* Jason Miller: American Capitalism and The Moral Poverty of Nations *


Richard Moore

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American Capitalism and The Moral Poverty of Nations

Of Faustian Bargains and Disposable Human Beings



(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 America¹s twin 
gods of Capitalism and Consumerism. As an increasing number of individual 
proprietors are driven to extinction, Wal-Mart, McDonald¹s, 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 
Consumerism¹s 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 ³blessings² 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 ³blessings² 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, ³feudalism² 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.

America¹s 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 ³enlightened values². 
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 Women¹s 
Suffrage with virtually every fiber of their collective being.

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, America¹s 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 thriving jungle.

By the late Nineteenth Century, trusts and monopolies flourished. Laissez faire 
economic policy prevented the government ³of the people² from meddling in the 
wealthy elite¹s obscene human and environmental exploitation. America¹s 
plutocracy was living large while the rest of the population struggled and 

For years, America¹s 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 ³feel good² 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 America¹s 
socioeconomic system, a system which enables a privileged few who ³play the 
game² well to mercilessly pursue their personal interests, amass private 
fortunes, and hoard the lion¹s share of ³America¹s abundance².

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 commodities.

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 Hobbesian vision.

Relentless Momentum

After years of gains for the poor, women, minorities, and labor throughout the 
Twentieth Century, a champion arose for America¹s White Capitalist Patriarchy in
1980. When Ronald Reagan took the driver¹s seat, he wasn¹t content to simply 
return justice and compassion to the back seat. He threw them in the trunk and 
left them there to rot.

Reagan¹s 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 ³join the club² 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 by Lightening

Horatio Alger wrote over 130 very popular fiction novels in the Nineteenth 
Century. Unfortunately, his ideal notions of attaining ³rags to riches² 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 1%.

In 2005, 143 of 435 US Representatives and one in three Senators were 

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 opportunity!

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 this labour."

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 full-blooded 

More staggering statistics demonstrate who reaps the bounty in a Capitalist 
system (even one constrained by elements of more just and humane economic 

More than 99% of American businesses have fewer than 500 employees and account 
for less than 37% of all business sales.

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 
Bush¹s ³ownership society².

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 

As the semblance of a meritocracy in America succumbs to the forces of 
plutocratic ambition and greed under the Bush Regime, American economic system¹s
³noble and fair² reputation is dutifully maintained by genuflecting mainstream 
media pundits. Yet there is one particularly shameful stain which not even 
master propagandists can mask.

Material ProsperityŠ.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. America¹s 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 businesses.

"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, ³Disposable² Human Beings?

Homelessness is not limited to the conventional notion of people sleeping in a 
cardboard box or on a park bench. America¹s 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 ³three hots and a cot².

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 1960¹s, 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 the street.

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 America¹s 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 yesterday¹s 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 America¹s ³booming² 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 
elites¹ 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 world¹s largest 
prison population (5% of the world¹s 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 elites).

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 bridges.

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 ³benevolent² 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 
³camping², initiating frequent police sweeps of public areas to arrest or 
³evict² 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 poor¹s and middle class¹s 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 

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 

Fair Use Statement

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of US Copyright Law, this 
attributed work is provided via Thomas Paine¹s Corner on a non-profit basis to 
facilitate understanding, research, education, and the advancement of human 
rights and social justice.


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