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Opinion

Michael Moore ignores capitalism's blessings

'Capitalism: A Love Story' seems more like a documentary of capitalism's authoritarian losers, rather than its democratic winners.

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Additionally, Moore laments that society has yet to learn from the antipatent altruism of Jonas Salk, who donated the intellectual property of his polio vaccine to the public domain. However, research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Eric von Hippel shows that individuals are increasingly sharing their innovations, especially within the medical industry.

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So widespread is this movement, that my own father, a small-town Midwestern eye doctor, gives a free annual lecture advising developing nations on a cheap alternative to cataract machines he discovered. Because of the Internet, everyone from medical professionals to gadget enthusiasts have a convenient way to share their passions.

Open source is government-free and self-sustaining

In fact, many public-domain innovations have developed into their own financially sustainable system. Much of the Internet is run by patent-free "open source" software. Open source permits anyone to modify a program, as long as their modifications are made publicly available.

As some open-source projects reach millions of individual contributors, financial assistance is needed to pay for websites and data storage. Technology megacorporations, such as Cisco, happily sponsor open-source software; it not only gives them great publicity, but ensures access to software they find more efficient than commercial products.

As a result of free software, developing nations can afford to purchase more computers, adding to the ever growing user-base of open-source software. A thriving industry of open-source tech support and hardware accessories has developed in response to increasing demand.

Finally, though Moore advocates federal assurances of individual financial security, government assistance can hurt more than it helps.

A chorus of economists have claimed that billions in federal aid to Africa have done little more than enrich corrupt politicians and entrench villages into unsustainable dependence on foreign governments. This is precisely why the 2006 Nobel Prize went to research on a capitalist solution: microloans, low-interest payments to tiny textile and agricultural entrepreneurs.

Kiva, a Clinton Global Initiative microloan organization, has put thousands of communities on their first path to self-sustaining prosperity. Often, Kiva's beneficiaries are women who become financially independent of abusive family relationships.

While capitalism is not perfect, African female entrepreneurs, employees at The Container Store, computer owners in developing nations, and the children wearing Tom's shoes would probably argue that the free market is far from evil.

Gregory Ferenstein is a Peltason fellow at the University of California Center for the Study of Democracy.

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