Whenever I met this friend of mine – whose identity I wish to protect here – inevitably we (or rather he) would talk about making money from the stock market, about his portfolio, which I estimate to be close to a million dollar by now. Or over half a million. Either way, it is way more than what I could imagine. Inevitably, I find myself asking the same question – like a student who just doesn’t get it – “what have you contributed specifically in order to be rewarded with so much money?” My understanding in economy is basic. I can see that if you spend time making bread, if there are customers buying your bread, you get paid for what you have worked for. And the contribution of a bread maker to the society is, bread. Following that thought, what exactly have the stock traders and investors contributed to our society to be potentially rewarded with that much money?
My friend would shrug and say, “We take part in becoming part of the ‘market sentiment’, the kind of momentum that collectively moves market.” And I would ask, “But why do we have to create such sentiment?” He would continue, “Well, mass public plays only a small part. The corporations take up majority of the market share. We are just hoping to make a fraction of what the riches are making.”
In Michael Moore’s new film “Capitalism: A Love Story”, he exposed a confidential report Citibank has made for their top clients. The report declared the ‘United States a “plutonomy” (plutocracy), with the top one percent of the population controlling more financial wealth than the bottom 95 percent’. It also reported that the threat to this is the one-person-one-vote policy. In short, the way I see it, if the people gang up against the super-riches, the system will topple. But why wouldn’t the people do that? Why do people accept their living condition as it is today? It is because in America, there is this American dream. That one day, people may make it to the top 1%. Wouldn’t toppling the system ruin this wonderful American dream that is fueled by capitalism? I think this is the main theme of the film.
Like his other films, Michael Moore uses simple terms orchestrated by people’s emotion to expose certain facts. I have my reservation if what he says is true in entirety. Having said that, he does bring out some good discussion points on the regulators and the government and the financial institutions, capitalism and its not too glamorous reality. One may find it puzzling why Michael Moore brings religion into the equation. In my understanding, American is still very much a country that emphasises on Christian values. To that end, it seems natural to hear what the Church has to say about capitalism.
I am not from America. Hence, the impact to me is minimal. It is a good documentary on one of the leading countries of the world. I can imagine that Americans may feel the emotional impact watching “Capitalism: A Love Story”. Perhaps disgusted by the system and the people involved. Personally, I do not have the sudden revelation of “American is not that great after all”, like some of the other viewers. I understand that there is no perfect country in this world.
And back to the stock investment discussion with my well-do-do friend. I always end our conversation with, “I don’t think the stock market is for me.”