Four Horsemen Documentary Review

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Today I want to recommend a great documentary that I recently watched on Youtube: Four Horsemen. The main reason I think every person should watch this great piece of filmography produced by Renegade Economist, is because it tackles several topics that I love discussing on this blog: capitalism vs socialism, the wealth disparity between rich and poor people, the history of money, the future of our economy and how the current financial system impacts our everyday lives.

About Four Horsemen Documentary

Four Horsemen was released in September 2013 on Youtube (Watch here for free), and has had nearly 1.5 Million views so far. If you are into Michael Moore’s work, you will definitely love and even prefer the approach taken in this documentary to simplify financial and economic issues, without removing too much substance. The documentary is divided in five parts:

1. Empires: Four Horsemen takes a macro view in approaching issues faced by our civilizations, they way they are built and the way they fall. This section explains how the Western supremacy is coming to an end, by comparing the life cycles of other famous empires like the Roman empire. Each cycle is divided in 6 ages: pioneers, conquest, commerce, affluence, intellect and decadence. Decadence is generally characterized by lust, consumerism, apathy, immorality, wealth disparity and the debasement of the currency. A parallel is quickly made with current developed nations, and the greed that led to the 2008 financial crisis. The economists and experts who are interviewed, explain how the misallocation of capital done through the over exploitation of natural resources during the glorious years of our global economy, is about to impact the generations to come in an unprecedented way.

2. Banking: If you are still part of the people who think that banks are only there to keep your money in a vault until you need it and lend you extra cash when you’re short, then you MUST closely pay attention to this section of the documentary, which explains how the banking system works.  Crucial concepts, such as the creation of money out of thin air through fractional reserving, debt, and monetary policy, are explained in very simple terms. You get to understand how inflation, currency debasement and economic bubbles are derived from the malpractices of central banks, governments and financial institutions. This section also makes a brief but important description of the history of money, by explaining how the fiat money system replaced the gold standard and how the abuse in money supply has drastically reduced the value of our currencies over the last decades. The origins, definition and application of capitalism are then explained and challenged, as well as the system of governance attached to it. More particularly, the differences between classical and neo-classical schools of thought are summarized, as well as how those differences impact the distribution of wealth in a society.

3. Terrorism: Prominent economists make a direct link between global social inequalities and the radicalisation of the third world by taking the American defence policy as an example. Indeed, the war on terrorism, which has been very instrumental in spreading a propaganda that mainly served economic interests in the West, has caused entire nations like Pakistan to be poorer, more chaotic and more extremist. I personally found this section very interesting, but slightly out of the scope of the documentary. Indeed, this topic definitely deserves a whole documentary on its own.

4. Resources: This section explains how in front of depleting resources and an exponentially growing world population, the more we grow the more poverty we create. Experts challenge the idea that growth should be the sole objective of an economic system. The key natural resources that have traditionnaly fuelled economic growth have become increasingly rare and poorly distributed. We are already struggling to find arable land to grow food; Non-renewable fossil energies like oil are becoming more difficult to exploit, and if societies do not find a more constructive way to corporate and reorganize their economic systems around common interests, a communal sense of ownership, responsibility and purpose (currently incompatible with our modern consumerist lifestyles and the notion of individual achievement), we will have a serious problem.

5. Progress:  How do we give more voice to ordinary citizens instead of lobbies and interested government officials? How do we create wealth in a more even and balanced way (without repeating the mistakes of socialism)? How do we question accepted norms and redefine the way we interact in society, beyond the way it is presented to us in the media and the educational system? This last section of the documentary basically pushes every person to engage in this reflection instead of letting Neo-classical, classical, or any other economic school of thought dictate the way we should solve fundamental issues that affect us, and our children.

Conclusion: My personal take

There are a lot of good things that came with our economic system: efficiency, innovation, accessibility of goods and services, and the prospect of personal wealth. But the drawbacks we have to cope with today include unequal distribution of wealth and opportunity, waste of natural resources, overconsumption and individualism. The truth is that our parents will leave us with huge challenges, but that can be solved if we decide to open our eyes, broaden our perspective of the world, and take some distance from our lives. It’s not because you’re not an economist that you cannot engage in the conversation. Actually, it is your duty to participate in solving the issues we are facing like depleting natural resources, war, global poverty and information asymmetry in finance and economics. So close your Facebook page for a couple of hours, skip your favourite reality TV show for a day and grab a book (or a kindle) and read; educate yourself, watch documentaries on Youtube, and shape your own opinion of the world’s issues and how we can solve them.

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