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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/14364/a-movie-that-gets-it-right/

A Movie That Gets It Right

October 26, 2010 by

The Social Network is not only a super exciting and wonderful movie on its own terms; it is probably the finest movie about free enterprise made in our times.

We are born into this world believing that success in anything will be met with praise and acclaim. We are not often told the truth that we see in this film: success is more likely to be met by envy, hate, disparagement, put downs, and loathing, sometimes from the most unexpected sources.

FULL REVIEW by Jeffrey Tucker


Vitor October 26, 2010 at 8:17 am

Great article, Jeffrey!

cy October 26, 2010 at 8:42 am

“… squeezed out of the company when the top players, among whom is another legend, Shawn Fanning of Napster, concluded that he wasn’t really up to the job.”

I think you mean Sean Parker here.

Jeffrey Tucker October 26, 2010 at 8:55 am

yep, fixed

J Cortez October 26, 2010 at 9:01 am

cy: I thought both Seans/Shawns of Napster fame are involved?

Nice review. I wasn’t going to see the movie, but now I’m curious. I laughed at the reference to Ezra Klein, the Washington Post reviewer, who turned his review into a piece calling for more socialism in business.

Andy October 26, 2010 at 9:02 am

Great Article Mr. Tucker.

I was waiting for you to write a review and comment on this movie. It’s really a great work of art with a brilliant screenplay (by Aaron Sorkin).

“If you had invented Facebook, you would have invented Facebook.”

Best line of the movie.

Stephen Adkins October 26, 2010 at 9:26 am

Even if “The Government Network” didn’t do well at the box office, it wouldn’t mean anything. Obviously the Great Unwashed can’t be trusted to know good art when they see it.

Rick Ackerman October 26, 2010 at 10:14 am

Too bad Zuckerberg could not have applied his supposed genius toward creating something made of bricks and mortar that would have added real wealth to this world rather than yet one more place for advertisers and eyeballs to meet. I agree, though, that it was a pretty good movie.

Stephen Adkins October 26, 2010 at 10:19 am

Wealth, like the valuation thereof, is subjective. If one’s quality of life improves, it can be said that that person has become that much _wealthier._ I would say that, especially for the 500 million willing facebook users, a great deal of wealth has been created through Zuckerberg’s contributions. This can be demonstrated by the mere facts that so many people joined and use the product every day, and that advertisers and other investors are willing to spend so much money to be a part of it.

Michael J. Green October 26, 2010 at 11:26 am

Not only the enjoyment experienced by hundreds of millions of people, Facebook, like the Internet at large, has greatly lowered information costs. How many employers use Facebook to quickly and effortlessly learn about a potential employee? How many people use Facebook to network and find talent?

How many eager individuals use it to check the relationship status of someone they fancy, and thus figure out whether they should spend money trying to woo said person? Eh? EH?

panika2008 October 26, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Do you actually believe that your (I assume) country needs more strip malls and waterfront condos under circumstances of record low demand for real estate in spite of record low mortgage rates and vast amounts of real estate just sitting dormant and falling to pieces? Wow!

On a serious note, your lack of recognition of what consumers actually demand (not what they should demand) sets you apart from able capitalist visionaries like Mr Zuckerberg… Well, I guess not everyone is born to run a successful business.

Russ the Apostate October 26, 2010 at 3:16 pm

What’s wrong with advertisement? That is where producer and consumer meet (or at least one place where they can meet), and without producer and consumer meeting, neither can make a trade that makes them both subjectively better off.

Norman October 26, 2010 at 10:19 am

Maybe this is beating a dead horse with a stick, but I don’t see how FaceBook is related to intellectual property. FaceBook is a licensed trademark. Anyone can set up an identical type of website, but the only thing they should not be able to do is call it FaceBook. I also enjoyed the movie. Maybe you could do a weekly movie review.

El Tonno October 27, 2010 at 7:53 am

1) Be anyone
2) Set up an identical type of website
3) Be successful
4) ????
5) What patent law attorneys break your door

Sam October 26, 2010 at 10:27 am

Too bad Zuckerberg recently pledged $100 million to Newark, NJ’s public schools.

Jeffrey Tucker October 26, 2010 at 11:29 am

yes, this is ironic isn’t it? Private enterprise bailing out the state. Wow.

All successful capitalists are required to play ball with the state these days – else they face a death sentence eventually.

Bob Kaercher October 26, 2010 at 11:56 am

Zuckerberg’s donation to the NJ publick skewl rathole was a PR move, no doubt, designed to mitigate his image in advance of the movie’s release as the pre-release rumor had it that he was being portrayed as kind of an a-hole in the film. That the movie depicts him as pulling a jerky move or two was one of the many reasons that I actually liked it: The “Mark Zuckerberg” in the movie is a complex, believable human being you can understand, warts and all. (And he doesn’t come off as being nearly as much of a jerk as the advance word had it, anyways.)

It’s sort of what I imagine Garet Garrett to be writing if he were around today, a kind of “Cinder Buggy” or “The Driver” of the digital age.

Jeffrey Tucker October 26, 2010 at 4:16 pm

“It’s sort of what I imagine Garet Garrett to be writing if he were around today, a kind of “Cinder Buggy” or “The Driver” of the digital age.”


noah October 26, 2010 at 10:59 am

It’s a movie review. It’s a libertarian critique of IP. It’s a movie review AND a libertarian critique of IP! What a great idea – why don’t you patent it?

I’ve rarely gotten so much pleasure out of a movie review – thanks!

EnEm October 26, 2010 at 11:58 am

It _is_ “an impossibly boring story”. And only pimple-faced punks who believe in caussless “giving back to the people” would get satisfaction in things like “popularity” and “coolness”. Do you think for a minute that Howard Roarke would have cared about “popularity” and “coolness”?

I am not attacking the achievement but am infuriated at the motivation.

panika2008 October 26, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Actually I think popularity and coolness are good bets for this man’s motivations. Not being formally educated in business, management and/or finance, and especially being an engineer is a great prerequisite for having a ton of (moderately benevolent) delusions. I know several people that run or have run IT startups and I would say that for no more than half of them the raw profit is their main motivation.

RTRebel October 28, 2010 at 9:40 pm

“Do you think for a minute that Howard Roarke would have cared about “popularity” and “coolness”?”

Steve Jobs certainly cared somewhat, and he’s certainly one of the great giants of entrepreneurship today. His iPad is supposed to be the next revolution in digital media. All he did was make an old pc tablet look “pretty” and “cool” with updated features. NOW everyone wants one!

Popularity and coolness may not be ideal as an end in itself, but it is a great means to a greater end, like improve the social welfare of society through free market means.

EnEm October 26, 2010 at 12:02 pm

It _is_ “an impossibly boring story”. And only pimple-faced punks who believe in causeless “giving back to the people” would get satisfaction in things like “popularity” and “coolness”. Do you think for a minute that Howard Roarke would have cared about “popularity” and “coolness”?

I am not attacking the achievement but am infuriated at the motivation.

Tom Rapheal October 26, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Popularity = money…

Will Kane October 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm

On your point that the movie makes “the legal system look like the pathetic enemy of enterprise that it truly is,”–agreed, but Zuckerberg’s best friend, who was hoodwinked out of his rightful share (yes!), was at least able to share in the profits (though we don’t know any real details) by means of this (admittedly pathetic) system. He was, after all, the initial investor, the first to support the dreamer with thousands of dollars…and Zuckerberg (at least in the movie) simply chucked him aside, despite his investments, when someone “cooler” (Parker) told him to do so. I would have liked to see more in your review about his case.

Great piece!

Jeffrey Tucker October 26, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Just not too sympathetic to the friend who tried to pull the plug. Zucker might have been more strategic in dealing with him as a problem but he did express regret at how Sean was too tough.

Michael R Stoddard October 26, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Thank you thank you thank you Jeff.

Please continue to review books and movies.
Would love to know your thoughts on such books as Anathem by Neal Stephenson.


ET October 26, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Jeff is soooo right about the envy. Many years ago when software could not be patented, ideas were shared and the reward was notoriety. We had user group meetings that programmers of a particular computer would show off an idea. The best session was always the “magic” session.

One year, a fellow programmer had the idea of creating a “virtual disc” (today this would be like a partition on a disc drive). One could use a file as though it were a complete disc drive. His reward was recognition. He became editor of the user journal and was made king of magic that year.

A few years later, there was a new computer with a totally different way of dealing with disc devices. My friend and I struggled to duplicate this virtual disc idea, and we enhanced it with variations. We had ram disks, compressed disks, and encrypted disks. But when we dared to SELL the idea, we were met with envy you couldn’t believe. Not only did the guy never speak to us again, he never even left the old computer (which became obsolete a few years later) and thus lost all the prestige he had gained earlier. Fortunately he didn’t sue us. He wasn’t able to patent the idea.

Of course, little did he ever realize that I had once written a Virtual Tape driver for a computer that didn’t have disc drives some 10 years earlier yet. I used ram (called core in those days) to simulate tape drives – because I had become allergic to the reel to reel tape drives in use where I worked. The magnetic resins on the tape would get on my hands and then into my eyes. Editing a program had required me to change reels of tape so often I was forced to do something about it.

So, I was actually the prior art. Or was I???? Well, it turns out there was a programmer where I worked who had even earlier wrote a virtual printer driver and taught me how to write drivers. So, as Jeff says, nobody ever has an idea that is totally original.

John B October 26, 2010 at 1:39 pm

I agree with much of what you say. The need for freedom, initiative, enterprise, the reduction of statist interference. The responsibility and freedom of the individual being the ideal.
However I have a slight problem with something that I was having difficulty identifying.
Reading the comments I came to Norman’s comment:
Norman October 26, 2010 at 10:19 am
Maybe this is beating a dead horse with a stick, but I don’t see how FaceBook is related to intellectual property. FaceBook is a licensed trademark. Anyone can set up an identical type of website, but the only thing they should not be able to do is call it FaceBook. I also enjoyed the movie. Maybe you could do a weekly movie review.

Perhaps that is it? If intellectual property and such artificial restriction of concepts and ideas is to be abhorred, what is to stop one setting up an identical website AND calling it FaceBook?

RWW October 26, 2010 at 8:57 pm

That’s easy: There’s a domain name registration system that tells everyone’s browser how to get to “facebook.com”.

John B October 27, 2010 at 3:04 am

So we are accepting morality has no place whatsoever, and it very simply is: What you can get away with? I can see that as a viable society model but I’m not sure where it would take one. Perhaps where we are now – where the cleverest have formed a coercive cartel and called it the state?

An Author Who Got it Wrong October 26, 2010 at 2:19 pm

“At one point in the film, a student comes up to Zuckerberg and asks him whether he knows if some particular girl has a boyfriend and, if so, how serious they are…By the standards of IP, the fellow student who asked him this question has some stake in the profits of Facebook, because that exchange gave rise to a crucial feature of the website.”

That “student” was Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook and roommates with Mark Zuckerberg. And yes, he does have a stake in the company.

If you managed to look at any of the ConnectU court proceedings and history you would realize that the vast majority of claims are NOT IP-related, but rather deal with breach of contract and fraud. I’m sure you will agree that fraud hurts enterprise.

You will also see that the ConnectU co-founders started legal action over 6 years ago, when the website had only a handful of users. No one came out of the woodwork, as you would like to believe, nor did anyone attempt to step in the way of the company or destroy it.

Why have you distorted the readily available facts of a legal proceeding to further your own agenda regarding IP?

Jeffrey Tucker October 26, 2010 at 4:22 pm

I deliberately dealt with the movies “facts” and not real life. That is a different article. In real life, my understanding is that Eduardo Saverin actually owned 7%, not 0.03%

An Author Who Got it Wrong October 29, 2010 at 10:36 am

Jeff, all of the facts stated in the comment above are not only part of the public record, but they are also reflected accurately in the movie. There is no distortion between the movie facts and real-life facts (so you can’t hide behind the movie “facts” strawman argument).

How is it that you twisted them to such an extent? It’s incredulous that you have tried to further some bizarre agenda against the current state of IP laws.

Ironically, you have unknowingly undercut yourself. Take for example this statement: “the fellow student who asked him this question has some stake in the profits of Facebook, because that exchange gave rise to a crucial feature of the website.””

You seem to use this as an example of how ridiculous our IP system can be, that someone with an idea who contributes to a project would be able to “improperly” profit from their contribution. Well the “student” in your example from the movie, is Dustin Moskovitz. Not only is he portrayed as a co-founder of Facebook in the movie (movie “fact”), but in reality he is a co-founder of the company and has profited from his contributions (real-life fact). So what was your point? Do you not think that he should be compensated?

Has it been lost on you that the reason why the US has such great free enterprise is because we have IP laws, rights/protection?

An Author Who Got it Wrong October 29, 2010 at 10:38 am

And with respect to Saverin, he was in fact diluted down to 0.03% (just like the movie “fact”), but later settled with Facebook for an undisclosed amount. It has been reported that the figure is somewhere in the 5% ownership range. He has also been restored to the masthead of the site as a co-founder.

Eric October 26, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Facebook was a new implementation, but NOT a new idea.

The first time I heard of the idea was in the movie Logan’s Run in 1976. In one scene, people who wanted to find a romantic partner for the night would put themselves up on the net an internet with a holographic display (the real 3d tv) and your virtual image would appear in a hologram along with pertinent details about yourself.

Sounds like a future version of facebook to me.

Anonymous October 26, 2010 at 4:22 pm

“Facebook has been the victim of an increasingly vituperative campaign by the intelligentsia. It supposedly violates privacy, feeds crazed egoism, destroys lives by tempting people to cough up too much information about themselves, wrecks marriages, leads teens to commit suicide, wastes vast time that people should otherwise be using to enjoy the great outdoors, ruins the culture by digitizing communication at the expense of real face-to-face interaction, and wrecks the language by dumbing down the term “friend.”All of these are basically true. However, the popularity of Facebook is a symptom of how screwed up our society is. In a society of narcissists and exhibitionists who have nothing but contempt for privacy, a web site like Facebook is a perfect fit. The same people who have no problem exposing intimate details of their personal lives on Facebook are the ones who have so little self-respect that they are actually willing to walk through porno scanners at the airport. Zuckerburg (who, it seems, does not share the personality traits of the typical Facebook user) became wealthy by filling a desire that many people already had for a web site where they could expose their personal lives to the entire world and “network” with other narcissists. In another time and place,”social networking” websites would be a failure, as they would have very few members and those who did join them would be ridiculed. In our society, Facebook succeeds for the same reason that “reality” TV programs succeed: rampant narcissism.

Jeffrey Tucker October 26, 2010 at 4:24 pm

I am sympathetic to your point, but I suspect that the problem you identify here represents a problem of all early adoption. Users haven’t figured out yet how to customize the experience well yet.

Anthony October 26, 2010 at 11:08 pm

And what exactly gives you the right to complain about “narcissism”? Are you inherently superior to people who make different value judgments than you? Do you have some objective argument that you can use to demonstrate why your notions of privacy are better than the notions of those who use facebook?

If you are going to pass judgment on the preferences of hundreds of millions of people whose freely chosen actions in no way affect you then you had better be able to justify it.

Daniel October 27, 2010 at 1:50 am

“these people” are so narcissistic, they post anonymous comments criticizing other people’s narcissism :O

Marcia October 27, 2010 at 3:16 am

To “Anonymous”….Thank you for this….I totally agree. I thought I was truly a lone wolf in the woods here thinking that Facebook is the most depressing “success” story around. I, too, believe that Facebook’s popularity is not so much the result of “demand”, but feeds off of a culture of zombie-like imitation; a devastating lack of imagination, lack of independent thought, boredom, and a despicable herd mentality. I cannot believe that this is a billion-plus company and I keep asking myself “What exactly is the product?”. Mr Tucker writes that a person can keep up with the “goings-on” of thousands of others at a time. Is this something to be even desired? Shouldn’t this be embarrassing? Is this why American productivity is going down the tubes? As another poster wrote, MZ’s energies would have been better directed towards bricks and motar progress. Detroit is dead, but, hey, every one is on-line chatting away, sharing boyfriend updates and recipes. Pathetic. And, oh, I am of the “internet generation” whatever that is, and not some old-fogey decrying the loss of morals (though there is that too). Mr. Tucker is a fine writer, but so much praise was for me all a bit too breathless, too over the top….PS. Garet Garrett would have wondered why people waste their hours with such junk

Ken Zahringer October 27, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Marcia and Anonymous:
Some 25 years ago I was in the US Air Force and made some good friends. Then we were assigned to different duty stations around the world, we returned to civilian life in different parts of the country, started working for a living, and completely lost track of one another. Last summer my daughter showed me how to get around on Facebook. Yeah, I’m 53, she’s 20. That’s modern life. Anyway, once I got the hang of it, I was able to find and contact half a dozen old friends in a matter of minutes. I only wish a few more of them were so easily found. None of us are particularly narcissistic and I, for one, barely spend hours on Facebook in a month. It’s really nice, though, to have an easy way to visit now and again with them, as well as some of my relatives who live half a continent away. I have yet to figure out how Zuckerberg became wealthy by providing a free service, but good on him. You should be more careful about characterizing the personalities and motivations of people you have never met.

jmorris84 October 26, 2010 at 5:47 pm

A fairly good read. The only thing that bothered me, though, just like a previous blog Jeff wrote which was related to this, was his mention that this movie will drive millions of young people to become entrepreneurs. Like the prior blog, this one uses another weak source to make this claim (http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2010/10/social-network-movie-that-could-save-us.html). I’m all for entrepreneurship, Jeff, but sometimes it seems like you blog things just for the sake of it. If there is any legit proof that this movie is driving young people to do this, please post it!

anonymous rodney October 26, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Thanks Jeff. I have not been to a movie theater in over a year. Just needed someone to say this one’s got a real message. Are your comment’s added to Zuckerberg’s entrepreneurship now spawning the next step in social networking, helping the ailing movie industry to get itself back on track – with real stories that entice the boomers back into the theater? BTW, I loved your own video series, “Economics in One Lesson,” at the Mises website. It has been my favorite “movie” for the past month. I love the insight and humour.
Please review more such cinema discoveries.

Bryan October 26, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Yup, great article. The general point is of course, accurate.

In this case Mark Zuckerberg was unethical and cannot be seen purely as a victim of others greed and envy. He agreed to code the site for the Winklevoss twins. By claiming to take the job, he effectively stopped them from starting the project with another programmer. This is a brilliant deception to stall the competition.

“…had Facebook not taken off and been a success, the Winklevoss twins would have never imagined themselves to have been victimized at all.”

Good point. But what would following that line of logic lead to? Imagine a world where entrepreneurs with ideas just sit on them. The fear of hiring programmers that could legally steal their ideas would paralyze business owners.

Andy October 27, 2010 at 4:01 am

…or change the way music is marketed as a way of counteracting theft.

Andy October 27, 2010 at 3:54 am

This is an excerpt from an article that I found at the New York Times from June 26, 2008:

“Facebook itself issued a statement last night, breathing a sigh of relief:

We are happy that Judge Ware enforced the agreement settling our dispute with the ConnectU founders. ConnectU’s founders were represented by six lawyers and a professor at Wharton Business School when they signed the settlement agreement. The ConnectU founders understood the deal they made, and we are gratified that the court rejected their false allegations of fraud. Their challenge was simply a case of “buyer’s remorse,” as described by the Boston court earlier this month.

We were disappointed that we had to litigate the settlement, as we believed we were caught in the middle of a fee dispute between ConnectU’s founders and its former counsel. Nevertheless, we can now consider this chapter closed and wish the Winklevoss brothers the best of luck in their future endeavors”.

This seems to be a case of government intervention being positive. The lawsuit wasn’t initiated by the government, but the settlement agreed to by both parties was upheld by the court.

“We are born into this world believing that success in anything will be met with praise and acclaim. We are not often told the truth that we see in this film: success is more likely to be met by envy, hate, disparagement, put downs, and loathing, sometimes from the most unexpected sources”.

Is there a more appropriate way to deal with this reality than statutory law? There is always at least two sides to every story.

Jeff K. October 27, 2010 at 4:37 am

Great review, Jeffrey. Thanks for your keen eye on how ideas – knowledge – is created.

James Pat Guerrero October 29, 2010 at 5:09 pm

I especially appreciate in the movie the heavy legal (instituted by procedural rule) and governmental regulation play against entrepreneurship. What I learned is that the will to create can’t be suppressed. Never. Thanks for the excellent article.

Vanmind October 31, 2010 at 6:44 pm

And mises.org cheers for another statist/socialist front organization. Pity.


Yeah, that Zuckerberg, what a free market hero — not.

Dina Ruth - Personal Development Courses November 20, 2010 at 9:58 am

its not enough just to “have an idea”. its the genious to play on it and to persevere until that idea come to full life. thats the genious of Zuckerberg.

Waterfront Realtor November 25, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Hilarious! Now I have to see it. So true how as soon as someone becomes “too successful” people start to tear them down. Human nature is funny.

John May 16, 2011 at 11:32 pm

I love Mises and I believe in the free market but I’m sorry, I can’t take Zuckerberg’s side here (as portrayed in this film, I don’t know the real story). You say:

“Zuckerberg is outraged at the idea that he had stolen anything. The Winklevoss twins still had their idea; it’s just that they didn’t do anything with it.”

The Winklevoss twins TRIED to do something with it and tried numerous times to contact Zuckerberg. Their only mistakes were that they were too trustworthy and didn’t have their bases covered before bringing Zuckerberg into their idea, like proposing him to sign off on a voluntary agreement that they would work together on this project. If that happened, I’m sure all libertarians would have to agree that contracts like that would have to be enforced. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to make the case for or against intellectual property. But what Zuckerberg did was a dick thing to do.

“As Zuckerberg is quoted as saying, does ‘a guy who makes a really good chair owe money to anyone who ever made a chair?’”

I don’t see how that’s a fair comparison. The twins went to him directly for help, it’s not a case of Zuckerberg owing money to everyone in the world who has ever come up with the idea of a social networking site. Now if we’re talking about whether or not the twins have a legitimate legal claim against Zuckerberg, then I’d agree with you that they don’t. I just don’t intend on praising Zuckerberg or calling him some kind of hero for hearing out what the twins had to say, then out of some kind of resentment against them purposely avoid meeting with them, and then going off and doing his own thing.

Again, I’m not talking about legal ramifications. I’m just saying that if an acquaintance and I agreed even verbally to be partners on a venture, I could not bring myself to screw him over. It’s a moral issue for me. But yeah sure, if I did, then one could argue it was his fault for underestimating my shrewdness and cunning.

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