The family friendly Movieguide published my review of Michael Moore’s trashing of the market economy, “Capitalism: A Love Story.” Excerpt:

Perhaps the most egregious bit of manipulative effort Moore displays in his latest attempt, which by all reports has failed miserably at the box office, is his attempt to use religion, in particular the social teachings of the Catholic Church, to grant an imprimatur to his un-nuanced critique of the business economy.

Having come out of his Catholic closet (who knew Moore ever considered himself a serious Catholic?), he enlists Catholic priests (among them two bishops!) to lend credibility to an unequivocal denunciation of capitalism as intrinsically, irrevocably and wholly evil. The problem is, that one of the priests and one of the bishops have no standing in the Catholic Church. The one “bishop”, James Wilkowski, is neither a Roman Catholic bishop nor even a Roman Catholic, but rather a member of something called the “Evangelical Catholic Church.” The man identified as the priest who performed Mr. Moore’s marriage is not listed in the US Directory of Catholic priests.

The other two clerics are indeed priests, both being from the most left-wing extreme of the Catholic Church. They are certainly entitled to their opinions, but the opinions they offer in the film are far from representative of the official position of the Church.

Read “Socialist Lies Sink to a New Low” on MovieGuide.

  • Greg Kopczynski

    So was this review an attempt to fight fire with fire? To disparage the entire movie as a pack of “Socialist lies” (in the tile, no less), based seemingly on the fact that the priests he used did not recite the official Catholic position on “capitalism” reminded me of that wonderful Shakespearean saying “Methinks thou dost protest too much.”

    Moore’s point was not that capitalism is evil because the Catholic Church says it is. It was that capitalism is (or at least appears to be) evil based on the damage the greed unbridled by it has inflicted on the majority in this country.

    I. too, would have preferred to see Moore include the “official” position you posted — essentially that capitalism is not “inherently evil” (a more milquetoast defense of capitalism I am hard-pressed to imagine), and then ask those who wrote it whether the same couldn’t be said for pornography, illegal drugs, and the like.

    If there was a Christian point being made in this movie, it was not the opinions of a couple of priests or bishops, but a more subtle Christian idea that you will know the merits of something by its fruits. At first, the fruits of capitalism were sweet, indeed. But as Moore’s movie points out, “My, how things have changed.”

    Rev. Sirico argues that for More to have included the official Catholic Church position on capitalism would — by itself no less — have made the movie “a far more thoughtful one.” Perhaps. And Rev. Sirico addressing all of the other far more poignant points being made by Moore in this movie would have no doubt done the same for his review.

    But because this review is more of a lashing out than a thoughtful repudiation, I am left to wonder whether the rich and their spokespeople are really concerned that there will be a far less tepid response to this movie as a DVD release.

  • http://yahoo.com Luke Daxon

    Moore has a penchant for the scattergun polemic. It’s not to my taste as I find he invariably sacrifices serious analysis for cheap laughs.

    And yet, although he may miss more often than hits, to label the film a complete fabrication is not only histrionic. It strikes me as cock-eyed. Is Moore lying when he says that some corporations profit handsomely out of the deaths of their employees through the charmingly titled “dead peasant insurance”? If he is, then why has he not been sued? Is he peddling falsehoods when he reports about bribery and corruption in the privatisation of prisons in Pennsylvania? If he is, then somebody really should tell the grand jury in Harrisburg that has been handing out indictments.

    Market economics are a human creation, nothing more. They are not an aspect of the divine and we ought never to genuflect before as if they were. Whatever their undoubted strengths, they reflect our sin as well as our creativity. To demand they have immunity from sober analysis and reasoned criticism is to veer dangerously close to idolatry.

  • http://www.acton.org Father Robert Sirico

    Several brief comments on this:

    1) The title for the article was not written by me.
    2) I have never once written an article after which I did not think it could have been improved or included something something additional.
    3) I was asked to write specifically about Moore’s use of 4 Catholic leaders who were represented as offering the Catholic position on the matter at hand, which I did. At the very least, this was manipulative and disingenuous; actually, it was dishonest of Michael Moore to attempt to use the moral authority of the Church at the same time he disregards it. I was not asked to offer an in depth economic analysis of Moore’s numerous fallacies. For a more sustained and much broader treatment of the market in its failures and successes, I refer you to the Acton Institute web site generally.
    4) I remind my critics to look at the citation of Benedict I provide at the conclusion of my review: that is, it is NOT the system of free markets that is the problem, but the moral culture in which it is sometimes practiced. To describe this as a call for an immunity for market economics from sober analysis and reasoned criticism is what is really histrionic.

  • http://yahoo.com Luke Daxon

    Thanks for responding Fr. Sirico.

    You say that it is not the theory of markets that is to blame but human nature. In that respect I am in full agreement, and that is why the case for markets must be made with a little bit of humility, caution and a recognition of their limits. They are an instrument, but an instrument in the wrong hands can be a threat to others. Too often, market advocates demand deregulation as if that represented a utopian panacea devoid of any negative consequences. I refer you to the Pope’s remarks that “the market can be a negative force, not because it is so by nature, but because a certain ideology can make it so.” What is that ideology? What conception of the world do these ideologues have?

    I would also draw attention to his other comments in Caritas in veritate, namely that “economic activity cannot solve all social problems through the simple application of commercial logic. This needs to be directed towards the pursuit of the common good, for which the political community in particular must also take responsibility. Therefore, it must be borne in mind that grave imbalances are produced when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution”.

    In other words, Benedict regards the common good as a vital consideration in the workings of the market as opposed to the application of cold theorising and abstract rationalism. Furthermore, he sees this as being achieved through political activism and the involvement of the political community.

    Lastly, I continue to believe that the tone of your review was a bit over the top. I repeat that I am no fan of Moore. He is certainly duplicitous and deceptive in his methods. But while comparing him with Sasha Baron Cohen (aka Borat) is close to the mark, I think it is bit much to bracket him with Leni Riefenstahl.

  • Roger McKinney

    Luke: “the case for markets must be made with a little bit of humility, caution and a recognition of their limits.”

    This is where I disagree with Mr Sirico. The whole point of Adam Smith’s greatest book was how to organize society so that the maximum morality would prevail. According to Smith, free markets would do a better job of promoting morality than would state intervention in markets. Of course, Smith, and all proponents of free markets have always and everywhere insisted on the rule of law to handle cases of theft, fraud and violence.

    Mr. Sirico’s argument is tht the market fails when people aren’t moral. Smith’s argument was that the market enforces morality through competition. And that’s true if the state allows the free market to work. When the market fails to enforce morality, then we need only look for where the state has intervened and prevented it from doing so.

  • http://yahoo.com Luke Daxon

    Hello Roger. I see your point but I must say I disagree with you. Smith was primarily a moral philosopher and, as I have always understood, it is best to read Wealth of Nations only after his earlier Theory of Moral Sentiments which lays the ground for a moral assessment of economic activity.

    Smith understood humans to be inherently moral creatures and markets to be a reflection of our character. Certainly, inept businessmen are brought to grief but that, as he saw it, was often an outcome of their own moral failings. In that respect, he and Rev. Sirico see eye to eye.

    For example, in TMS, he says that when bankers are trusted to pay off their promissory notes on demand ” those notes come to have the same currency as gold and silver money, from the confidence that such money can at any time be had for them.” Indeed. And when not just one banker but an entire swathe of them are shown to have forsaken probity, the effect on the whole economic order can guessed because,at root, the whole system is built on trust.

  • Roger McKinney

    Luke: “Smith understood humans to be inherently moral creatures and markets to be a reflection of our character.”

    That is exactly the opposite of what I get from Smith, either from Theory of Moral Sentiments or Wealth of Nations, but particularly from Wealth. Smith was not naive and he did not see humans as inherently moral. TMS provides why he thinks people have moral ideas; essentially he thought it came from sympathy. But Wealth assumes that businessmen are evil and asks the question how to control such evil. He stated in Wealth that any time two businessmen get together they are plotting to defraud their consumers. He rejected the idea of having the state regulate the market because he knew that politicians are easily purchased by businessmen and so would only make things worse. What to do with such evil businessmen? Free the market to take care of them. Their natural selfishness and greed will force them to serve the public interest.

  • http://artaban7.wordpress.com Artaban

    Mr. Koczynski, it’s hard to make any sense of your comments:

    1. How is it “disparag(ing)” the movie as a “pack of lies” when the “Catholic priests” interviewed by Moore are not actually Roman Catholic? To point out their real identity is not “fighting fire with fire”, it is fighting deception with truth, darkness with light.

    2. You state your desire that the official position of the Catholic church be expressed, that “essentially (that) capitalism is not “inherently evil”…and then ask those who wrote it whether the same couldn’t be said for pornography, illegal drugs, and the like.”

    Are you suggesting that pornography and illegal drugs aren’t “inherently evil”?!

    3. You accuse Sirico of “lashing out” rather than providing a “thoughtful review” and then insinuate he is a “spokesperson for the rich” (without providing any supporting evidence). You criticize him–unjustly, I believe, for his review consists of verifiable facts, rather than mere opinions. Facts are not equal to ad hominem attacks, which you clearly and rightly object to. How ironic then, that you launch against him that which you criticize.

  • http://yahoo.co.uk Luke Daxon

    In answer to your points Roger: recognising humans as moral creatures is not the same as saying they always behave well. Of course they don’t. But questions of right and wrong do occur to them. Even if people ignore or suppress conscience and sympathy, they can not escape them altogether because these are essential aspects of human nature.

    Did Smith separate markets from morality? I don’t think he did. In his view, personal honesty and the ability to honour your promises are integral to staying in business. So is reciprocity. The main difference between Smith’s time and our own is in that in his day, business was overwhelmingly personal, with even the largest employers being tiny by modern standards. In these conditions, personal morality mattered because the businessman had to answer for his decisions every day continue trading. He also needed basic social skills as business was constructed on the personal relationship.

    In today’s economy, the growth of concentrated big business would have seemed immoral to him, precisely because it is impersonal. Indeed, it is all the more likely to cause harm as it is not based on a human relationship between the direct producer and the direct consumer. After all, it is the quality of human relationship that it is particularly likely to inspire sympathy. Instead an economy led by the artisan and the merchant trading on their own account has given way to one governed by the corporate employee. Viewed from the persepctive of TMS and W of N, this diminishes the individual’s personal accountability for decisions, it distances them from the effect of their actions upon other human beings, and massively increases the scope for collusion and price-fixing by reducing the number of producers.

  • Greg Kopczynski

    > Mr. Koczynski, it’s hard to make any sense of your comments:

    Certainly one has to make the effort. I don’t see that in your reply. Specifically:

    > How is it “disparag(ing)” the movie as a “pack of lies”…

    How or when is calling an entire movie a “pack of lies” not disparaging? What “truth” do you find in such over-simplistic condemnation? The movie was about something far more important than whether or not Father Sirico approved of Moore’s choice of spokespeople for religious viewpoints.

    > Are you suggesting that pornography and illegal
    > drugs aren’t “inherently evil”?!

    I certainly am, just as alcohol is not inherently evil. Unlike offenses such as murder and rape, pornography and drugs are what you make of them. If you stop and think about this for yourself for a bit you will realize this is true. That doesn’t mean I approve of either (I don’t), but everything I disapprove of is not “inherently evil.”

    But the really sad part about your asking this question is that it is totally beside my point, which was that there is a *lot* in the world that is not “inherently evil” but is nonetheless very, very far from “good” (such as pornography and illegal drugs). So to say something isn’t “inherently evil” is a bit like saying someone is not Adolph Hitler. It may tell you that person is not at the far extreme end of the spectrum between good and evil, but it tells you little about how close to that extreme they may come.

    I would agree that capitalism is not inherently evil, just as I feel pornography and illegal drugs are not. But given the greed of men, it should not surprise us that capitalism can and often does lead to evil just as pornography and illegal drug use can.

    > You criticize him–unjustly, I believe, for his review
    > consists of verifiable facts

    Where is the fact the verifies that this movie is “a pack of lies”? He made some good points and some fair criticisms of Moore’s movie, but he took it too far by labeling it as a “pack of lies”. There are truths in Moore’s movie, as well, if you care to look for them. And if you don’t, then maybe you are not the right person to be writing a review.

  • Neal Lang

    “Moore’s point was not that capitalism is evil because the Catholic Church says it is. It was that capitalism is (or at least appears to be) evil based on the damage the greed unbridled by it has inflicted on the majority in this country.”

    Unfortunately the facts show conclusively that “the greed unbridled” is not a result of capitalism, but, instead on the envy that is based on the idea that one is ENTITLED to another’s wealth and that government is the proper agent to administer that “redistribution.” Promotion of the idea of “getting something for nothing” is the basis of the envy that has lead to our Nation’s greed, and not capitalism which instructs that wealth can only come from one own efforts. Both you and Roger Moore are ignorant of both of the benefits of Capitalism and the true sources of greed and envy!

    “I. too, would have preferred to see Moore include the ‘official” position you posted — essentially that capitalism is not “inherently evil’ (a more milquetoast defense of capitalism I am hard-pressed to imagine), and then ask those who wrote it whether the same couldn’t be said for pornography, illegal drugs, and the like.”

    Only an idiot would believe that “pornography, illegal drugs, and the like” can have a sort of redeeming value.

  • Neal Lang

    “Where is the fact the verifies that this movie is “a pack of lies”? He made some good points and some fair criticisms of Moore’s movie, but he took it too far by labeling it as a ‘pack of lies’. There are truths in Moore’s movie, as well, if you care to look for them. And if you don’t, then maybe you are not the right person to be writing a review.”

    The movie is based entirely on the flawed Marxist critique of Capitalism. The fact is, Worldwide, everywhere that Capitalism was applied without Government intervents in the Free Market all the people prospered. And everywhere where Marxism has been employed, the people suffered and poverty grew. That is the “truth.” Only in countries where government infected Capitalism and the Free Market by trying to force “outcomes” has Capital lead to envy and greed. In countries where the market is truly free from government interference, the outcome has been a larger pie and more prosperity for everyone.

    Please, by all means please relate the “good points” and “fair criticisms” that can be found in Roger Moore hateful propaganda!

  • Neal Lang

    “I certainly am, just as alcohol is not inherently evil. Unlike offenses such as murder and rape, pornography and drugs are what you make of them. If you stop and think about this for yourself for a bit you will realize this is true. That doesn’t mean I approve of either (I don’t), but everything I disapprove of is not ‘inherently evil’.”

    Your Worldview is even more warped than is your hero, Michael Moore. Your understanding of what is, and what is not “inherently evil” tells me that you have no idea about is true evil. Alcohol is not “inherently evil,” but alcoholism is. Drugs used properly by trained physicians are “inherently good,” but “illegal drug use” and drug addiction is “inherently evil.” As for “pornography” it has NO REDEEMING VIRTUE. It demeans the pornographer; the subject of the pornagraphy; and also the sick person who partakes in this depravity. If you cannot see this “truth” then your moral compass is bent beyond any possibility of repair!

  • Neal Lang

    “I would agree that capitalism is not inherently evil, just as I feel pornography and illegal drugs are not. But given the greed of men, it should not surprise us that capitalism can and often does lead to evil just as pornography and illegal drug use can.”

    There is nothing “inherently good” about Marxism. It has NO redeeming virtues. It starts off, as you do, with the proposition that man is merely material, like sand or water, and follows that man is incapable of bettering himself. It divorces man from God, and replaces God with manmade government. It establishes that man’s true worth is no more than the sum of minerals in his body. If you cannot see the inherent “evil” of this political philosophy, than you need to move to Cuba, which according to your hero, Michael Moore, has the BEST MEDICAL CARE SYSTEM in the World, and see exactly what living in a “Workers’ Paradise” is like!

  • Greg Kopczynski

    > Only an idiot would believe that “pornography,
    > illegal drugs, and the like” can have a sort of
    > redeeming value.

    No, only an idiot would resort to name-calling in order to try to strengthen their (weak) assertions.

    I did not say that pornography and illegal drugs necessarily have any redeeming value. I’m not sure candy does, either, but I’m pretty sure that’s not “inherently evil.”

    I would probably have to think about whether these could have any redeeming value for longer than I care to before reaching an opinion on it, but you have not even made the case that anything without redeeming value is “inherently evil.” That is your assertion, isn’t it? Otherwise you are (intentionally?) misrepresenting what I said.

    So first make that case. But don’t do so on my account. I find this level of hostility offensive and have no interest in continuing to try to share a difference of opinion with anyone who resorts to insults to help make their point. You and others have shown you are certainly not inclined to try to understand opinions that differ from your, but neither do you appear to be capable of making a cogent argument that would help me better appreciate your views, So in order not to become the town fool who doesn’t have the good sense not to argue with the village idiot, I’ll say farewell.

    And to Rev. Sirico I would ask one last (rhetorical) question: how much does the character of those supporting you in this despicable manner represent the fruits of your ministry?

  • http://www.acton.org Father Robert Sirico

    Mr. Kopczynski:
    You were given considerable space here to voice your opinions and you were not always very polite in expressing them, yet you were given free reign. Now someone responds in kind to your provocations and you take your bat and ball and go home – which is fine with me.