The Anti-Capitalist Documentary That Can Make You Love Ayn Rand


That's what economist and sometimes Reason magazine contributor Tyler Cowen says about The End of Poverty in a slashing review in The American Interest. The nub:

I can only report that The End of Poverty, narrated throughout by Martin Sheen, puts Ayn Rand back on the map as an accurate and indeed insightful cultural commentator. If you were to take the most overdone and most caricatured cocktail-party scenes from Atlas Shrugged, if you were to put the content of Rand's "whiners" on the screen, mixed in with at least halfway competent production values, you would get something resembling The End of Poverty. If you ever thought that Rand's nemeses were pure caricature, this film will show you that they are not (if the stalking presence of Naomi Klein has not already done so). If you are looking to benchmark this judgment, consider this: I would not say anything similar even about the movies of Michael Moore.

In this movie, the causes of poverty are oppression and oppression alone. There is no recognition that poverty is the natural or default state of mankind and that a special set of conditions must come together for wealth to be produced. There is no discussion of what this formula for wealth might be. There is no recognition that the wealth of the West lies upon any foundations other than those of theft, exploitation and the oppression of literal or virtual colonies. 

Cowen is also annoyed that the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, ostensibly dedicated to the work of eccentric free-market economic thinker and polemicist Henry George (he of the single-tax-on-unimproved-land fame) funded this documentary:

…the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation should be ashamed for having funded this movie. The Schalkenbach Foundation was set up in 1925 to promote the thinking of Henry George, best known as the author of Progress and Poverty and advocate of a tax on land. George was a flawed but brilliant and incisive thinker. He understood that wealth needs to be produced, and he also understood the strong case for free trade, most of all to protect the interests of labor. His 1886 book Protection or Free Trade remains perhaps the best-argued tract on free trade to this day; in that book George refutes exactly the arguments put forward by The End of Poverty. Has Diaz, Sheen, Portello or anyone working today at the Schalkenbach Foundation read it? One has to wonder if anyone who has read George could lend a hand to the production of the screed of mistruths and error that is The End of Poverty.