Movies that understand Economics #25: The Fifth Element

Fifth ElementOkay, taking The Fifth Element seriously might be a stretch but there is a great moment where the movie gives a perfect recounting of Keynesian economics. The idea that disasters and catastrophes lead to economic growth and prosperity because cleaning up the mess is good for the economy. It is at the heart of all Keynesian principles—the market can’t exist on it’s own it needs outside stimulus.

Now you may be wondering why I would view this as understanding economics as Keynes and all his disciples are, at best, out of their minds and at worst functionally retarded (seriously given the absolute stupidity of every word out of Krugman’s mouth it’s a miracle the man is able keep from drooling all over himself)…but I point to this as an understanding of economics because this filth is put in the mouth of the movie’s villain, Zorg (played by Gary Oldman, although as with most Oldman parts you wouldn’t recognize him if you were told) and it is meant to be the words of a villain.

Zorg: Where are the stones?
Priest Vito Cornelius: I don’t know. And even if I did know, I wouldn’t tell someone like you.
Zorg: Why? What’s wrong with me?
Priest Vito Cornelius: I try to serve life. And you seem to want to destroy it.
Zorg: Oh, Father. You’re so wrong. Let me explain.
[Puts and empty water glass on his desk]
Zorg: Life, which you so nobly serve, comes from destruction, disorder and chaos. Now take this empty glass. Here it is: peaceful, serene, boring. But if it is destroyed
[Pushes the glass off the table. It shatter on the floor, and several small machines come out to clean it up]
Zorg: Look at all these little things! So busy now! Notice how each one is useful. A lovely ballet ensues, so full of form and color. Now, think about all those people that created them. Technicians, engineers, hundreds of people, who will be able to feed their children tonight, so those children can grow up big and strong and have little teeny children of their own, and so on and so forth. Thus, adding to the great chain of life. You see, father, by causing a little destruction, I am in fact encouraging life. In reality, you and I are in the same business. Cheers. [chokes on a cherry]

What Zorg is talking about is called the broken window fallacy. That destruction brings about prosperity. Now for people with a functioning cerebral cortex it only takes a few seconds to realize that the money spent to rebuild could have been spent somewhere else…but hey, as I’ve pointed out Keynesians are special kind of crazy/stupid/evil. And yes evil is appropriate, because as shown in the film, this argument is just a cover for a wish to destroy (or you’re really stupid if you actually believe that).

And the movie shows that at some level the writers understood economics because within 30 seconds they tear down Zorg’s entire philosophy when it is not destruction (in the case of a cherry Zorg is choking on) that brings about results but rather human action to prevent destruction.

Father Vito Cornelius: Where’s the robot to pat you on the back? Or the engineer? Or the children, maybe? There, you see now, how all your so-called power counts for absolutely nothing now, how your entire empire can come crashing down because of one… little… cherry.

It’s nice to see Keynesian idea so perfectly destroyed as they deserve to be.

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Filed under Economics, Movies, Movies for Conservatives

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