Since I got my Genie from DirecTV, I’ve started recording shows to watch when I have time to sit still for a while. One of the programs I record is Moyers and Company on PBS. In an interview today and set to air tomorrow as well (based on my onscreen guide), the creator of HBO’s The Wire David Simon talks about American capitalism amongst other details. The video above is the entire interview, and it’s quite interesting to hear what he has to say.
There are some areas where I agree with Simon, and there are some areas where I would disagree as well. One of the agreements is one of the first things he says.
DAVID SIMON: I don’t think that you can call the American government anything other than broken at this point. And I think the break has come at the legislative level. I mean, that’s the part of the government that has been purchased.
You can buy these guys on the cheap. And the capital’s been at it a long time and the rules have been relaxed. The Supreme Court has walked away from any sort of responsibility to maintain democracy at that level. That’s the aspect of government that’s broken.
And it doesn’t matter whether it’s Obama or Clinton or Bush or anybody at this point.
We see that every two years. No matter what we say we want, we end up with the same choices on the ballot, bad or worse. Elections are no longer contests between the candidates with the best ideas. Elections are now contests between the best financed people. The better your war chest, the better your chances of winning an election. Once elected, your chances of being reelected are quite well.
The people buying the candidates are writing the laws that are helping them better their bottom line with no inclination to help the rest of America. It’s all about padding personal income and nothing else. There was an Op-Ed written in the NY Times not too long ago by Sam Polk, For the Love of Money, that describes what is probably the mindset for some of those whose sole focus is padding their pocket. There’s nothing wrong with a person making money, and I don’t begrudge those with the drive to better themselves. When your drive leaves you with no qualms about destroying those around you as well as destroying the country, then that’s a different thing altogether.
Capitalism is fueled by the desire to do better. When that desire turns to greed, then that’s where capitalism tends to feed on itself in my view. One point of disagreement I have with Simon is based around the idea of capitalism and free markets.
DAVID SIMON at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas: Ultimately we abandoned that and believed in the idea of trickle-down and the idea of the market economy and the market knows best, to the point where now libertarianism in my country is actually being taken seriously as an intelligent mode of political thought. It’s astonishing to me, but it is. People are saying I don’t need anything but my own ability to earn a profit. I’m not connected to society. I don’t care how the road got built, I don’t care where the firefighter comes from, I don’t care who educates the kids other than my kids. I am me. It’s the triumph of the self. I am me, hear me roar.
I think Libertarianism should be considered as seriously as Conservatism and Liberalism. That’s what balances America out. If we were all Liberals, all Conservatives, or all Libertarians, then America wouldn’t exist. The idea of free markets themselves is a foundation of capitalism. If you can control the greed aspect, then I think the markets would somewhat self-check itself. The reason it doesn’t do that now is because America is, for the most part, a very self-centered and selfish country. It’s not a good or bad thing, but that’s just reality. We want things instantly. We want things perfect. We don’t look out for our neighbors like we used to. In our cookie cutter neighborhoods, many of us don’t know more than 2-3 families near us. There’s no more of the communal spirit that was fostered by acts as simple as borrowing sugar from the next door neighbor.
Overall, the interview is worth watching. There is another part of the interview that will air next week, and the DVR will ensure that I get to see that as well.