Of Faustian Bargains and
Disposable Human Beings
By Jason Miller
Clearing House" -- -
(I am dedicating this essay to the memory of the
millions of victims of the Capitalist Imperial wars of
conquest waged by the United States under the patently false
pretexts of spreading freedom and liberty).
Rolling through virtually any reasonably populous city or
town in America, one encounters a surreal landscape blighted
by grotesque temples to America’s twin gods of Capitalism
and Consumerism. As an increasing number of individual
proprietors are driven to extinction, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s,
and hundreds more leviathan corporations continue their
rapid construction of more houses of worship to serve their
zealous congregation. Once inside, many Americans gleefully
sacrifice an abundance of their greenbacks at altars
attended by Consumerism’s unwitting acolytes.
For appallingly meager wages and benefits, the cashiers
tending the sacred Churches of Capitalism and Consumerism
gather the offerings which enable their fellow faithful to
reap the fruits of practicing their devotion.
Good little Consumers can receive a veritable cornucopia of
“blessings” which include working in jobs amounting to
indentured servitude, obesity, insurmountable debt,
insularity from the rest of the world, unwitting support of
a merciless militaristic regime which is evolving into
fascism, idolatrous worship of celebrities and money,
facilitation of obscene concentration of wealth into the
hands of a few, and participation in the severe desecration
of our environment.
They may exist in a spiritual wasteland, but at least those
Americans who are fortunate enough to find themselves in the
shrinking middle class have access to basic human
necessities, some creature comforts, and relative stability
and safety (at least for the short term). However, a growing
number of Americans find themselves wandering in a barren
desert, lacking both sustenance for the soul and the
corporeal “blessings” bestowed upon the middle class wage
earners by the high priests of Capitalism and Consumerism.
How did this nightmare evolve?
As the Magna Charta emerged and evolved, and the United
States Constitution was conceived and implemented,
“feudalism” and monarchy began to gasp their dying breaths.
Ostensibly, the rule of law was superseding the rule of men
to deliver a sound measure of justice and equality.
In truth, humanity simply traded one set of tyrants for
another. To this day many still cling to the myth that the
United States is the nexus of freedom, equality and human
rights. Yet the constitutional republic of the United States
was forged primarily by White men, many of whom were wealthy
land-owners looking to free themselves from the tyranny of
King George while preserving their narrow interests. The
fact that there was significant resistance to the inclusion
of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution speaks volumes of
the priorities of many of our Founding Fathers.
In creating a powerful federal government, minimizing the
decision-making power of the poor and working class to
occasional elections of representatives (while limiting the
impact of their votes by forming the Electoral College),
barring women from political participation, ignoring the
Native American population, and maintaining the legality of
slavery, our founders created a nation which afforded
freedom and equality almost exclusively to White males who
possessed a measure of wealth.
America’s propertied ruling class quickly learned to
manipulate their laws to exploit the rest of the population
in ways not unlike their predecessors who reigned from
thrones. As they lived like lords and kings, the elites of
the United States basked in the glow of admiration of their
“enlightened values”. Over the years they showed their true
colors to the world by engaging in numerous imperialistic
endeavors, nearly wiping out the Native American population,
and fighting progressive movements like Abolition and
Women’s Suffrage with virtually every fiber of their
Capitalism: Economic Rule of the Rich, by the
Rich, for the Rich
Founded on the principles of individual liberty and
self-determination (for White male property owners), the
nascent United States provided fertile ground for the seeds
of Capitalism. Conditions such as slavery, explosive growth
in the number of banks, America’s powerful drive to expand
its territory, neutral trade during the war between Great
Britain and France, and ultimately, the Industrial
Revolution enabled American Capitalism to grow into a
By the late Nineteenth Century, trusts and monopolies
flourished. Laissez faire economic policy prevented the
government “of the people” from meddling in the wealthy
elite’s obscene human and environmental exploitation.
America’s plutocracy was living large while the rest of the
population struggled and suffered.
For years, America’s schools and media have inculcated us
with the notion that Capitalism is the superlative
socioeconomic system in the history of humankind. In spite
of the “feel good” propaganda intended to keep us pacified,
working, and consuming, there is a very dark side to the
much vaunted American Way.
"America's abundance was created not by public
sacrifices to the common good, but by the productive genius
of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the
making of their own private fortunes."
Thank you, Ayn Rand, for affirming the naked brutality and
avarice of America’s socioeconomic system, a system which
enables a privileged few who “play the game” well to
mercilessly pursue their personal interests, amass private
fortunes, and hoard the lion’s share of “America’s
The economy of the United States, which possesses many
elements of commonly accepted definitions of Capitalism, is
tempered to some degree by components which would more
appropriately be attributed to Socialism or Progressive
Utilization Theory (PROUT), socioeconomic systems devoted in
large part to ensuring the welfare of society as a whole and
which value humans as sentient beings rather than
Unfortunately, by and large, Capitalism predominates in the
American socioeconomic system and represents a substantial
portion of our national character (or lack thereof). America
embodies ruthless exploitation of humanity and the Earth. In
the capitalist paradigm, human beings and the planet are
simply material objects which exist to fulfill the desires
of the bourgeoisie masters. Imperialism and Neoliberalism go
hand in glove with Capitalism. Insatiable greed and
objectification do not respect borders or boundaries.
Cruel and brutal as the United States is, imagine how
ruthless it would be were the Social Darwinists of the upper
stratum of our society given free rein to implement their
After years of gains for the poor, women, minorities, and
labor throughout the Twentieth Century, a champion arose for
America’s White Capitalist Patriarchy in 1980. When Ronald
Reagan took the driver’s seat, he wasn’t content to simply
return justice and compassion to the back seat. He threw
them in the trunk and left them there to rot.
Reagan’s successors, Republican and Democrat alike, have
worked feverishly to refortify the Capitalist bulwarks of
privatization, property laws, deregulation, cuts in social
spending, and free trade agreements.
American Capitalism is a pyramid scheme shaped and forged
over time to ensure that a small minority of principally
White males garner a majority of the wealth. A few token
minorities are allowed to “join the club” while some women
enter the upper stratosphere (usually by virtue of their
birthright and inheritance), but by and large, the White
Patriarchy maintains its strangle-hold on choice properties
like Boardwalk and Park Place. A majority of Americans wind
up holding Mediterranean and Baltic.
You Might as Well Stand Around Waiting to be Struck
Horatio Alger wrote over 130 very popular fiction novels in
the Nineteenth Century. Unfortunately, his ideal notions of
attaining “rags to riches” success through hard work and
determination in the Capitalist system were principally
fiction too. Calling him a useful idiot would be unfair
because his heart was in the right place, but his works did
provide very useful propaganda for the wealthy ruling class
who wanted their modern day serfs to believe they had a
realistic chance of rising to the top of the economic or
political food chain. Undeniably there are those who started
with virtually nothing and accrued vast fortunes or became
powerful people, but for each one who did, millions failed.
And the same is true today.
He Who Has the Gold Makes the Rules
Consider that over half of our presidents came from families
ranking amongst the wealthiest 3% of Americans while at
least a dozen sprang from the loins of elitists in the top
In 2005, 143 of 435 US Representatives and one in three
Senators were millionaires.
Statistics from 2002 indicate that eight of the fifteen
wealthiest individuals in America had acquired their
fortunes through inheritance. Five of these eight were
Waltons. The other three were progeny of the founder of the
Mars Candy empire. Three of the top fifteen derived their
fortunes from the same company, Microsoft. No concentration
of wealth in the hands of a few there, is there?
Reports from 2002 also indicate that Bill Gates had acquired
as much wealth as the bottom 40% of US households. And the
Walton clan possessed 771,287 times the wealth of the
average US household. Here is to the land of equal
In 2004, the United States had 374 billionaires and 7.5
millionaires (about 2% of the population). The wealthiest
Americans possessed $11 trillion in assets. Meanwhile 13% of
Americans lived below poverty level. What was that Horatio
Alger myth again?
Yes, the bourgeoisie is thriving and dominating in the
United States. We are indeed experiencing the dawn of the
Second Gilded Age.
According to Friedrich Engels, the bourgeoisie are:
"...the class of modern capitalists, owners of
the means of social production and employers of wage labour."
Whose function is:
"...the appropriation and therefore control of
the labour of others and... the selling of the products of
And who are differentiated from the small proprietors (which
their massive corporate entities often crush) by:
"capitalist production requires an individual
capital big enough to employ a fairly large number of
workers at a time; only when he himself is wholly released
from labour does the employer of labour become a
More staggering statistics demonstrate who reaps the bounty
in a Capitalist system (even one constrained by elements of
more just and humane economic systems):
More than 99% of American businesses have fewer
than 500 employees and account for less than 37% of all
Elite corporations (those employing more than 5,000 people)
comprise a fraction of the remaining 1% of American
businesses, yet ring up over 40% of sales.
Within specific business sectors, corporate monopolists
shine brightly. The fifty largest banks control over 35% of
bank assets in the United States.
The largest 100 corporations alone account for over 46% of
corporate net income after taxes.
1% of Americans own more stock than the 90% of us who dwell
at the bottom of Bush’s “ownership society”.
While a tiny segment of the US population
becomes increasingly powerful both economically and
politically, working class families continue to rely on two
incomes to make ends meet while 13% of the population lives
below the poverty level.
As the semblance of a meritocracy in America succumbs to the
forces of plutocratic ambition and greed under the Bush
Regime, American economic system’s “noble and fair”
reputation is dutifully maintained by genuflecting
mainstream media pundits. Yet there is one particularly
shameful stain which not even master propagandists can mask.
Material Prosperity….Spiritual Bankruptcy
In a self-proclaimed Christian nation awash in a sea of
money, guided by allegedly noble principles, and purported
to have a Manifest Destiny to convert the world to the
American Way, a significant number of discarded, hopelessly
poor human beings are living proof of the cruel hypocrisy of
the ruling elite of the United States. America’s homeless
are living testaments to the gross injustices of Capitalism,
even in an economy tempered with elements of
government-funded social programs and regulations on
"Let all bear in mind that a society is judged
not so much by the standards attained by its more affluent
and privileged members as by the quality of life which it is
able to assure for its weakest members."
--Javier Perez de Cuellar (former PM of Peru and
Secretary General to the UN)
Each year 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness. Of
these unfortunates, 750,000 are chronically homeless. 49%
are Black while only 35% are White (which represents an
obviously gross disproportion when compared to the racial
make-up of the general population). A startling 40% of the
homeless include families.
Who are these Nameless, Forgotten, “Disposable”
Homelessness is not limited to the conventional
notion of people sleeping in a cardboard box or on a park
bench. America’s homeless people include those who live in
their cars, abandoned buildings, cheap motels called
flop-houses, and train or bus stations.
Many homeless maintain jobs making sub-standard wages. Other
ways the homeless obtain their meager incomes is through
begging, street performance, selling street magazines
(written and distributed by the homeless), and selling their
blood plasma. In their desperation, some feign illness to
gain admission to hospitals while others commit crimes so
they can get “three hots and a cot”.
Those with untreated mental illness are amongst the most
vulnerable of our society. Tragically, the mentally
afflicted comprise 25% of the homeless population. In the
1960’s, the United States government de-institutionalized
many suffering with chronic mental illness. Our ruling
elites at multiple levels of government failed (and continue
to fail) to establish and fund adequate community service
programs necessary for these people to achieve stability in
their lives. Without adequate support systems in their
communities, many mentally ill individuals wind up living on
At least 38% of the homeless are reported to self-medicate
with drugs and alcohol to escape the misery of their
situation, thus greatly diminishing the likelihood they can
reclaim stable lives.
About 5% of the homeless are runaway teens. It is a travesty
that due to a dearth of government social safety nets, many
of these children fall prey to drugs, street gangs,
prostitution, or the pornography industry.
Representing a particularly searing indictment of America’s
Capitalist constitutional republic are the 500,000 US
military veterans who experience homelessness each year.
Conscripted or manipulated by propaganda to fight in wars of
imperial aggression (like Vietnam), homeless veterans were
used by the elites and cast aside like yesterday’s garbage.
The Veterans Administration only provides housing for
veterans who are chronically ill, has severely neglected the
needs of those with mental illness, and cut most Vietnam War
Veterans adrift with no job training. Risk your life to
expand the American Empire and you get to spend the rest of
your days eating out of trash dumpsters.
Many choose homelessness, at least temporarily, because they
are unable to make a living wage in America’s “booming”
economy or find themselves completely unemployed. Offshoring
of American jobs, stagnant wages, the soaring cost of
housing, and the agonizing loss of industrial sector jobs
with healthy wages are leaving many Americans vulnerable to
financial disaster. Overwhelmed by bills and crippled by
insufficient income, some Americans are forced to choose
amongst basic necessities. Naturally housing goes before
food and clothing, leaving people living on the street, or
if they are lucky, in their cars.
Natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina can add
dramatically to the number of homeless. At least 50,000
Katrina victims remain homeless. New Orleans is a
particularly instructive case because it clearly
demonstrates the Capitalist elites’ obsession with property
rights and their callous disregard for humanity. Our
Constitution charges the federal government with promoting
the general welfare. Yet the Bush Regime had cut funding for
the levees despite warnings of the impending disaster dating
back to 2001, provided a slow and anemic relief effort by
utilizing a FEMA entity which they had gutted, and patrolled
the streets with heavily armed Blackwater contractors to
secure property and assets.
Principally because of its draconian crack-down on
non-violent drug-users, particularly in the Black community,
the United States has the world’s largest prison population
(5% of the world’s population and 25% of the prison
population: more evidence that preservation of the
propertied class and their holdings must come before all
other considerations in a nation dominated by Capitalist
Since the American justice system emphasizes punitive
measures over rehabilitation, many of the two million
incarcerated face bleak possibilities once they have
completed their sentences. Lacking job training and adequate
social coping skills while bearing the stigma of a felony
conviction, former convicts find it extremely difficult to
reassimilate into society. Many wind up homeless, living
with the friends with whom they got into trouble in the
first place, in homeless shelters, in flop-houses, or under
Their Milk of Human Kindness Soured Long Ago
As the moneyed class strengthens its dominance over our
society, the plight of the homeless is worsening. The US
Conference of Mayors (representing 270 cities) reported that
the demand for homeless shelter space increased by 13% in
2001 and by 25% in 2005. 22% of those seeking shelter in
2005 were refused.
Demonstrating the depths of their compassion, our
“benevolent” leaders have begun to criminalize homelessness.
Of the 224 American cities that participated in a recent
National Coalition for the Homeless survey, approximately
30% are taking measures targeting the homeless, including
banning pan-handling and “camping”, initiating frequent
police sweeps of public areas to arrest or “evict” homeless
persons, and selectively enforcing loitering laws.
While our heavily entrenched corporate elites and affluent
decision-makers cut their own taxes, reduce spending on
social programs, and lavish insane amounts of the working
poor’s and middle class’s tax money on a military which
exists to protect and expand their pecuniary interests, they
offer the weakest members of our society, our homeless
people, a quality of life that would repulse a sewer rat.
Thanks to the pathological greed unleashed and rewarded by
Capitalism, America has forged a Faustian Pact. It is
inevitable that Mephistopheles will come to collect his due.
Or perhaps he already has.
Jason Miller is a 39 year old sociopolitical essayist
with a degree in liberal arts and an extensive
self-education (derived from an insatiable appetite for
reading). He is a member of Amnesty International and an
avid supporter of Oxfam International and Human Rights
Watch. He welcomes responses at
or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at