Michael Moore, Your Heart Is in the Right Place

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As a fan
of many of Michael Moore’s films and projects, I now see them in
a new perspective since I began my studies in Austrian economic
theory. I believe that laissez-faire capitalism and democratic socialism
have a similar goal, but a different means of achieving it, with
the former being the only real way to realize the goal. I write
this open letter hoping to educate him and his fans on some basic
economic facts and myths that I took the time to learn about this
past year. Here I humbly state my perspective so that new knowledge
may be passed on to Michael Moore and others who share his well-meaning

Dear Michael

I saw your
interview on Larry
King Live
the other day, and enjoyed it very much. It made me
think of my two favorite stunts you orchestrated. First was the
time on The
Awful Truth
when you staged a mock funeral for a man who
was denied a pancreas transplant by Humana, which he eventually
received thanks to your actions. The second time was in Sicko
when you took several chronically sick 9/11 emergency workers to
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base so that they could receive the same level
of medical care the terrorists receive.

I believe your
heart is in the right place. I believe that the vast majority of
Americans want the same things for all people: more wealth, prosperity,
freedom, access to healthcare, better education, world peace, adequate
job opportunities, and so on. The difference between you and me,
that is, the difference between a laissez-faire capitalist and a
social democrat, is that you believe prosperity can be achieved
by redistribution, whereas I believe prosperity is a natural effect
of allowing people to live freely and respecting their right to
the private ownership of property.

Based on your
rhetoric, you believe that big business is the mortal enemy of the
21st-century common man. You posit the notion that big businesses
only got that way by ripping off their customers, their employees
and then bribing government officials to look the other way. Your
solution to this: elect Democrats and they will fix everything.

However, based
on an omission during your interview, I don’t think you have faith
in the Democrats’ ability to fix things either. You lambasted McCain
for voting for the $700 billion bailout, exclaiming what an outrage
it was to steal from the poor and give to the rich, but you didn’t
mention the fact that both Obama and Biden voted for the bailout
too. How are the Democrats on your side when so many voted
for the bailout?

I don’t believe
either the Democrats or Republicans are on your side or my side,
because I believe they are both on the same side. That is,
they are both on the side of taking from the many and giving to
the few. The bank bailout is just business as usual, only this time
people paid attention because of its huge scope and ramifications.

your interview, you seemed so excited at the prospect of having
a Democratic President, House, and Senate so that an FDR style administration
could be enacted to fix the problems caused by six years of a Republican
majority. I urge you to read the chapter on FDR from the book The
Politically Incorrect Guide to American History
, by
Thomas Woods. For starters, I would hate to see the Japanese be
put into prison, gold to be made contraband, and for crops and livestock
to be purposely destroyed to raise prices. Read the free e-book
Great Depression
by Murray Rothbard for a sound argument
that government intervention, not the free market, caused the Great

Instead of
educating you merely on what’s wrong with big government, I’d rather
tell you what’s right with laissez-faire capitalism, how it has
benefited you, and how it’s the only fair and just economic system
that has been discovered.

Your movie,
broke many records. It grossed over $23 million in
its first week in release and over $100 million during its entire
run. You sold two million DVDs on its first day of release. Surely,
there were other filmmakers vying for the number-one spot on the
same weekend you released Fahrenheit. Many of them poured
their heart and soul into it and probably risked a higher budget
than you did. Yet, if I asked you to share some of that $23 million
with the 2nd through 10th place finishers, you’d look at me as if
I were crazy – likewise if I demanded you split up that $100
million you earned with other documentary makers who put out films
that year and lost money. Didn’t they try just as hard as
you? Didn’t they believe in their project as much as you did? Why
should they be allowed to go broke if they worked hard and played
by the rules?

The reason
you wouldn’t share your box office receipts with them is because
you earned it. Being an entrepreneur, you felt that back in the
summer of 2004 the world was ready for a movie about George W. Bush
and would be willing to pay money to see it. You put up the risk,
produced it and released it at what you thought would be an opportune
time. Obviously, you guessed well. The masses agreed that a movie
about George W. Bush was what the market needed and it acknowledged
this through record box office receipts. The people did this voluntarily
and without coercion. Likewise, you did not cheat, steal, or bribe
your way to the top; you earned that money honestly by providing
something the people wanted. Had you made a poorly made movie, released
it a week later when Spiderman
came out, or done anything else out of step, you may have
lost your shirt.

box office success is an example of economic freedom. You got your
money because millions of people gave it to you. Your number-one
market position for the week of June 27th, 2004 wasn’t determined
by a Senate subcommittee or a House resolution; it was determined
by the market, that is, the people. What’s more is that the
people who revile your name and your works didn’t have to contribute
to you; only the ones who wanted to did.

This is the
way laissez-faire capitalism works: you produce something you think
other people want, and if indeed they do, they’ll trade something
you want in return. In your case, each consumer traded eight dollars
for a theater seat and a screening of your movie. What’s more is
that both parties benefited from the trade: you’re better off with
the eight dollars than you were with an unwatched movie, and in
theory, they’re better off seeing your movie than they were keeping
the eight dollars.

We do not have
pure laissez-faire capitalism in this country. As it is with honest
businessmen such as yourself, if you earn a lot of money by providing
people with what they want, the government takes away a good portion
of it in the form as taxes and spends them on wars and other projects
you don’t like. If you lose your investment, the government does
not refund the debts you incurred. That’s the story with the American
economic system: do a good job, get taxed; do a bad job and you’ll
have to lick your wounds. That is, of course, unless you’re politically

The bank bailout
is a great example of what is not laissez-faire capitalism.
When a business achieves a prominent position through political
maneuvering, it is known as crony capitalism or corporatism. Crony
capitalists use regulations, subsidies and get laws passed that
favor their business or industry. All of these methods require the
heavy hand of government to make it all possible. Obama, McCain,
and Biden all voted for crony capitalism this October.

In your movie
Sicko, you showed us another example of crony capitalism
at its finest. President Nixon’s HMO act of 1973 set a precedent
that is still with us today. Under the act, grants and loans were
provided to investors who created HMOs, the kind you deplored in
your movie. This was a vicious government intervention because it
steered investors in the healthcare industry towards HMOs rather
than alternatives that could have served the people better. If you
were an investor, would you be more inclined to invest in something
that provided free money and cheap loans or would you try your luck
in a sector of the healthcare industry that provided no such safeguards?
With a looming subsidy hanging over the creation of every HMO, can
you really blame the investors for taking an advantage that only
the government could provide?

if you trade your ball cap for a Sherlock Holmes hat and investigated
the machinations behind what you perceive as unfair business practices,
you will see a government rule, ordinance, subsidy, or law backing
it up. This is the status quo of our American economic system.

I am not an
expert on Austrian economics, just a movie fan who sees a kindred
spirit in you, someone who wants to leave the world a better place
from whence he came. If your predictions for a Democratic majority
come true, I urge you to do two things. One, keep an eye on the
Democrats and see what they do that is indeed different in principle
from the Republicans. Secondly, do as I did and read a few books
on Austrian economic theory and decide for yourself which system
is best suited for achieving a sustained level of peace, justice
and prosperity for the 21st century. I recommend Economics
in One Lesson
, by Henry Hazlitt, Economics
for Real People
by Gene Callahan and most importantly,
read What
Has Government Done with Our Money?
by Murray Rothbard,
also available as a free e-book
from Mises.org

When you’re
done with those, and if you are so moved as I was after reading
them, I would urge you to make a movie based on your new experiences.
If you’re at loss with where to begin, then start on one of the
greatest obstacles to peace, prosperity and wealth the world has
ever known: the Federal Reserve System.

Todd Steinberg

25, 2008

Todd Steinberg
[send him mail] works with
his family at a wholesale
teddy bear company
in Dallas. In his spare time he is furiously
working on his cartoon, "Don't Tell My Wife I'm a Cult Leader,"
which he plans to unleash on the Internet and beyond in 2009.

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