Over the past 10 years, there’s been quite an influx of documentaries centering on irresponsible capitalism. Specifically, warning that if those in the highest positions are overtaken by their own greed, the consequences are ugly. Two films in particular, make a point of highlighting the cornerstone to this freewheeling recklessness. Trends of government deregulation that began in the 1970’s and became a focal point of Ronald Reagan’s economic policies ― or “Reaganomics” ― were critical to the perceived successes of the Enron Corporation and the real estate boom that led directly to an economic crisis in 2008.
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room chronicles the rise and fall of the Enron Corporation starting from the company’s founding up until its monumental collapse in 2001. These guys basically found a way to erase any debt from their financial records by accounting for potential profits that may never even materialize. The way in which this company conducted business is so alarming that it doesn’t take much evidence to show how despicable their actions were. But after seeing a middle-class man who’s worked towards retirement for decades only to be left with a fraction of his 401K after its investment in “good as gold” Enron stock, it’s that much more disgusting.
Like the thousands who were forced to hold off retirement due to the mismanagement of Enron, thousands were left without jobs and homes when the walls came crashing down on Wall Street and the practice of sub-prime lending. And the uncomfortably familiar act of deregulation is what once again made this foolishness possible. Passing the buck became common practice as investment banks essentially bought, sold, and bet on these poisonous mortgage debts with no end game in sight. All while the credit rating companies, an even higher authority, were in on the money-grab, too. As director Charles Ferguson stated during his Academy Award acceptance speech, it’s just plain wrong that these crooks have yet to be brought to justice.
A few of the characters riding the Long Island Railroad every morning for work in the business district require that constant threat of a metaphorical State Trooper, patrolling the highways, keeping everyone in order, and most importantly, keeping innocent people safe. Enron and Inside Job are two very informative, moving films that show how badly things can end up without that whistle-blower, and on the grandest scale. That’s definitely worth a couple DVD rentals.