September 23, 2009

My Taki's Mag review of The Informant!

In Taki's, I ponder Steven Soderbergh's latest -- The Informant! -- with Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre, the division president at Archer Daniels Midland who finked on the Andreas family's price-fixing cartels, along with the economics of anti-trust and the morality of manic-depression.

Read it there and comment upon it below.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Dutch Boy said...

ADM is agribusiness at its most gruesome. Their big achievement has been poisoning the country with high-fructose corn syrup.

CP said...

Isn't it odd that top colleges are allowed to price fix by agreeing not to give merit based aid?

Steve Sailer said...

Yes, but the Ivy League's price fixing cartel is special. It just is.

Anonymous said...

How could you avoid mentioning this odious line:

"Four white guys in suits isn't a business meeting, it's a crime scene!"

Could anything sum up the modern liberal zeitgeist better than that?

DCThrowback said...

I saw the movie opening night and thought, like Steve, it was technically quite proficient. Steve's point that Soderburgh takes Decatur to task is spot on: damning Whitacre with awful shirts and crappy ties and restaurants dressed in what appears to be off-yellow and gray colors makes for a ugly appearance. That being said, the movie was amusing. It was also about a half hour too long, which seems to be a Soderburgh special. It's almost like a Soderburgh is a Mike Shanahan or Mike Holmgren; great coaches who later earn General Manager responsibilities, but sort of stay in the same rut and slowly see success fade away. There is no one to watch over them to correct their mistakes as they have too much power in the process. But all in all I would still say see the movie.

Anonymous said...

Good points on the difficulty of taking a non-fiction "expose" to the big screen. Moneyball would have been a snoozer, but note that The Informant! isn't the only Matt Damon vehicle based on a non-fiction book currently in the can--Green Zone has actually been a finished film for over a year and a half, but the studio (which spent $80M+ on it) knows it has a flop on its hands and keeps pushing back its release date. Given the track record of Iraq-themed anti-war screeds on film, the current betting is that it will end up being the most expensive straight-to-DVD EVER.

Steve Sailer said...

"Four white guys in suits isn't a business meeting, it's a crime scene!"

Especially because there were also about seven Asian guys in suits in the crime scenes.

Vernunft said...

"ADM’s $150 million investment didn’t make sense economically without presupposing a cartel to drive the price back up to where it had been."

So, without above-market returns, ADM wouldn't have built the capacity. Well, that's true of any number of inefficient enterprises; thank goodness for high barriers to entry, which apparently (in this case) maintained an efficient distribution of resources!

Just goes to show you that barriers to entry aren't always anti-competitive.

Anonymous said...

Were the Asians Okinawans?

l said...

They need a wise Latina to bring some much needed perspective to the crime scene.

Lucius Vorenus said...


I told you people that this was the biggest story in American journalism since Whittaker Chambers and the pumpkin patch:

Andersen Book Blows Ayers' Cover on 'Dreams'
Jack Cashill
September 23, 2009

In his new book, "Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage," Best-selling celebrity journalist, Christopher Andersen, has blown a huge hole in the Obama genius myth without intending to do so.

Relying on inside sources, quite possibly Michelle Obama herself, Andersen describes how Dreams came to be published -- just as I had envisioned it in my articles on the authorship of Dreams. With the deadline pressing, Michelle recommended that Barack seek advice from "his friend and Hyde Park neighbor Bill Ayers."

To flesh out his family history, Obama had taped interviews with various family members. Andersen writes, "These oral histories, along with a partial manuscript and a truckload of notes, were given to Ayers." Andersen quotes a Hyde Park neighbor, "Everyone knew they were friends and that they worked on various projects together. It was no secret. Why would it be? People liked them both."

Andersen continues, "In the end, Ayers's contribution to Barack's Dreams From My Father would be significant--so much so that the book's language, oddly specific references, literary devices, and themes would bear a jarring similarity to Ayers's own writing."

Where is Cashill's Pulitzer?

One more time for the road: OH MY GOD!!!

keypusher said...

Really great review! Leaves seeing the movie utterly superfluous.

tommy said...


Jack Cashill says a new book is coming out from biographer Chris Andersen, sourced by Obama insiders, which confirms Ayers had a role in penning Dreams. We will have to see.

Ray Sawhill said...

Funny and smart review.

Bob said...

The schools that don't give merit aid use the money for other forms of financial aid.

Since their admission pool is already mostly wealthy, the few that aren't are given very generous financial aid.

Harvard's policy is to give full tuition scholarships to anyone from a family with income below $60,000, which is a majority of US households. Partial financial aid is often award to those above $200,000.

What do you propose instead? That Harvard offer scholarships to the absolute top of their pool, many of whom are the children of the very wealthy? Do you think the very talented children of the very wealthy are unfairly put upon by having to pay full price at Harvard, which for some is still less than the tuition their parents paid for at their private high schools?

niost said...

Just goes to show you that barriers to entry aren't always anti-competitive.

Yeah, especially when the "right" guys are inside. I guess there are innovative ways of justifying a monopoly. Didn't Microsoft use such a stupid argument to hold down technological development for about 25 years now?

Vernunft said...

"Yeah, especially when the 'right' guys are inside. I guess there are innovative ways of justifying a monopoly. Didn't Microsoft use such a stupid argument to hold down technological development for about 25 years now?"

I don't think you understand that barriers to entry are not always the result of action by established firms. There are high barriers to entry in the delivery of cable television, for instance, because it is incredibly costly to lay the cable. That's not the result of sinister action by the incumbents.

Barriers to entry also exist in markets that aren't monopolized.

Positive network externalities are not the fault of Microsoft, either. That's how...reality is.

In short - yikes.

Anonymous said...

Soderbergh gets a lifetime pass for making The Limey, which was wonderful in every way. ISteve readers would like it too-- Peter Fonda's villain is a particularly nasty variety of SWPL sixties dude.

Anonymous said...

The Informant hairstyle demonstrates what a large payoff there can be in appearance from having the right haircut for your face and head. The young man tends to pump iron to look better, when a few deft grooming changes will produce much better effects for 95% of the population.