When you make your living as a polemicist, it can’t be a good sign when even people who agree with you don’t like you any more. That’s what has happened with Michael Moore. As his work has gotten sloppier, more exasperating and less focused in recent years, even moderate lefties have come to be embarrassed by him, the same way moderate conservatives are—well, should be—embarrassed by Glenn Beck.
Capitalism: A Love Story, Moore’s latest screed, is his least useful yet. It mixes dry information on the current economic crisis with under-examined hard-luck stories and the usual Moore grandstanding. His thesis is simple: “Capitalism is an evil, and you can’t regulate evil.”
To support this idea, he parades a series of victims in front of us, as if a large pile of anecdotes will compensate for the lack of critical examination of the underlying economic theories. People are evicted from foreclosed houses. Widows grieve to learn their spouses’ employers had purchased life insurance policies, and now profit from the workers’ deaths while the bereaved get nothing. These things are sad, but they are not entirely one-sided, Moore’s insistent harping on the greedy corporations notwithstanding.
Other tales of under-regulated capitalism run amok are incendiary—and even true—but they shed no light on whether capitalism is flawed inherently. One assumes that other economic systems are subject to abuse, too. Moore’s one really interesting point is that while Americans love democracy, nearly all for-profit enterprises are run more like dictatorships and fiefdoms. Why do we love freedom in government but not in business? Unfortunately, Moore only spends about 30 seconds on this topic before returning to his smug sarcasm and public jackassery.
No one expects economics to be a thrilling subject, but in the past, Moore has usually managed to at least be entertaining. Capitalism: A Love Story shows only a few traces of his wit and humor—and they’re nearly lost in the fog of his indignation.
CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY