Big Government: A Love Story

By Berg, Chris | Review - Institute of Public Affairs, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Big Government: A Love Story


Berg, Chris, Review - Institute of Public Affairs


Nothing proves love is blind as much as Michael Moore's faith in government, writes Chris Berg.

It's probably fair to say Michael Moore pioneered the modern agit-prop feature documentary. Since his (actually rather touching) Roger and Me, which covered the decline of his home town Flint, Michigan as General Motors closed the local plant, the independent documentary has experienced a resurgance for polemicists on all sides of politics.

But while the medium he popularised is getting more influential, the quality of Moore's work is declining. His second film, 2002's Bowlingfor Columbinewas at least honest - while superficially an anti-gun polemic, he actually ended the film confused as to why America seemed to have a violent culture. But since then, his films have gotten angrier, more radical, more self-assured, but ultimately, less enjoyable.

Capitalism: A Love Story is thematically the most ambitious - he 'takes aim' at the whole capitalist system. But it's easy to aim when you don't care what you hit. Moore is interested in Big-C Capitalism. So after a few stories of families having their homes foreclosed, Moore reveals his thesis.

'Capitalism is a sin', he gets a series of priests to say darkly into the camera; it's Obscene' and it's 'radically evil'. Capitalism is a secular 'crime' and spiritually 'immoral'.

Another priest reflects that he is 'really in awe of [pro-capitalism] propaganda'. And a bit rich: one sequence in Moore's film describes the somewhat icky practice of firms taking out life insurance for their employees, which he tastefully illustrates with lingering shots of a grieving family, as if insurance policies cause cancer.

Moore has always been an awkwardly self-conscious working-class man. In this installment, he is also God-fearing. And his NASCAR-chic populism is now littered with calls to 'people power', which, coming from a multimillionaire, are as authentic as the Spice Girls' 'girl power'. It's all so laden that there's a good chance he wants to run for office.

In a bizarrely misdirected appeal to authority, Moore quizzes the off-Broadway actor Wallace Shawn, who has 'studied history and a bit of economies' about what he reckons is the problem with capitalism. …

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