Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Michael Moore on Evils of Capitalsim...

Update:

Here's the interview from which the Michael Moore's comment came from:


I like the part where the interviewer asked if Moore is a hypocrite for making so much money from the capitalist system then turning around to call it evil. Moore gave a pretty good answer to that one.


If capitalism is evil, what's the solution?

"Some people say to me, democracy is not an economic system, it's a political system. My answer to that is, you think capitalism has nothing to do with politics?
Let's quit talking like we're back in Economics 101. Capitalism is not only an economic system that legalizes greed, it also has at its foundation a political system of capitalism that is, "We have to buy the political system because we don't have enough votes. We're only 1% of the votes. We have to buy the people, and we have to buy the people by convincing them if they work hard, they too can be rich one day." [Americans] have gone along with it for the last 30 years. " - Michael Moore on his movie Capitalism [Link].



Yes, Michael Moore again. You can always count on his movies to exaggerate, spread half truths and tell one sided stories based on his own political agenda. That is Michael Moore and intelligent people will watch his "pseudo" documentaries and know they are simplistic portrayals of reality and won't simply accept his point of view without question. So is it true that Americans worked hard for the past 30 years and were short-changed by their system? The truth is Americans partied for the past 30 years going on an consumption binge while Asian workers worked in factories and sweatshops to produce the goods Americans consumed. If the Americans are victims of capitalism, the Chinese factory worker who is paid pittance for his labor is a bigger victim of capitalism. What about workers on a small island where there is no minimum wage and the income gap is twice as big as that of America....where the most people don't even get to vote because they don't really have a democratic political system.

Still, I like Moore. He gets us all interested and thinking with his documentaries.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Some people say to me, democracy is not an economic system, it's a political system. My answer to that is, you think capitalism has nothing to do with politics?" - Michael Moore

Hehe, Mike you are a bit late. The professors in US universities have been preaching all along that democracy and capitalism are intertwined, that they are expression of the same thing call individualism and freedom. That you cannot do one without the other. Really?

They said that to China and Deng XiaoPing pondered and replied : "Historially, capitalism worked even in era when there was no democracy."

In one simple stroke he demolished truckloads of intertwined democracy-capitalism theories.

And he proved it ... through China. China now has capitalism but surely no democracy.

I watch Michael Moore's movie FAHRENHEIT 9/11 for the reason the whole mainstream American press which once boasted as a check and balance to any dictatorship in the US were completely sheepish in the face of Bush's crusade in polarizing and starting a world war.

But then that movie sucks in terms of quality and professionalism despite my initial sympathy for its anti-Bush stand.

Lucky sure seems to know a bit about this Michael Moore.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

[Capitalism is not only an economic system that legalizes greed, it also has at its foundation a political system of capitalism that is, "We have to buy the political system because we don't have enough votes..."]

In any complex system there are strengths and weakness. Capitalism gives big potential benefits, but to a small proportion of the people. Having a lot of wealth and power in the hands of a few allows for organizational strength and stability, but makes the whole system vulnerable to the whims or mistakes at the top.

For a system to maintain robustness and longevity one must ask some essential questions.

To start from first principles - simplicity. How does it maintain cohesiveness? How does it regulate against excesses within the system (to prevent self-destructive positive feedback loops)? How does it defend itself from rival systems and other external factors?

The key of the matter is in the implementation.

In an ideal scenario, a capitalist society allows some people to become rich and powerful, but these benefits come concurrently saddled with increased responsibilities. As the political and economic impact of an individual widens, the system demands that leader separate his or her personal/business relationships from the work duties - to remain as unbiased as possible and avoid the formation of a political inner circle with a one-track mind.

This ideal is so counterintuitive to human nature that it is not always achieved in world politics. Observe how it was possible for the United States of America to end up electing the son of a President as the President. How is it that a nation of 300 million people (and 100 senators) cannot find a more qualified person?

System-level requirements are sometimes at conflict with component-level requirements. Too much of a grip on power for too long is well desired by individuals but injurious to the system in the long run. A stable, long-lived capitalist system must have good self-regulatory feedback mechanisms, including accountability and regular leadership successions.

If there can only be a few people in charge of everything, then it should not be the same few people, all the time.

Qing said...

Lim, good post.

Democracy has it flaws despite claims that it is self-correcting, which I concede is true to some extent compared to other systems - feudalism, dictatorship, communism, imperialism ...

Like Winston Churchill said most succinctly democracy is the worst form of gov except for the other types.

Democracy needs improvement: How to check those who in the corporate world (e.g. bankers) who become powerful by reason of being rich and in cahoots with politicians? Or worse to deal with politicians who themselves are in obvious conflict on interests by taking up positions in corporate world "legitimately"?

Democracy has it flaws but I believe they can be corrected. How?

Just a suggestion: There should another power centre in society that is made up of top intellectual, community and business leaders - in rotation periodically to prevent abuse and corruption within itself.

From this organisation an Inspectorate will come forth with full support from security forces like police and army to inspect and investigate politicians, ministries, GLCs against abuse, corruption and inefficiency in general.

This power centre will not have executive powers to make policies such as the political cabinet does. Its role is one of ensuring that democratic processes are not hijacked by a small but powerful groups be - they politicians or corporations - to come up with policies and decisions that are detrimental to the nation and the world.

The leaders of this Inspectorate organization can be elected by the people.

I don't believe the press can act as a check on a gov as what had happened during the Bush era clearly proved. Without backup from military, police and even secret service there will never be no real clout when it comes to the crunch!

Lim Leng Hiong said...

Thanks Qing. I think that the Inspectorate is an interesting idea, though it is not always necessary to have an external power structure to ensure adequate checks and balances.

But why would powerful leaders or successful organizations even want to renew themselves, if they would rather rule forever?

Here I should emphasize they would still do that because rapid accountability and regular leadership succession is actually beneficial to both individuals and organizations.

Let me explain this.

Forever is a very long time. Due to a myriad of reasons such as hubris, misunderstanding, oversight or plain bad luck, mistakes will be made - somehow, someday.

The longer someone rules, the greater chance that mistakes will be made, some of which will at least hurt the public perception of the leadership or at worst severely hurt most of the followers, leading to widespread resentment.

If there is rapid accountability, once the mistake has been recognised, the leader quickly takes responsibility eg. through reduction of pay, demotion or resignation. Such an alert action defuses the anger of the people, both towards the leader and the organisation.

Depending on the severity of the mistake, it could be a temporary setback for the leader's career, or it could be a career ending move. Even in the latter scenario, at least the people do not continue to harbour anger towards the individual, and the unhappiness does not spread towards the entire organisation as a whole.

Regular leadership succession has a similar damage limiting effect. By limiting people to a fixed number of years in power, their responsibilities are limited to those few years, and the mistakes that they make cannot accumulate and gradually undermine the reputation of the entire organisation as a whole.

Next, the short term discourages the formation of a powerful inner circle that promotes their own interest over the interests of the organisation or the people.

Finally, a regular change of faces is refreshing to the people, and provides each new generation an opportunity to bury past misgivings, improve old policies and create new ideas (and potential mistakes too) for the future.

The organization not only survives but continues to thrive. Leaders feel less pressure to be perfect all the time.

In contrast, see what happens when accountability and leadership succession is too slow or non-existent!

When a mistake is made, the leader ignores it, denies its existence, or blames someone else for it. No action is taken.

The people are unhappy but realise that nobody is going to do anything about it. The furore dies down and the resentment goes underground.

When it comes time for leadership renewal, the same few faces keep coming up year after year, for five, ten, fifteen years...

The people realise that only a few people seemed to be holding on to all of the power, all of the time. Mistakes by individual leaders gradually erode the reputation of the whole organisation. Mistrust grows while conspiracy theories spread.

Leadership continues on its own path unchecked, because the people always seem to go silent after a short while. Even more mistakes are made. Other people within the organisation who detect potential problems are worried that they'll destroy their career if they dare to voice a contrary opinion. Even if they are brave enough to do so, they cannot change anything because a powerful inner circle has been entrenched for decades.

The people are tired and angry. Organisation members are scared shitless of the impending trainwreck. Leaders don't really see a problem.

What happens next?

Anonymous said...

Lim Leng Hiong at 29/9/09 13:46 wrote:
"Observe how it was possible for the United States of America to end up electing the son of a President as the President. How is it that a nation of 300 million people (and 100 senators) cannot find a more qualified person?"

Qing at 29/9/09 14:33 wrote:
"Or worse to deal with politicians who themselves are in obvious conflict on interests by taking up positions in corporate world "legitimately?"

Take a look at Singapore's equivalent examples.

Anonymous said...

How come I go away with the feeling that he is talking about Singapore in this video?

Michael Moore's Tense Interview With CNN's Wolf Blitzer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqRvpBqEgCE&feature=topvideos

Anonymous said...

Electricity is hiked again, citing rises in oil prices as reasons.

But as mentioned in previous posts here, there is something fishy with using oil prices since we generate 80% of out electricity from natural gases.

Anonymous said...

Singapore under the PAP personifies the worst that Capitalism comes with because there is no democracy.

Jeff said...

Michael Moore represents the worst of humankind - by pretending that he "cares" for you and me but advocating that we are too stupid to get ahead and therefore need some sort of socialist handout.

I am a capitalist because I want tomorrow to be better for me and my children. I believe that I can make it happen through education, hard work, perseverence and making the right choices.

There is no system more evil than socialism - by creating an artificial "level playing field", it takes away all incentive for the smart, the industrious and the savers. Under a socialist system, you get paid the same as the dumbest, laziest and most incompetent person in your peer group. If you feel that's fair, then you'll like Mr Moore's vision.

Anonymous said...

Hey noob 12:00, Mr Moore said nothing about socialism. Under the socialist system you get leaders who continues to get overpaid even as they under perform, squanders the nation's reserves, and pass the costs to everyone. Rings any bell?

Lim Leng Hiong said...

Jeff said: "I am a capitalist because I want tomorrow to be better for me and my children. I believe that I can make it happen through education, hard work, perseverence and making the right choices."

That sounds reasonable.

But as I mentioned earlier, the key is in the implementation. It's not the unequal distribution of wealth and power that matters, it is HOW UNEQUAL the distribution is and HOW LONG this inequality is maintained for a inner circle of select individuals.

In some capitalist societies, top investment bankers are paid around ten million dollars per year and enjoy a bonus of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.

Some of them even received bonuses DURING this economic recession that they have caused! Even if they make a massive mistake, they have golden parachutes worth millions and can float away to safety as everything goes to hell.

Is their "contribution" to society really commensurate with the pay and respect that they expect to command?

How many years of taxi driving or cleaning high-rise windows or social work or building bridges or designing circuit boards or discovering cures for diseases must you do in order to earn ten million dollars?

What if you live in a capitalist system that emphasizes wealth and social connections so much that your "education, hard work, perseverence and making the right choices" becomes irrelevant?

"There is no system more evil than socialism - by creating an artificial "level playing field", it takes away all incentive for the smart, the industrious and the savers. Under a socialist system, you get paid the same as the dumbest, laziest and most incompetent person in your peer group. If you feel that's fair, then you'll like Mr Moore's vision.
"

I agree that a level playing field is artificial. In fact, all of human society is artificial; it is produced by people.

The reason why some societies attempt to achieve a level playing field is because of a human attribute called "empathy".

Most people are not fortunate enough to be born into rich or well-connected backgrounds.

Some people feel the need to create a system that gives as many people a chance to succeed as possible, because they have the wisdom to realise that their own favourable station in life is neither assured nor permanent.

Today you may be a king, but tomorrow you may become a kway teow man. Thus, the well-off people who advocate basic equalities (universal education, healthcare, social nets, independent judiciary etc.) are not necessarily kind or even pretending to be kind.

Maybe they are selfish; they want to take care of those at the bottom of society so that they won't have such a terrible time if somehow, someday, they also end up in the same predicament.

Conversely, there are other people who feel very secure in their station in life. They gauge success primarily using dollars and cents, or by the number of stars on the epaulette.

They believe that their "accomplishments" are wholly their effort alone and tend to consider less accomplished people to be dumb, lazy, or incompetent. From such a perspective, basic equality is suddenly conflated with communism (ie. everyone is paid the same).

In reality, "socialism" is not necessarily the most evil system in the world. That is just a label.

Under some capitalist systems "the smart, the industrious and the savers" are also heavily penalised.

Take the case of the United States of America.
Fresh graduates with superb GPAs face a long period of severe unemployment.

Motorcar company workers are laid off by the thousands.

Household savings are debased through inflation caused by trillion-dollar quantitative easing, while corporations in debt that are deemed "too big to fail" receive billions in bailout money.

Banks quickly drop the interest rate for savers but maintain a high interest rate for loans, enhancing their own benefits and while diminishing the trickle-down benefits for everyone else.

Any system can be evil.

Anonymous said...

hi anon 14:22,

I agree 100% with what you said. In fact this is what Michael Young said all along when he created the word "meritocracy". he wrote that Meritocracy if implemented in UK can lead to civil unrest.

anyway long story short: a baba singaporean went to cambridge and bring this meritocracy idea to singapore. 44 yrs later, the civil unrest is starting to become a reality like the book "the rise of meritocracy"

in uk the tax for those earning 150,000 pounds and above is 50%. this affects only 2% of the population. they have free universal healthcare and 0% interest loan for university.

Are the super rich millionaire singaporeans ready to be taxed 50%? not in my lifetime =)

enjoy the view guys! i'm getting off from this sinking ship...

PAP, nothing lasts forever you know! PAP will not be the 1st nor the last political party to be overthrown

Lim Leng Hiong said...

Thanks for your insight, Anon 16:38.

Here's an article by Michael Young about the weaknesses of meritocracy -

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2001/jun/29/comment

The following two exerpts from that article highlight the key dangers with such a system -

1. "It is good sense to appoint individual people to jobs on their merit. It is the opposite when those who are judged to have merit of a particular kind harden into a new social class without room in it for others."

If a meritocratic system is supposed to benefit society as a whole, then social stratification and rich-poor divide should at least remain stable, or even better, be improved. It should not have worsened.

2. "The business meritocracy is in vogue. If meritocrats believe, as more and more of them are encouraged to, that their advancement comes from their own merits, they can feel they deserve whatever they can get.

They can be insufferably smug, much more so than the people who knew they had achieved advancement not on their own merit but because they were, as somebody's son or daughter, the beneficiaries of nepotism. The newcomers can actually believe they have morality on their side.

So assured have the elite become that there is almost no block on the rewards they arrogate to themselves. The old restraints of the business world have been lifted and, as the book also predicted, all manner of new ways for people to feather their own nests have been invented and exploited."

This is a very significant problem.

Leaders in a meritocratic system expect to be highly compensated for their work, because they may have come to believe that they reached their position entirely through their efforts alone. This could become a positive feedback loop of ever-escalating expectations of personal benefits.

But how much money is enough? How much time in power is enough?

How much more do they want?

There may be no limits.

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