Unrestricted Capitalism or Regulated Enterprise?
A paper on 'Wall Street' and 'Boiler Room'
Profit, profit and more profit - the golden pillars of capitalism. In the movies 'Wall Street' and 'Boiler Room' this is the ideology that the characters uphold. While, there are many variances in the two movies, the basic aim of both lead characters i.e. Gordan Gekko (Wall Street) and Seth Davis (Boiler Room) is to make money. Both men are stockbrokers who deal in high finance in the exclusive world of Wall Street. However, with both movies are set in different decades the way they go about doing so differs.
'Wall Street' is set in the 'roaring eighties' - a decade that has become synonymous with greed, the so-called era of plenty. With an economy just recovering from recession, as well as oil crises (which incidentally led to higher gas prices, that in turn led to the introduction of a nationwide speed limit in America). The eighties was the time that Regan took office and instituted his economic policies that were to pull America out of the recession and resuscitate its economy. His approach, known as 'Reganomics' - did indeed allow for more wealth and money to be accumulated, but by the already affluent. Therefore, his policies would help a man like Gekko to amass great quantities of wealth and riches - as he indeed does in the movie.
'Boiler Room' on the other hand, is in set in the more familiar nineties. Overall, this decade was one of prosperity, hard work and a significant rise in the standards of living for people all over the USA. The attitude of the decade seemed to be work hard, play hard - and all the rest will follow. Wealth was seen as something that was easily accessible to all those who wanted it - it was simply a matter of getting it. There is easy money to be made in start-ups and dot coms. Young people can be millionaires before they even hit their twenties. People like Sabeer Bhatia of 'Hotmail' fame have set the standards.
Both movies however, are undeniably focused on capitalism and the making, controlling and of course spending of money. As we see in both movies, it is made by sometimes unlawful means, and controlled by these same unethical people. The occurrence of these immense amounts of wealth is advertised by the spending of the main characters in the films. Expensive restaurants, expensive hotels, expensive homes, expensive paintings, state of the art technology (think Gordan Gekko's 'cool' cellular phone - which at that time was perhaps the height of technology!), expensive suits and so on - are symbols of this wealth.
In the movie 'Wall Street', we also see a little bit of control exercised over the blatant capitalism. This is in the form of trade unions for Blue Star airlines. Gekko cannot do anything with the company, unless he gets the unions to agree to his plans and slime out of giving them a written agreement (as he tries to do). Charlie Sheen, who learns of Gekko's intent to double-cross him and liquidate the company, thwarts his plans.
In 'Boiler Room', we see a similar situation. Davis realizes just how far he has gone when the FBI get involved and encourage him to dig deeper into the not so legal world of J.T Marlen. He realizes that what he is essentially doing is smooth talking common, innocent people into putting their life savings into his hands, so that he can lose it for them. Just before the FBI bust the company, Davis convinces one of his superiors to sign the sell ticket that will allow his client to regain his lost money. Thus, in both movies we see a small bit of humanity creep into the hard care capitalist's characters.
In conclusion, some might say that ultimate capitalism will destroy itself. This is in fact what Karl Marx advocated - the destruction of capitalism, leading to a rise of the workers and a classless society. While this may not necessarily be true, these movies seem to prove to us that the restrictions on capitalism that do exist are for a good cause and in fact our own benefit. A completely free economy is not in the best interest of the people, some regulations serve a good purpose in keeping the economy in hand.
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