This award-winning documentary is the August, 2011 presentation for the Transition Ferndale video and discussion series.  You can see some details about the film at  

http://www.sonyclassics.com/insidejob/

 “Inside Job” is an excellent film because it addresses the unreliable economy, which is the most immediate issue of our time. It collects in one place all the conventional wisdom about the economic crisis that interrupted the presidential campaign of 2008, or at least the conventional wisdom of all the big players who were willing to be interviewed for the film.

 Near the end of the film, the narrator (Matt Damon) summarizes the situation in these words:  “For decades, the American financial system was then stable and safe, but then something changed. The financial industry turned its back on society, corrupted our political system, and plunged the world economy into crisis. At enormous cost, we’ve avoided disaster and are recovering, but the men and institutions that caused the crisis are still in power … and that needs to change.”

 That’s a reasonable conclusion to reach, based on the information presented in the film. – and there is a lot of information presented. If you are not a professional economist, you may be dazzled by all the numbers quoted in such a short space of time. You may want to watch the film a second time, or even a third, to follow the events described. The DVD will be donated to the Ferndale Library, and can be checked out with a library card.

 The problem with their conclusion is, the people who were asked to explain the crisis are financial journalists, economists, and politicians. According to all of them, the complicated financial problem was solely caused by some sort of impropriety in the practice of high finance – lax regulations, corrupt regulators, and self-serving, greedy crooks at the head of many political and financial institutions. That’s the kind of thing these experts understand.

 While the film clearly demonstrates the self-serving greedy crooks part time and again, the causes examined are not the only ones that can explain the results. The decades that were stable and safe were the later 1940s, the 1950s, the 1960s, and the earlier 1970s. The recurring and ever-more serious crises started after peak oil in the United States made the US economy vulnerable to the oil shocks of the 1970s.

 We have been at war over oil in the Middle East for decades now, since Bush the First drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, but Bush and then Clinton and then Bush II left him in power for another 13 years. The crisis of 2008 was preceded by record high oil prices, certainly high enough to have been a major contributor to the recession that followed. It seems obvious that the permanent problem of finding sufficient affordable energy to keep the industrial economy running is a major factor contributing to increasing instability.

 This film never mentions oil, let alone peak oil or futile wars for oil. It’s an important oversight. If the problems facing our economy are simply caused by greedy bankers with political power, then the economy can be fixed by replacing corrupt politicians of both parties. If we do that, but we still have inadequate quantities of energy, we still have a major problem. We also  need to create an economy which uses much less energy, and a financial system which does not depend on continually increasing debt to finance continuous growth.

Art Myatt

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