The Mises blog published a scathing critique of Wall-E, an animated film about garbage and the future last week. In principle I agree with the critique, I enjoyed it much more before I watched WALL-E though. The film does make a statement about lifestyle, consumption and even obesity, I would hesitate to call it anti-capitalist or anti-liberty though.
It is easy of course to suggest that the definition of capitalism relies on the idea that it breeds corporate monopolies like Buy’n’Large. The trouble is with this sort of association. ‘Free Markets’ are not about single large corporations taking over the world, they are about small competitive enterprises. Anti-trust law is a free-market phenomenon to that extent.
To me the homogeneity aboard the axiom, where everyone wore red or blue, drank the same food and had little time to pursue creativity or innovation was as real an analogy as one could get to Stalinist Communism or Communism in China before they ‘opened up’. The problem with centrally planned States is that they decide (representation does not work for the economy as it does for politics) for the people, centrally planned economies choose prices (leading to disastrous consequences) , decide what needs to be produced and also as history tells us- decide what people’s careers, lives and even homes should look like.
The problem is not ideological- its economics. When people vote for communism, they vote for central planning. Look at Zimbabwe (where people have NOT continued to vote for central planning) where one dictator decided expanded public expenditure was a good thing, printed money and drove up the money supply to inflation rates well past the 1500 % mark. People cannot predict the price of bread in Zimbabwe beyond 1 hour.
WALL-E is also a story about love. It is also about how people and in this case robots always gather together to fight authoritarianism. Certainly its message to ‘return to agriculture’ carries an ‘environmentalism’ tag as did the lovely animated movie ‘Happy Feet’; and neither is very pleasing when you know that most environmentalists lie about virgin forests, global warming, bio-fuels and waste!
However I think one could find liberty in WALL-E. What could be more libertarian than a fight for choice, a fight against authority (or authoritative robots)? What could be more libertarian than love? On balance I think its better to spend an afternoon watching beautiful animation which teaches children to defy authority than to quibble about a film’s political message- when all it takes to change minds on most issues, is a wee-bit of research.