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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8256/wall-e-economic-ignorance-and-the-war-on-modernity/

WALL-E: Economic Ignorance and the War on Modernity

July 3, 2008 by

The Disney-Pixar film WALL-E is an assault on modern civilization, writes Gennady Stolyarov, borne of deep economic and historical ignorance. First, it makes the Marxian assumption that it would be possible for a single corporation to subsume the entire world. Then the movie shows humanity seeking salvation in abandoning a sustainable automatic food production system — which had apparently worked without fail for seven centuries — and suddenly resorting to traditional agriculture.

The creators of WALL-E, sitting in their comfortable Hollywood studios, do a tremendous disservice to the civilization that made their work and high standards of living possible. They glorify a lifestyle that would likely have killed them — and countless others — had it actually been revived.

FULL ARTICLE

{ 111 comments }

Jaycephus March 10, 2009 at 3:27 am

I do agree with the article’s points on the economics. They’ve got robots. Just put them to work and start designing a new world. Skip the whole Agrarian Age on the path back to civilization.

I also think that Magnus has made the best counter-points. Great job.

And to the people with the ‘just a cartoon’ argument… You have to actually explain why it isn’t or can’t be propaganda. There are a quite large number of cartoons over the decades that were purely or partly propaganda. Disney was one of the main producers of such faire. For a while, the propaganda was arguably scarce, but we can definitely say those days of ‘scarcity’ are now long gone. Half the product coming out of TV and movie studios these days seems to have some social message, and for the ones that don’t, we now have the new phenomenon of breaks in the middle of the show where a show’s star delivers a fact-free appeal to ‘do our part’ to stop ‘climate change’. ‘Climate change’ happens regardless, and I don’t know how I’m supposed to stop Global Cooling, which is what we appear to have now, and for possibly the next couple of decades. (Nor have I ever been given a convincing reason why change of the warming variety is especially bad, all things considered.)

Given that a Pixar animation is ‘highly’ designed and planned, with years of work and a great deal of thought put into every single choice, it is wrong to assume a priori that no thought is put into underlying themes, that it is ‘just a cartoon’. And Wall-e’s conception actually predates the creation of Toy Story, I believe, so they had been kicking it around for quite a while.

But I will agree that there is not any overt, gratuitous propaganda in this one. Typically weak understanding of economics? No doubt. Does it matter? Sure, at least some, and probably quite a bit, since there is virtually no economics taught outside of a college, and then it’s likely to be worse than no economics education at all.

I just watched Wall-e with my 5-yr old. I remember thinking, “what the…? They ‘want’ to go back and plant stuff? Of course, it was somewhat funny, and maybe intended to be a joke only. On the other hand, if I had to eat ‘cup-cake in a cup’ every day for my no-doubt technologically extended life, I would leap at a chance to eat ‘any’ new thing, even if it was soy-burgers with rice-bread.

I’m wondering, though, where do the psycho robots fit in? No one has mentioned them, yet. Humans were static, naively happy, mind-numbed and homogenous. I got the sense that they couldn’t even have had a sex-drive, and procreation and child-rearing must have been done exclusively and automatically by the ship’s systems. But the most human characters were the robots: self-motivated, inventive, quirky, ‘deranged’, evil, altruistic, heroic, and in Eve’s case, able to break free of ‘her’ programmed objective to determine her own path. The misfit robots were very interesting. Do they fit into the identified pro-liberty, anti-fascist/corporatist framework? (I know… I’m not supposed to ‘overthink’ it. Just lay back in my floating couch and follow the prompts on the screen, right? Where’s my cup-o-cup-cake at? Mmmmm. “Blue is the new Red.” Wait, does that mean Blue-states are taking over Red states? ;) )

Left-libertarian? Is there a hippie commune that survived and prospered that I don’t know about? It sure didn’t seem to work out so well for the Pilgrims or the 1st century church in Jerusalem, either.

I read a left-libertarian sci-fi novel a while back. Somehow (and I do mean ‘somehow’ since it was never explained why the technology would be developed, engineered, and produced in the exact form needed, and left un-utilized by anyone until needed by the protagonist) the L-Ls could produce an ultra-advanced technology that just laid around in bins until the hero needed it to save the world, but the R-Ls, using active competition, couldn’t come up with computer security that could stand up to outside attack. Of course, the L-L’s didn’t have the vulnerability to computer attack, since they had no computers. Utter bilge.

Mechanized May 23, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Perhaps what many posters are misunderstanding in relation to the message as it pertains to whether or not its message is statist can be viewed in not only what ran the world as a coercive monopoly but how this company, that is, Big and Large, became a monopoly in the first place.

From my perspective, it appears that “unfettered capitalism” culminated into a single monopolistic company, as Leftist continually, but erroneously, contend. Typically, the Leftist believes that without government regulation that not only would corporations pollute to the extent that Earth would become inhabitable, but also that an unrestrained free market would result in a complete monopoly by one company, which in turn would become the de facto global hegemon. In this way, they perceive that capitalism would result in the situation as presented in the film.

Therefore, it would appear that this film is extremely socialist in its message, though the ideas it presents are likely to pass completely over the head of the average child.

Marko July 12, 2009 at 1:05 am

Is this how you idiots pretend to make people stop watching stuff that shows our truth?… you guys are just sick.

Stan Geronimo July 12, 2009 at 11:53 am

There are a lot of elements in Wall-E that can teach us about economics. I even wrote how the present conditions demonstrated in the film affect the system of taxation of the fictional economy.

David September 9, 2009 at 2:45 pm

My two cents:

A world where the entire Earth is wasted and then completely abandoned is possible only in a world where humanity’s descendants were no longer individualistic. You’d think that a small group of people would had stayed behind to enjoy the wealth of space and resources, or that at least a few of AXIOM’s (human) members regularly resisted to restrictive policies of the ship, but no. Either BNL’s followers obliterated the dissenters, or everyone’s value systems gradually became permanently collective, ingrained in their DNA, under the tag of BNL…or both.

Alright. This is science-fiction after all. I’m open-minded about this hidden implication early on in the movie, even if it’s terribly unlikely to happen in the future. So why is it that the humans on board the AXIOM seemingly regain some of their individuality by the likes of Wall-E? After 700 years of mindlessly doing things as ordered, you’d think the BNL-ites would be immune to thinking for themselves, especially after what it takes for the wrecked Earth to occur.

Although I share the original author’s distaste for these plot-holes, I also recognize that movies like Wall-E exaggerate in order to appeal their message to younger audiences. Nevertheless, this exaggeration comes with drawbacks. While at its core, the message was certainly anti-collectivist, it is marred with the economic confusion that is BNL’s slogan, “Buy N Large”. Is it a corporatist-government? If so, why did BNL opt to undergo massive profit loss by dumping air+metal from the AXIOM while producing all the luxuries for its lazy and obese occupants and their descendants (who never pay a dime for the services)? Is BNL a metaphor of greedy mass consumption? If so, why did BNL merely leave to space instead of landing onto a different resource-rich planet? Better yet, why didn’t BNL capitalize on the massive recycle-ready resources of Earth?

Perhaps it would had been better if they had changed the slogan to “Believe N Large”, because it clearly took a collectivist belief for the Earth to be buried under trash over the centuries and left totally abandoned. Putting all this aside, I did enjoy the movie very much.

John March 8, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Sir, you’re so wrong that it’s painful to read this. Case and point, The U. S. of A.. But, it’s okay. If I had stock in big, evil fast food chains and didn’t want to lose my money, I’d write a blog defending them as well. Bravo, bravo.

John March 8, 2010 at 12:23 pm

And to your idea that every situation proposed in this movie is an impossibility, you’re right. Trash won’t pile up. Not everyone will be an obese, obediant puppet of the government on a ship some thousands of light years off, but this movie is not protesting that society will turn into the exact model that it displays. It’s simply stating that human carelessness, which is everywhere, will lead to inevitable destruction. It already is. And, dude, 90% of this country are IDIOTS. People are ignorant and complacent. You may not be one of them, but chances are that you are because you took the time to wite this blatantly distorted view of the world. Yours truly, John.

talkpc June 21, 2010 at 2:58 am

I’m open-minded about this hidden implication early on in the movie, even if it’s terribly unlikely to happen in the future. So why is it that the humans on board the AXIOM seemingly regain some of their individuality by the likes of Wall-E? After 700 years of mindlessly doing things as ordered, you’d think the BNL-ites would be immune to thinking for themselves, especially after what it takes for the wrecked Earth to occur.

website June 21, 2010 at 3:01 am

If I had stock in big, evil fast food chains and didn’t want to lose my money, I’d write a blog defending them as well. Bravo, bravo.

website June 21, 2010 at 3:02 am

This is science-fiction after all. I’m open-minded about this hidden implication early on in the movie, even if it’s terribly unlikely to happen in the future. So why is it that the humans on board the AXIOM seemingly regain some of their individuality by the likes of Wall-E? After 700 years of mindlessly doing things as ordered.

Wall E Merchandise February 13, 2011 at 6:53 am

Agree with your message. Good vision.

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