So I just got back from seeing the movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and I was far from impressed. In fact, I was downright disappointed. I mean, I thought it would be a better choice than “Role Models” but now I feel that I might have been wrong.
Anyways, before I get into the main point of the article, let me explain the movie a bit to you. The whole premise of this flick is that aliens have come to earth to exterminate the human race in order to save the place from us. So apart from being a massively environmental propaganda piece, it also took the time to take jabs at the Iraq war and the US military in general (no pun intended). In fact, the only bright spot in the whole movie was the fact that Keanu Reeves got a role where his emotionless acting style was actually put to good use.
Alright, so before I explain the economic lessons we may be able to learn from this horrible movie, let me set up the scene. At about halfway through the movie, the alien (Keanu Reeves) ends up at a Nobel Prize winner’s house and they are discussing the impending doom of the human race. Reeves’ character mentions that his own race had to band together in order to save their planet when it was on the brink of destruction. To this, the Nobel Prize winner replies that the human race should have the same right to change and save their planet (not from the aliens, mind you, but from ourselves). If the aliens destroy the human race, they will never have the chance to excel and save themselves.
Obviously, I’m paraphrasing but the basic gist of this whole conversation is that the most innovation, change, and action take place when a civilization is on the brink of destruction (Pop Culture Reference: This is why people like Al Gore are saying we only have five years to fix things).
So what’s the economic lesson? Think about it this way. If we look at the recent mortgage crisis, and the economy as the whole, one could compare it to the earth in the movie: there’s been some bad decisions made that have been detrimental to its health so something needs to be done. Obviously, the stock market tumble and business bankruptcies are comparable to the tipping point the aliens mention in the movie: choices need to be made now that will affect how things play out in the end.
Now the next comparison is where I will probably get some people mad at me. I think that the US Federal Government is like the aliens in the movie. These aliens come to earth wanting to save it just like the federal government did with its bailouts. And just like the aliens want to destroy the human race in an effort to save the world, the government bailouts greatly damaged our country’s free market and principles.
So instead of letting the threat of impending financial disaster beget innovation and change that would ultimately be beneficial, the government, just like the aliens in the movie, wanted a quick fix to the problem. By bailing out the market, the government has removed any need for businesses to innovate and change in order to stay alive. Instead, all will be able to continue their old (failing) practices which will most likely lead to market stagnation (Case in point: Just watch and see how much the Big Three actually change).
Now does Neo… err…I mean Keanu Reeves’ character decide to save the human race or just the world? Well this isn’t a spoiler blog so I guess you will just have to suffer through the movie to find out. However, I will say that, in relationship with my elaborate comparison above, I did like his choice a lot better than the US government’s.