Avatar Movie: Anticapitalist? Not Really

Published on: 03:03AM Jan 02, 2010
By Matt Bogard

I've read a few reviews of the movie Avatar, and many of them make the claim that the movie has an 'anti-capitalist' message. Having seen the movie, I didn't see anything that made me think of capitalism. Anyone that has seen the new movie Avatar might agree that there are a lot of lessons that one could take away from the story. Among the many themes, one might suggest that the story is about corporate greed. Someone else might say that it is about environmental exploitation. While you might say that the people in Avatar are struggling with issues related to corporate greed and environmental exploitation, you could not say that capitalism is an issue. This movie offers a teachable moment and an important lesson in economics.

If a capitalist system had been adopted, there would have been no conflict between the two societies. Issues could have been resolved by peaceful,cooperative, mutually beneficial, voluntary exchange. ( a good description of capitalism) The absence of force, is by definition a necessary and sufficient condition for capitalism. There are two things that cannot be achieved at gun point- charity and capitalism.

Ask yourself, was this movie about peaceful cooperative solutions or using violent means to serve an end?
Was the private company that seemed to be central to the plot really a private company- or was it the result of some public private partnership? Was it a government sponsored enterprise? If not, was this the only company on the planet ? I saw no indication that it was in competition with rivals- so if it wasn't a government sponsored enterprise did it achieve monopoly status through some sort of regulatory advantage? The instituional arrangement that would allow for such unaccountable behavior as this company exhibited, and that made use of force, was something other than capitalism.

While some might like to characterize what they saw in the film as capitalism, and may think that it provides an anti-capitalist message, they are wrong. If anything it stands to show the dangers of posed in the absence of property rights, liberty, and voluntary exchange. I remember my geography teacher playing a song ( 'Beds are Burning' by Midnight Oil) and proceeding to tell us how freedom and capitalism was destroying the planet. I hope such a great movie like Avatar is not misused in the same way.

Avatar was about a lot of things, but capitalism was not one of them.