Directed by: Peter Joseph
IMDB rating: 9.1/10 (779 votes)
Zeitgeist is an amateur 'documentary' similar to the 9/11 conspiracy film Loose Change. With cheap digital film-making equipment and software easily available and the power of the Internet's open and democratizing format, any idiot can make a documentary for their pet topic. The first Zeitgeist, which I've not watched, covers the origins of Christianity and Jesus, the 9/11 conspiracy, and the Federal Reserve banking system. I guess with the economic situation we're facing Joseph felt it was time for a more thorough look at the Federal Reserve and the global banking system, which is what is covered here in Zeitgeist: Addendum.
I decided to watch Addendum without seeing the first Zeitgeist because I've never understood how monetary policy and economics works. I still don't understand how a country can simply put some pictures on a paper and say it's worth something. And how we can determine what one country's paper is worth compared to the other. The Austrian School approach, trumpeted by Ron Paul during the presidential primaries, makes sense to me. The government acquires materials (like gold, silver, platinum, etc) that have a kind of inherent value. Then the government prints fiat (paper) money that is backed by those assets. That makes sense to me.
The magical make-believe money that comes from the Federal Reserve out of thin air doesn't. The way Zeitgeist explains it is that the government gets a loan from the Federal Reserve. Federal Reserve prints the money out and gives it to the government, with the expectation to be paid back. Then the banks just go and generate even more money from that out of thin air. The film makes the claim that it is impossible to pay the Federal Reserve back the principle with interest, because the money supply in circulation can only be as much as the principle, but I'm not sure that's true. But, again, global money circulation makes no sense to me. Anyway, money = debt is the idea.
Zeitgeist argues that this is exactly how the rich exploit the world. The big banks go to developing nations and try to convince them into this debt scam. They offer to bring money into these countries in various ways, like building infrastructure. Contracts for these jobs go to big multi-national corporations. Then, when these developing nations can't pay the money back, the banks suggest that these nations can do things like sell the US their resources (like oil) cheaply, let the US build a military base there, or to privatize their industries so that big multi-national corporations can come in and make money. When governments don't agree, the US attempts to overthrow that government (see: Panama, Iran, Guatemala, Venezuela, etc), and if that doesn't work, the US sends in military (see: Iraq).
The second half of the film veers off into something called The Venus Project, a kind of futuristic commune idea started by two people in Florida. The idea is that with science, we can create a utopian society free from any need for money or jobs. All menial jobs will be handled by machines, and humans will be free to explore whatever they wish with complete freedom. It literally becomes almost an infomercial for this obscure Venus Project, as if this small, obscure project will somehow solve all the world's troubles. There's some good ideas there, like energy independence, but the whole concept is naive and has all the flaws of other communes.
The first half about the US and global banking systems is interesting and even believable. I can certainly see global banks pumping money into developing countries so they can exploit them later, but the film doesn't really explain why the bankers would be doing this for the US government and multi-national corporations - other than the general conspiracy that the ultra rich are all looking out for each other. So while I find the ideas presented in the first half interesting and there may be some truth in it, I have to remain skeptical about it. The second half is completely worthless though. Don't bother with it.