Capitalism: A Love Story

Michael Moore takes on the bankers in his latest crusading documentary

 

 

In his typically punchy, enthralling and entertaining new picture, Michael Moore takes aim at what Milton ­Friedman famously called socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor. After the big crash, the US government donated billions of dollars of taxpayers' money to bankers – those risk-taking ­alpha-heroes of free enterprise, who, on both sides of the Atlantic, have since gone on paying ­themselves massive wedges, content in the knowledge that if anything else goes wrong, the rest of us will once more ­obediently stump up. If merchant bankers fall ­behind with their debts, they get to stand under a gorgeous ­waterfall of ­public money. If ordinary folk get ­behind with their mortgage debts – such a delicious ­income stream for bankers – well, they get to live in their car.

Undoubtedly, Capitalism: A Love Story follows a now rather familiar Moore format: wacky clips, ­newsreel montages, interviews with the ­blue-collar victims, a big comedy stunt for the penultimate finish and then, for the ultimate finish, an emotional and positive story. For his comedy stunt, Moore has nothing quite as good as the kazoo-choir of cancer victims, or the spectacular financial rescue of that anti-Moore campaigner in Sicko, ­crippled with ­private medical bills. Moore tries wrapping Wall Street in "crime scene" tape and attempts a citizen's arrest on the CEOs of merchant banks. He incidentally made this film at a time of great dewy-eyed optimism about Barack Obama, apparently believing that Obama would be the ­socialist that Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin ­accused him of ­being. It must also be said there is one big omission in his film: how about a discussion of the most brutally capitalist business of all – the movie business?

But as so often with Moore, his sheer energy, wit and pertinence win you over. There are some extraordinary ­revelations. Before I watched this, naive soul that I am, I had no idea that ­companies were permitted to take out life insurance policies on their employees – called, with magnificent insensitivity, "dead peasant" policies. These are there to make money from low-paid workers. They enable companies to make actuarially calibrated bets on the lifespans of ­thousands of low-ranking employees; they win big if young or healthy workers die, and the deceased's family is entitled to zilch. Perhaps the correct term should be "dead serfs": these workers have, without their knowledge and without recompense, leased to their corporate employer their living bodies as gambling chips. Now, this is something Marx ­himself couldn't have predicted: we knew capital made money from labour, but actually ­extruding cash from dead flesh and blood? That really is something else.

Criticising "capitalism" will curl the lip of many a political sophisticate, on both left and right, but it is remarkable how the banker-shenanigans made this a live topic – but also remarkable how little it is discussed in the mainstream and how comfortably we have again ­returned to the status quo. Well, Michael Moore has succeeded in getting a film on this ­subject actually released in cinemas: a very sharp and entertaining one at that.

actuarially : ubezpieczeniowo

­blue-collar : pracownik fizyczny

calibrated : skalibrowany

crippled : upośledzony, kaleki; unieruchomiony

curl the lip : wykrzywiać usta

dewy-eyed : naiwny

enthralling : fascynujący

extrude : wyciskać

­newsreel : kronika filmowa

­obediently : posłusznie

omission : pominięcie

penultimate : przedostatni

pertinence : trafność; ważkość

punchy : dosadny, dobitny

sheer : zwykły, czysty

stump up : wykładać forsę

stunt : wyczyn kaskaderski

wacky : dziwaczny, ekscentryczny

wedge : tu: różnica między wydatkami pracodawcy na pensję a faktycznym wynagrodzeniem; klin

wit : dowcip

wrap : owijać

zilch : zero, nic, ani centa

 

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