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Global Viewpoint

Oliver Stone on Wall Street, Gordon Gekko, and Hugo Chávez

Oliver Stone talks about his two latest films, “South of the Border” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”

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If he loses, I guarantee you he will walk away. He will abide by the law.

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But the overarching point of my documentary is that Chávez and other leaders across Latin America I highlighted are giving the poor a chance they’ve never had.

Don’t take my word for it. The World Bank and the UN have both reported that extreme poverty in Venezuela is down 70 percent under Chávez. That is the bottom line.

Predatory capitalism

Gardels: At the end of the documentary you say you are against “predatory capitalism” and for “benign capitalism.”

You spend a lot of time in China, where a very raw capitalism has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty. Is China’s capitalism predatory?

Stone: There is certainly a harshly evolutionary competition that goes on in China. It’s a very Darwinian, survival of the fittest existence there. But it also a controlled capitalism. You can’t grow strong unless you have a deal with the state. But don’t get too strong or step out of line because the state will crush you.

But it’s not predatory capitalism in the sense that the whole effort is geared toward production and harnessed to lifting up the standard of living of the whole country.

And it is surely not a free market as we understand it in the West.

There are vast controls of currency and capital flows. I see this at my small level. I have an apartment in Beijing and I can tell you that moving currency freely is very difficult.

China is far less free than Venezuela economically and politically. In Venezuela, the Internet is free. There are 1,000 radio stations. Globovision, the TV station that fiercely and openly trashes Chávez on a regular basis, is Fox News on steroids.

Greed is legal

Gardels: Speaking of predatory capitalism, you are making a sequel to your 1987 film, “Wall Street”. While the take away line from that film was Michael Douglas gloating that “greed is good,” judging from the trailers I’ve seen, the take away from the sequel is “greed is legal.”

Does that express your view about how American capitalism has evolved over the past two decades?

Stone: Well, it fits. What led to the crash was banks overleveraging other people’s money – gambling – in complex trades of highly risky securities to “reach for yield” – that is, higher profits. Clearly there was some fraud as well as disinformation by rating agencies. But largely it was all legal.

The real issue, as Paul Volcker has pointed out, is whether banks like Goldman Sachs should be allowed to trade for themselves. Even if the new reform law limits them to 3.5 percent in their hedge funds, and even if those trades are listed on a public exchange, they still have a lot of room to play with that.

One problem now is that the fear of inflation has led the Fed to keep interest rates so low that there is so little return on bank deposits that anyone with reserves is forced to play in the volatile and risky market. We are all being forced into the casino business.