I had the chance to join a friend to go to a preview of Michael Moore’s film Capitalism – A Love Affair. This preview had the added benefit of hearing what people thought of it, as Paramount and Toastmasters had set the session up to include a chat.

In amongst the many views were things like:

  1. The alternative is North Korea and MM is fat – this received a huge boo from the otherwise polite ‘toastmaster’ audience.
  2. Any system has its flaws, the film points to the dark side of humanity, which directly profits from the weaker, lining the pockets of the 1%, which is already rich beyond imagination [holds 95% of the wealth]
  3. A system which delivers the greatest good for the greatest number of people is needed
  4. Democracy, capitalism and socialism can and do co-exist, e.g. Finland and by the way even US. The point is to put the combined and balanced system together such that it is effective.
  5. The system fails as the laws, which were supposed to govern it have been overridden over time [financial deregulation, treasury powers in relation to the use of $700Bn; no recourse to inquire how the money is used]
  6. Good film but over dramatised to tell the story
  7. A film like this makes you think that there must be a better way
  8. Australia has been following the US ideals for 20+ years, over the last 20 years Australia has become one of the most litigious country. Gimme some of that mentality! Are we there too? Yes we are.
  9. You can be very rich today and on the streets with nothing tomorrow. It happens. The question is how a person is supported during those transition times? Illness, job loss, general economic conditions can make anyone become part of disenfranchised.
  10. The fundamental issue is in the values.
  11. Terminology like Democracy, Capitalism and Socialism get bandied about without due consideration of their meaning, nor how they apply in current world and era.
  12. Ronald Regan was a puppet.

Some of the points made in the film, my additions in [ ]

  1. Jesus would have rejected ‘capitalism’ as it stands today [It is fascinating how Capitalism and Christian ‘values’ have been meshed together in the political rhetoric, US in particular]
  2. A growing number of young people in the US see socialism in a brighter light
  3. Roosevelt put forward a second bill of rights, which was to guarantee jobs, holidays, education, health care. Unfortunately he died one year later and the bill was never enacted
  4. Goldman Sacks is deeply involved in the political powers and benefits from it, with tax payer money
  5. It is unusual for US people to ‘go to the barricades’ because there is that small hope that somehow everyone will has a chance to be rich. Freedom and land of opportunity are terms which sound hollow, when the lower middle class to poor seem to get poor education and spend their life savings on anything that goes wrong in the family in regards to health. [Political apathy is known to many other countries too – although things do seem to be changing a little as the million dollar corporate bonuses in companies doing badly, out of all proportion ‘functionary’ CEO packages and other such unjustified matters, IMO, are under scrutiny]
  6. Airline pilots [junior end] make about the same amount of money a year  [$20k] as a waitress, so some moonlight as waiters/waitresses or even donate plasma to make ends meet, now really, who wants to be flown around by people who come to fly after a night shift at the bar or a session at the plasma donor clinics?

Perhaps we should institute the Aboriginal punishment to those who took the packages despite their companies being at the brink of bankruptcy = frowning. Apparently in small communities this works wonders, but can we pull this off on a large scale? When you see the people who’ve taken advantage of their failing companies, their clients, shareholders and employees by pocketing bonuses we all frown at them for the next five years. That’s a lot of frowning and in some way it is a wonderful punishment as it also punishes the community for allowing the bad to happen.

Michael’s movie reflects  a number of issues, some well  known others not so. The presence of an accessible movie is a welcome reminder that the systems we have are not that crash hot for humanity. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could truly re-examine what kind of a system is needed for humanity to benefit from its ingenuity; along the lines of greatest good for the greatest number of people. The film makes comparisons with ancient Rome and with the 1950s, the former is a warning of the parallels for a potential decline and the latter is a reminder of the rather positive conditions at the time for the average American family. Let’s not try and fix our problems today by dreaming of going back to the past, we’re in a different place now, it won’t work.

Have we progressed? Looking at the stats not ‘we’ but some, in some particular ways, but thank goodness we have the gadgets, right?

I do not agree with Michael’s conclusion that Capitalism should be eradicated and in its stead we should have Democracy. I find it a very strange conclusion to make. He points to abuses in regards to Democracy during the noughties [naughties really]. Many changes have been made without proper process to digest. Institutions do not have the readiness to act in haste. Unpreparedness leads to panic, which allows for huge shifts in the governance of the people to be pushed through.

The topic of taxation for the common good spooks beyond comprehension. This topic is touched on but not in great depth. I am no proponent of demotivating tax regimes but doing all services through private companies with profit seeking shareholders to answer to, hmmm, many issues ensue. Taxation levels are pretty close to each other in many developed nations [if you truly count what should be counted, e.g. health insurance, school fees]. The two things that vary are: attitude to it and how effectively the dollar is used. The latter has allowed some countries to lower their taxation while at the same time improve their services.

Keep the motivating elements of capitalism, institute governance to keep greed in check, build the means for a good society [health, education] and we should all be rather hunky dory. If calamity strikes regardless of all effort to lead a healthy and productive life, some support elements are required, but avoid the mistakes of the yesteryear of making those safety net aspects more palatable than seeking to be a productive part of society. This comes back to values, what the society values is valuable, you can be a productive part of society in so many ways.

Capitalism has much to offer, but for it to deliver real progress it should not be harnessed for the benefit of the few, but for the benefit of humanity.

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