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Inside Job (2010)
The film that cost $20,000,000,000,000 to make
Filmmaker(s): Charles Ferguson

A film that exposes the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008. The global financial meltdown, at a cost of over $20 trillion, resulted in millions of people losing their homes and jobs. Through extensive research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians and journalists, Inside Job traces the rise of a rogue industry and unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation and academia.

Inside Job (2010)


Okay, with everyone else on the planet, I suffer because the economy broke. And I was curious about a documentary supposedly Oscar-worthy. This is very good storytelling, and economical filmmaking. But it is pretty damning to say of anything that Oliver Stone‘s simplification was richer.

The problem any documentarian faces is the balance between telling an engaging story and exploring the thing of interest honestly. These folks decided to take the low road and tell a story that is true and upsetting: greedy men dangerously abuse power and win while everyone else pays. We watch and get upset. We easily can blame ‘the other‘ for our predicament.

These sorts of documentaries do more harm than good because they propagate the fiction that things really are as simple as bad guys doing bad things. The simpler we believe the world to be, the more surprised we will be when it behaves as it wants.

So it is not enough to be true, to make sense and to separate and absolve the viewer. We need to understand this with enough depth to be informed voters. Our responsibility goes beyond finding someone to punish, right?

I’ve become aware of two other parallel versions, both also true but more thought provoking.

One is that this depression is only the first tremor because collectively we take more and live better than we deserve. Most of us do things that just aren’t very valuable. There is a structural imbalance in our ability to pull more out of the world than we put back in. Call it greed if you want, and examine the fact that we bend the system for short term gain every bit as much as the villains here.

But there is a more interesting story. We just don’t know what we are doing with economics. It is not a well-founded science. Even the august academic experts are guessing. Putting them in front of cameras and accusing them of negligence is negligent journalism. It is akin to blaming greedy doctors for our health crisis or ‘bad teachers‘ for the collapse in education.

The truth is that no one knows. Yes, we have people whose predictions proved true. But if you do a study, you will find that there are always prophets of doom. Most turn out wrong and some turn out right but there is no connection between the quality of the insight and their gut feel. They are accidents, just like many high tech millionaires are and whose analyses we similarly trust.

What actually happened is that as many people were gaming the system as could, and everyone relied on the same analytical tools, tools that said things would be all right. We know where it broke: the Black???Scholes model which everyone on the planet used as if it were Newton‘s law of finance.

In due time, some intelligent filmmaker will do a documentary on the fallacy of logic in societal dynamics. She will explore why numbers should have never been the way to model value. And let‘s hope that she wins an Oscar for actually making us smarter.

Posted in 2011

Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.


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