Monday, May 4, 2015

Four Horsemen (2012)

Director: Ross Ashcroft
Writer:    Ross Ashcroft
Features: Noam Chomsky, Joseph Stiglitz, Herman Daly

Documentary takes a look at the systemic issues concerned with the form of capitalism pursued by Western Democracies, mainly United States of America. It criticizes the system of fractional reserve banking, debt-based economy and political lobbying by banks and corporations and regards them as a threat to Western civilization.

I first encountered the Biblical concept of 'Four Men of the Apocalypse' when Liverpool fans made a banner on this theme during the fight against the American owners of the club, Tom Hicks & George Gillett. In the banner both of them were depicted along with the CEO, Christian Purslow, and Chairman, Sir Martin Broughton, with question marks over the last two.
In the end the latter two proved useful in ousting the owners but Purslow, who referred to himself as Fernando Torres of Finance, was culpable in getting rid of Rafa Benitez and bringing in Roy Hodgson as the manager of the club and playing Fifa Manager with the club playing squad. 

In this documentary the four horsemen of apocalypse are: Financial sector which is acting as a parasite, wars being fought in the name of War on Terror and democratic evangelism, poverty and resource crunch due to consumption driven economic growth model. Systemic issues that exist in US economy coupled with its political system, which is driven by campaign contribution and lobbying, is known to people who pays attention to these things and the documentary will be good watch for those who are not familiar with those problems. Many documentaries have been made with similar theme, like The Corporation, but a common problem with them is that they just end up as an outright attack on Capitalism without any solution. This documentary is aware about that and includes a statement that people will criticize it as an advocacy for Socialism. Capitalism have won the battle against socialism and documentary makers embraces it by advocating it, but wants a return to classical economics model, instead of the neo-classical model unleashed under Reagan and Thatcher, and a return to Gold Standard instead of the Fiat system. I don't personally agree with the latter proposal of a return to Gold standard. Fiat currency model is better and fractional reserve banking system can work with the right kind of regulations. Problem is that the elite are shoving down our throats the idea that capitalism means deregulation and always manage to implement a system of 'Socialism for the rich and Capitalism for the poor', the best example of it being the bank bailout during the sub-prime crisis. It is moral hazard to bail out the poor by writing off debt but it is apparently not when you bail out big banks which failed in managing its risk or worse who knowingly made loans which they knew were never gonna get repaid but was fine with it since they were gonna get bailed out anyway during a financial crisis.

The version I saw was 99 minutes long and apparently there is an official 144 minutes long official version of it. Overall the version I saw was a very good watch even though I don't agree it with entirely, especially the solution that it offers. I wonder what the extra 45 minutes of it contains. Another part of solution that it offers is change in the taxation policy to reform the current form which helps in wealth preservation of elite. It proposes abolition of the concept of income tax and instead proposes that taxation should be based on consumption. Also the rentier economy things like land, natural resources etc should be taxed heavily so that inequality is reduced by preventing concentration of wealth. I broadly agree with this and find taxation of land based on its market value can also provide a solution for usage of land as a way of hiding black money in economies like India. Instead of trying to tax when transfer of ownership takes place, you tax the owner instead, every year, based on the value of land he owns. 

The documentary is not as compelling as the ones done by Adam Curtis since it largely features number of intellectuals explaining things for you. Adam Curtis have handled all these things but he did it over several different documentaries and you need to watch all of them to get a full picture. So this documentary has its place by providing a useful synopsis for people who have not seen anything similar prior to this. But I definitely recommend Adam Curtis documentaries for everyone, especially Pandora's Box, Century of the Self, The Power of Nightmares, The Trap and Bitter Lake. The Youtube video titled 'Money as Debt' is also a very good watch for people who are not familiar with fractional reserve banking.

Rating: 3.5/5