Capitalism: A Love Story
By John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service
Filmmaker Michael Moore, who first brought his
idiosyncratic but effective style of cinematic advocacy to bear on
economic questions in his 1989 directorial debut "Roger & Me"—focusing on the role of General Motors' management in the decline of
his hometown of Flint, Mich.—takes on the American entrepreneurial
system as a whole in the ironically titled "Capitalism: A Love Story"
Michael Moore stands in front of the U.S. Capitol in a scene from the documentary "Capitalism: A Love Story."
The result is a hard-hitting but at times overly simplistic documentary.
Moore is at his best in chronicling the effects of economic
dysfunction on vulnerable individuals and families, as a large group of
Chicago factory workers are summarily thrown into unemployment or a
farming couple faces foreclosure. And he manages to uncover more
unusual—and more outrageous—examples of corporate greed gone
It's disturbing to learn, for instance, that a number of
airline pilots supplement their meager paychecks with food stamps or by
selling their blood plasma, and that large corporations secretly take
out life insurance policies on low-level employees, calculating that a
certain percentage of them will end up as—to quote the callous and
insulting phrase used in the companies' internal documents—"dead
But by far the most unsettling story Moore tells involves two
corrupt Wilkes-Barre, Pa., judges who accepted bribes from a local
for-profit juvenile detention facility in exchange for sentencing scores of young people to imprisonment there, often for the most
Moore is on shakier ground, though, when he examines economic
history. He idealizes the days when top U.S. earners paid 90 percent
income tax, claiming that this made possible not only the maintenance
of the national infrastructure but the generous contracts under which
unionized employees enjoyed numerous benefits, including free health
and dental care.
He also blames the disappearance of American heavy industry
entirely on the policies of President Ronald Reagan and his first
treasury secretary, Donald Regan.
Ultimately, Moore calls for an economic revolution that would
uproot capitalism completely. In its stead, he seems to favor not the
extreme socialism of the old Soviet system, but a cooperative model of
democracy in the workplace, with each employee and manager an equal
shareholder. Where the initial investment to establish new workplaces
is to be found he fails to mention.
For a spiritual perspective, Moore—who speaks with great
warmth of his Catholic childhood, of the kindly nuns who educated him
and of his admiration for the clergy— interviews two Catholic priests
who are family friends and retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton
of Detroit. The three are unanimous in condemning capitalism as
Yet this is not the teaching of the full magisterium, which
instead takes a more moderate stance, recognizing both the efficiencies
of the free market system and its need to be prudently regulated, while
upholding the human dignity of workers, particularly their right to
The film contains at least three uses of the F-word and a
couple of crude terms. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting
classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of
America rating is R—restricted; under 17 requires accompanying
parent or adult guardian.
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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