4 May 2011

The One Percent

Last night I watched "The One Percent," a 2006 documentary about the wealthiest Americans (The film should probably be called the "Point One Percent.") The film was created and is narrated by Jamie Johnson, an heir to the Johnson and Johnson fortune. There's much here that won't surprise you. Some of the wealthy people justify their wealth, while others say simply that they don't know what could be done to fix things. For me, the most interesting comments were when the interviewees kept warning Jamie to "be careful" and to not rock the boat. The possibility of upheaval or outright revolution seems to be much more real to these people than it is to the other 99%. One also senses that extreme wealth creates tremendous unconscious fear--there's a lot to lose after all.

The film includes a few more noble types such as Bill Gates, Sr., who has pushed for the government to maintain the estate tax. Milton Friedman comes off as quite an idiot, insisting at one point that money from the wealthy or corporations doesn't influence the U.S. government at all and that the government does exactly what the public wants. As a pointed counter-argument, the documentary chronicles U.S. government's support for the sugar industry--a policy that costs jobs, costs both tax-payers and consumers a lot of money, damages the environment, and further enriches billionaires. The documentary's worth seeing. While short on definitive answers, it certainly asks the right questions.

Link: Another review of the film


bookworm said...

I agree the Milton Friedman looks intolerant and idiotic in the film. I love how he ends with accusing Jamie of being a socialist and then just saying he doesn't want to deal with him anymore. Why was such a shamefully inadequate theory of economics heralded as so great? Oh yeah, money.

Karlo said...

The claim that corporate money doesn't buy favors, in addition to being completely counter to common-sense, goes against very solid empirical research findings that Friedman, as an academic, would have to be aware of. I guess one can't expect too much from anyone when there's a lot of money on the table. After all, there are self-styled academics who tell us that Jesus ran around with dinosaurs and that the Grand Canyon was the result of a recent 40-day flood.