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Michael Moore, welcome to the ranks of the 1 percent

Filmmaker Michael Moore was recently divorced from his wife of 22 years. This, in and of itself, wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy, except for details that became part of the court record. His net worth was revealed to be in excess of $50 million.

Yep, Michael Moore is a card carrying member of the 1 percent.

According to court documents, the Moore fortune includes nine properties, including a posh Manhattan condo that is three apartments combined into one and a lakefront Bellaire, Mich., estate that includes a 10,000-square-foot house. A local shopkeeper was quoted in The Detroit News as saying, “Why he decided to live in this conservative area, I have no idea.”

“Capitalism: A Love Story,” indeed. That is, of course, the title of his 2009 film criticizing what he calls “capitalism.” I haven’t seen the film, but according to Wikipedia, “A swing rendition of the socialist anthem “The Internationale”… plays over the closing credits.”

I did see his first effort, “Roger and Me,” released in 1989, and I thought it was pretty good. That was back when he still had a sense of humor. Although the subject matter was rather bleak, he managed to capture the humanity of it.

Another Moore film I have seen is “Sicko.” In it, Moore extols the virtues of both Cuba and France with regard to their respective health care industries. While most people are aware of the dismal economic record of Cuba, there are folks who still regard France as a shining example of a successful socialist economy. However, the most recent economic data coming out of France paint a bleak picture that has been described as an “economic implosion.” Unemployment is at new 15-year highs and manufacturing is in its 15th straight month of contraction. The latest housing data have been described as “disastrous” with one Bloomberg report calling it “a total meltdown.”

The current president of France, Francois Hollande, has seen his approval ratings plummet to all-time lows. Before running for president, Hollande had served for more than 10 years as first secretary of the French Socialist Party. Shortly after his election in 2012 this headline appeared in the London Daily Mail: “New French President Francois Hollande, who claims to ‘dislike the rich,” has three homes on French Riviera.” Sounds like he and Michael Moore might have more than a little in common.

It’s easy to poke fun at Moore who has made so much money critiquing capitalism. However, what Moore calls “capitalism” really isn’t – it’s really socialism in disguise.

So let’s define the term “socialism.” The Oxford English dictionary defines socialism as, “a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”

Well … OK, I guess that would pass as the European definition, but the Merriam-Webster definition is more accurate: “a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies.”

In America today, while major industries aren’t owned by the government (although for a time recently the majority of the automobile industry was, along with portions of the financial services industry), there is a tremendous amount of control exerted by the government over the economy. Michael Moore complains that it is the other way around —  but (to coin a phrase) “what difference does it make?” The net effect is the same – and it is not capitalism. Whether or not corporations control the government or the government controls the corporations — that is not capitalism.

The term “capitalism” has been co-opted — all systems require capital; the differences lie in how capital is allocated. The best way to allocate capital for the benefit of all is through the free market. While tangible resources are finite, wealth creation is virtually unlimited because of human ingenuity and creativity. Each kilowatt generated, car manufactured, iPad produced is new wealth created. Every new novel, poem, song or play written and each new performance thereof is newly created wealth. Each new university lecture given, acre of wheat harvested, scientific discovery made or ton of iron ore mined is new wealth generated. And yes, every newspaper edition that is published is new value created. We all benefit when we are able to, of our own free will, exchange the wealth we’ve created for wealth others have created. When the wealth of others is forcefully confiscated and redistributed to others, a certain segment of society is better off than they were, a certain segment is worse off, but society as a whole is also worse off. It is in fact worse off, since the redistribution effort actually consumes resources.  Government does not create value, it consumes resources. It is not a zero sum game.

While it would be easy to call Michael Moore a hypocrite, I would rather focus on the positive. Obviously Moore has created a product that a great many people value. This is a good thing. People voluntarily exchanged a portion of their own net worth to consume what Michael Moore produced. Nobody put a gun to the consumer’s head and forced her to watch a Michael Moore movie. Moore has therefore obviously generated significant value and therefore wealth — which is why he has earned his place among the 1 percent.         Rather than engage in the politics of envy I applaud him for it. And I hope we don’t end up like France.

— Elliot Simon writes from

Harpers Ferry

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