It’s not only people like George Bush and Herbert Hoover who have distorted the meaning of capitalism (by pretending they supported it while in office). Quite often (if not each and every time) those in the media also get it wrong. One example was the 2009 film by Michael Moore entitled, Capitalism: A Love Story.
As Sheldon Richman of FEE explains in his article Frustrating Michael Moore, the term capitalism (when used to refer to free markets) is not used correctly. What Moore is discussing is what Richman refers to as “State Capitalism”, or what I have heard referred to as, “Crony Capitalism”. He says that he’s right to denounce many of the things he does, including, “…banks engaging in wild speculation without concern for the risk, taxpayer bailouts for banks and other businesses, cozy relations between Wall Street and Washington, politicians getting favors from companies that want benefits from government, and big institutions pushing less powerful individuals around.” However, as Richman points out, this is not the free market as argued by Moore. Richman also brings up the point that many “free market advocates” claim that we live in a capitalist system (including George Bush), despite the massive amounts of regulation, spending and intervention that take place. When that is the case, are we really surprised when people like Moore confuse the term?
Michael Moore not only misrepresents the meaning of free market capitalism in his movie, but he also seems to misrepresent himself with his actions. As discovered by the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michael Moore’s movie qualified for a tax refund for the movie producers of up to 42% of their spending in the state. This of course comes at the expense of tax payers, whom Moore claims to fight for. According to Mackinac, “This lavish provision means a studio can easily receive more from Michigan taxpayers than it pays in Michigan taxes.” While Moore was at first against this, he soon became silent after he decided to go ahead with the movie. So much for “the little guy”.