Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Incredible Bread Machine

I stumbled upon this film as I was searching for something to write about and I decided that I would do a review about it. The link above however, also includes an introduction and interviews at the end which talk about the film, which is itself is about 30 minutes. First, this film was made in the seventies, but it and the additional material at the beginning and end are in black and white, so it has the feel of a film from the fifties or sixties. Second, the film contains multiple segments which demonstrate the points that they are putting forward and in between them there are conversations that were filmed. These "conversations" are clearly scripted before filming as they hit exactly the points the film is about, but they are filmed as if they are part of some kind of "behind the scenes" feature. Third, much of the dialog, particularly the parts with "men of street" speaking, is rather cheesy (maybe in the seventies it was not, though I doubt it).

That said, it lays out the libertarian case against government intervention in a comprehensive way, as opposed to rather occasional paeans that one hears or reads from Republican party or otherwise right-wing hacks. On that note, it critiques the very concept of government regulation, that Republicans favor if it is "reasonable", by showing that the ability of the government to set the rules of the market means that lobbyists will simply use legislation to remove their competition. The movie does not get to the bread machine until the end and that parable is about the irrationality that is involved in monopoly regulation. The inventor of the bread machine is caught in a hopeless situation by the trust busters as high prices will be considered gouging, low prices will be deemed predatory and similar prices to that of competitors will be taken as proof of collusion. Murray Rothbard even appears near the beginning to talk about housing policy and states how more buildings have been destroyed than replaced and that the replacements are upper income, so the poorer former residents are out of luck.

Secretary of the Treasury, William E. Simon appears at the beginning segment to heartily praise the film and espouse his wholehearted belief in free markets. Simon however, also served as the "Energy Czar" for President Ford; apparently he did not seem to believe the free market could handle the important task of what and how much energy people used. At the end of the film there are two interviews, the first one was with Walter Heller who served as the defender of government intervention. He defended intervention by stating that though there are bad policies, overall government regulation works fine. The interview speaks for itself, but noteworthy is that his first example he uses as excesses of the market is the use of kickbacks and bribes. The power of government to intervene in the first places means there is even a reason for bribes and kickbacks. One point I wish that had brought up in the interview is how government intervention leads to unforeseen consequences that demand more intervention.

Finally, the last part of the video is the interview with Milton Friedman who is touted as the great defender of the free market. Friedman had a number of beliefs and helped enact a number of policies that were supportive of government connected businesses that I should get into in other postings. For this interview however, he was on target in attacking government intervention. I had not seen much of Friedman on film before so I was surprised at how entertaining he actually was. So, while showing this to a group of school children will likely get rolled eyes and sarcastic comments because of the cheesiness, if one is able to get passed that it could be a decent film getting the untutored interested in libertarianism.

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