The Story of Western Capitalism? Superman III.

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Shakespeare apparently said there were only seven stories.

Maybe that’s why so much of what happens in reality can be related back to a film, or a scene in a film? And when we examine the movie library for the story of Western Capitalism, which film most clearly demonstrates its strengths and failings? Which film sums it all up?

Wall Street? The Big Short? Margin Call?

Nope.

It’s Superman III.

Bear with me.

If you recall, the film begins with Superman as the master of all he surveys. He has defeated baddies, saved humanity, got a good job, found the woman he wants to marry, and things are generally going well.

But his enemy has been plotting his downfall.

Lex Luthor, the intellectual-yet-idiot who believed he could outwit and defeat Superman had discovered a weakness – Kryptonite.

And now, a small-time swindler (a miscast Richard Pryor) synthesises a shard of Kryptonite and embeds it into a gift that Superman accepts and is slowly poisoned by. As the Kryptonite leaches into Superman, it corrupts him into a loudmouthed swaggering drunkard, wholly unconcerned with matters that were previously his raison daitre.

And I suggest this perfectly describes the way the State corrupts free market capitalism and turns it into crony capitalism.

By its nature, free market capitalism is good – meritocratic, and able to resolve all the solvable resourcing problems of humanity as it fearlessly discovers prices, matches demand to supply and creatively destroys endeavours reliant on misallocated capital.

But once captured and poisoned by the State and its cronies, all that is noble and good becomes mere power, devoid of integrity it becomes malign, a terrible force with which the well-meaning imbeciles and their evil tyrannical cousins enslave humanity and confiscate all their resources for their own ends.

Before the Kryptonite, Superman humbly serves. Once adorned with it, he exclusively commands.

And of course this is why those who enslaved him yearned to do so – they desired power above all else, and who better to enslave if you desire power than the most powerful force in the world?

But here’s the stinger – once they have corrupted him, they point to his swaggering, felonies and misdemeanours. They claim that this conduct is due to his nature. And they insist that to protect us from him, they must be granted…………a bigger Kryptonite budget.

Our countrymen, knowing no better and having their attention ceaselessly drawn to the damage, are deceived – they become enthralled by these who wish to harm them, and sanction the further enslavement of the one who might have saved them.

And so the newspapers fill up with grotesque sanctimonious chatter about how capitalism has failed us, and we reach for our Dostoevsky…

“You cannot imagine what sorrow and anger seize one’s whole soul when a great idea, which one has long and piously revered, is picked up by some bunglers and dragged into the street, to more fools like themselves, and one suddenly meets it in the flea market, unrecognizable, dirty, askew, absurdly presented, without proportion, without harmony, a toy for stupid children.”

― Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons

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Michael van der Riet
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Michael van der Riet

Oh good you’ve been watching Planet of the Humans, the message of which is Blame Capitalism, snark.