Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It seems pretty basic, but....

In case you didn't notice, Michael Moore is at it again. His new documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story seems to be following the template of most of his other offerings: opening to enthusiastic, adoring crowds at film festivals, and heaped with scorn and derision from those who will never make the effort to see it. In the rush to decry Moore as a communist and unpatriotic, many will miss a rich little bit of irony: Michael Moore is pretty good at Capitalism. Moore has a business sense that is sadly lacking in many of the captains of industry and finance. Take, for instance, his comments on the newspaper business, from the Toronto International Film Festival:

Those comments echo David Simon's testimony before the Senate.

There is some very basic business sense from both Moore and Simon. A newspaper with no circulation is useless to advertisers. A newspaper that sees its stockholders more important than its readers does a service to neither. It seems that Moore gets what a lot of businessmen don't: you've got to put the customer first. While most Old Media types are busy blaming the New Media, and turning to the government for assistance, it's the anti-capitlist Moore who makes the argument for the market-based solution of more customers and higher sales. How basic is that?

It's funny how, twenty years after Roger and Me Michael Moore is still viewed as anti-business. The point of Roger and Me wasn't that GM was, by nature, a bad company. The point was that it was a badly-run company. GM management was a bloated, out-of-touch bureaucracy, that made poorly conceived and built cars that no one wanted to buy. Rather than building better cars, GM focused on cost structure, cutting jobs and moving plants out of the country. After two decades that ended in GM's bankruptcy, and tens of billions of dollars of a very un-capitalistic government bailout, it seems perhaps Moore had a better grasp on some basic business principals that Roger Smith did. Moore knew that you've got to have customers, and you've got to keep them happy.

Moore's anti-capitalist film will make him a lot of money. It will make lots of others lots of money as well. I suspect that will be but one of the many points that will be beyond the comprehension of those who will label him a communist.
One of the most ironic things about capitalism is that the capitalist will sell you the rope to hang himself with. Actually they will give you the money to make a movie that makes them look bad, if they believe they can make money off it.--Michael Moore
Moore's argument isn't as much about Capitalism as it is about stupid, short-sighted greed and arrogance. That we can't seem to have one without the other has little to do with our economics, and everything to do with our philosophy.

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