Michael Moore Inadvertently Makes Case Against Film Subsidies (Again)

Rick Lowe of the Nassau Institute posted a blog entry April 3 about his experience with a group gathered near his home in the Bahamas to watch and discuss Michael Moore's latest film, "Capitalism: A Love Story."

Moore actually called into this group to say hello and talk about the importance of voting. In the exchange he fielded a question from Lowe in which Moore perhaps inadvertently made an argument about the insidious nature of government business subsidy programs, in particular ones like the Michigan Film Incentive program.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

Here is the context that makes this exchange potentially newsworthy: Mackinac Center analysts have reported that someone from the "Capitalism: A Love Story" production company applied for and was granted a Michigan film production subsidy worth as much as $1 million according to one published report. In his film Moore lambasts Wall Street bankers for taking taxpayer subsidies in the form of bailouts, despite the appearance that he has his own hand out, too.

The usually publicity-hungry Moore has been uncharacteristically unavailable for press interviews on this subject, which is what makes Rick Lowe's impromptu exchange noteworthy. Lowe agreed with Moore that crony capitalism was bad, but questioned Moore's willingness to accept taxpayer funds himself.

From Lowe's blog:

I asked if it was true that he was getting a subsidy from the Michigan government for the film as seen around the Internet. . . He indicated the studio wanted to get it, and then said something to the effect that we all know how the Internet is, never really denying or confirming he will take it. We'll see.

The implication is that the great capitalism iconoclast himself, Michael Moore, caved to the economic demands of a major studio — perhaps even an "international conglomerate."

One wonders how Wall Street bankers would have been treated in his film had their response to Moore's criticism been, "Our board of directors wanted it."

In addition, if someone with Moore's stature and reputation felt compelled to take the subsidy, isn't that an argument against creating these programs in the first place? In Michigan's case they appear to have done nothing to grow the state economy, much less increase employment in the "motion picture and sound recording" industries. They do, however, seem to be turning business owners into political entrepreneurs clamoring for state succor rather than value-generating entrepreneurs creating products people want.

Ending this program could save an estimated $155 million in fiscal 2010 and save Michael Moore the embarrassment of being seen himself as crony capitalist he claims to abhor.