." He even worked in how PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers interviewing former Cigna executive Wendell Potter inspired his work:
Last summer something happened that renewed Moore's conviction that his film-making was politically worthwhile. "I'm in the edit room and there's Bill Moyers on the TV interviewing the vice-president of Sigma [sic] health insurance. Massive, billion-dollar company. He's sitting there, telling the country that he's quit his job and he wants to come clean. That he and the other health insurance companies got together and pooled their resources to smear me and the film Sicko to try and stop people from going to see it because, as he said, everything Michael Moore said in Sicko was true, and we were afraid this film would be a tipping point.
"I came away from that, with 'Wow, they're afraid of this movie, they believe it can actually create a revolution.' The idea that cinema can be dangerous is a great idea."
Moore's critics would argue this is his ego speaking. The idea that his film about the failings of the US healthcare system was on the brink of prompting a revolution of any kind looks all the more far-fetched given how the political fight over the issue has panned out.
Perhaps no one looks less influential in the present political wave than Michael Moore.