Monday, January 15, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness

This was an outstanding movie, no matter who you are. The conflict and challenges for the main character are riveting and keep viewers glued to their screens throughout.

Will Smith plays a poverty stricken father, whose wife has left him to care for his infant son. We get to see him struggle through some tough times by anyones standards. His character had evidently made a few bad decisions in his life, having invested his life savings in medical equipment that wasn't so revolutionary and few hospitals needed. As his savings dwindle and he fails to even pay rent for several months, he sees how several stockbrokers have achieved personal fortunes and realizes his dream.

Unfortunately, he is held down during tough times, by different forms of government coercion and theft. His car is towed off and impounded by the city of San Francisco after failing to pay several parking tickets. The night before a job interview, the police arrive and arrest him for not paying the tickets. But he successfully passes the interview for a prestigious, but unpaid, internship at a stock trading firm. Out of the 20 interns, only one will be awarded a high paid senior job at the end of the program.

So although he has been granted an internship which leads to a shot at a dream job, he has to scrounge and save every penny to survive until it is over.

After struggling hard to sell several medical scanning machines and gathering enough savings to survive several months, he is completely destroyed and crushed when the IRS forcibly removes $600 savings from his account for failure to pay taxes. By 1981 standards, this would have been enough for him to survive several months. After this act of theft, he was only left with $21 to his name.

So here we see, yet again, the federal and municipal governments steal, imprison and coerce an individual. His car, his savings, his freedom and liberty, are not given the slightest bit of respect by bureaucrats and public servants who work within the vast gray apparatus of government. The fact that they are pushing the man into extreme poverty and homelessness, the fact that his money is his life, count for nothing.

The story of this movie, although clearly not designed to be overtly political, is a subtle but resounding justification of the merits of freedom, liberty and capitalism.

And the setting of this story was America in 1981, under the presidency of Reagan. You would think that in such a time and place, freedom and liberty would be at its apex, at one of its highest points. Reagan was a president who spoke the language of liberty and freedom. America was a nation considered (by its European socialist cousins, and the communist Soviet bloc) to be overly obsessed with low taxes and free trade.

America is often described as the perfect example of capitalism, an example of what happens when you take capitalism and free trade to the extreme. How can anybody be fooled into thinking that America is not a social-democracy, a semi-capitalist country, just like England, France, Canada, Australia, Germany and other Western nations ?

Hong Kong, is the closest thing we have to capitalism on this planet. The Hong Kong government only consumes 10% of GDP, and leaves people to work and trade and live in as much freedom as possible.

America is only slightly less socialist than European nations. They have a vast government apparatus with dozens of bureaus. Since 9-11, there are more than a handful of intelligence and security bureaus who are given extreme powers over any individual. There are huge bureaus to monitor land, air and sea. To monitor and implement environmental regulations on industry and commerce, to implement consumer advocacy regulation which looks out for anti-trust, price fixing, price gouging, profiteering, reporting of financial statements etc etc. There is the behemoth IRS which taxes and collects, there is the military, the police, the navy, the air force the fire department, emergency response services.

America is not an ultra-capitalist nation.

Anyway ... About the movie.. Go see it, it's brilliant.