‘What kind of society isn’t structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of a system’ Milton Friedman
‘Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone’ John Maynard Keynes
September 2008 and the World’s financial system’s in meltdown. Billions of dollars will be lost in the culmination of irrational exuberance with consequent public demonstrations, rioting and further market turmoil. Governments will fall and millions of ordinary people around the planet will lose their savings, jobs and be left scared of the future. Mostly, they’ll be asking themselves ‘why’; why did this happen, why so quickly and why me? The award winning documentary ‘Inside Job’, currently showing in Dublin, addresses all these questions and leaves the viewer in no doubt that the 2008 collapse was a) preventable b) foreseeable and c) possibly criminal.
‘Inside Job’ tells a familiar tale of Wall Street influence, the enforced collapse of regulation, the enormous power of the financial services industry and the role of political sphere in buttressing the system. There are some heroes, regulators like Brooksley Born, economist Nouriel Roubini, and, perhaps surprisingly, the IMF (who warned of the derivatives time-bomb in 2005), but mostly villains; Larry Summers (a champion and enforcer of deregulation in the Clinton administration and, till recently, Director of Obama’s National Economic Council), Bush Jnr, CEOs on multimillion dollar salary and bonuses and, shamefully, an unholy alliance and glaring conflict of interest between business schools and Big Finance. There’s some hilarious interviews with Ivy League business professors who show themselves be so it’s laughable. The rating agencies (Moodys, Fitch, S&P) come in for rightful criticism too; their ratings usually weren’t worth the paper they were written on. The SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission, the principal regulator), failed in their duty to regulate and ‘regulatory capture’ became a further corrupting factor; the 2008 financial implosion was a result of an ‘inside job’; the ordinary Joe was left to carry the can.
The documentary exhibits some excellent stock footage and Matt Damon’s narration never fails to sound authoritative (despite, as far as this reviewer can attest, Damon being neither an economist nor a banker). ‘Inside Job’ keeps the viewer on board with slick editing and use of analogy; the numbers, while speaking for themselves, never become bigger than the central story of how the interests of Wall Street have superseded those of Main Street since the Reagan years. It’s Michael Moore without the stunts and better for that; there’s still jaw dropping moments aplenty as the level of corporate excess is never ceases to amaze.
‘Inside Job’ indicts the Obama administration for being under the sway of the same Wall Street cheerleaders that called the shots during the Bush years. This is unfair; Obama’s Finance Reform Bill provides for strengthened regulation, particularly on the mortgage holder/consumer side. However the filmmakers correctly excoriate the enormous lobbying power of the financial services industry; up to 3000 lobbyists operate in DC alone.; money still talks in DC. The only game in town is effective global regulation of the financial services industry or else we’ll have learnt nothing from the greatest economic disaster since the Wall Street Crash.
‘Inside Job’ is a superb documentary that will be seen as an historical resource in years comes; it stands up now as an incisive and compelling portrayal of how, In Dubya’s immortal phrase, this ‘sucker’ went down. As a stock tip, a definite buy.