Thursday, July 23, 2009

Movie Review: Wall Street

Can I think of 2 words to sum up Oliver Stone's Wall Street ?

  • It blows.
  • Get real.
  • Bull-s@*t
  • Anti-capitalist
Seriously, this movie is so childishly simple, it just doesn't make sense. I could go over the entire plot, which at times seems plausible, but instead I'll just point out the plot twists that leave any intelligent person just gasping in disbelief.
  • Gordon Gekko as the ruthless capitalist who is shown to never consider any long term strategies that may be profitable - i.e he flatly rejects improving / cost-cutting any business he owns for future returns, but always opts to "trade" or sell-off the assets
  • Bud Fox as the blind obedient lackey of Gekko, becomes an industry spy, eager to follow and monitor other big players and give the insider information to Gekko. Of course, he was eager to sell his soul and betray everybody around him, and Gekko rewards him with countless millions. Is that what Oliver Stone thinks capitalism is all about ?
  • The SEC as the ever present and watchful authority who trap Bud Fox on charges of insider trading in the very end... are you kidding me ? The SEC couldn't catch Bernie Madoff and with their huge resources, have never been able to uncover anything at all that wasn't handed to them on a silver platter by the media and by industry insiders !
There are many more examples of how misguided Oliver Stone's anti-capitalist brain is. The truth is that free markets are not short-sighted, and they do not require some wise and prudent government oversight to steer them towards long term prosperity. In fact, business owners and employees are far better suited to plan for long term outcomes, whilst government bureacracies are much more fickle and held sway to short term political influences.

If free markets, which are based on individuals making free choices, were short sighted by nature, then we would see people spend all their money today, never build or renovate a home, never set themselves a budget, never manage to raise children, never manage to study a degree, never devote years towards developing their careers etc etc etc.

Oliver Stone's characterisation of capitalism as short term, profit grabbing, destructive game of backstabbing is ridiculous. Gordon Gekko plays a comic book villain, at one scene confessing that he "creates nothing, makes nothing, produces nothing for anybody".

Those working in banking and finance do indeed play a very productive and important role in an economy. First and foremost, they help determine prices for a whole range of assets - stocks, commodities, energy, private debt, sovereign debt. They create financial products to hedge risk - insure against future price movements, allocate capital to the best investments, and help liquidate the worst investments.

You don't see banking and finance workers building homes or cars or gadgets, but many of those real things do require some kind of finance.

Another ridiculous theme is that Charlie Sheen becomes more rude, aggressive, dishonest, disloyal and anti-social to his close friends and family as he becomes more succesful. The idea that climbing the corporate ladder means stepping on everyone else's head is something straight out of the communist manifesto.

The icing on the cake was the scene were Charlie Sheen is humiliated in front of his co-workers when the S.E.C catch him for insider trading, and arrest him in front of his floor. The very same S.E.C who slept through every financial scam and crisis in recent history.

There is one positive thing for me out of watching this

- if Wall Street sums up the very best case that the left wing can present against capitalism and free markets, then they really ought to think it through and get back to us when they've got some real theories.