Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough


The Jungle

By: Upton Sinclair

Narrated by Casey Affleck



It seems appropriate to revisit Sinclair’s book in light of the current administration in Washington D.C.

In the era of Trump, it is not meat packing but the coal industry that needs help. Trump’s pandering to the American coal miner offers air without oxygen to an industry that is dying.

Private industry and the American government need to step in and offer a way out for coal industry’ laborers. The Trump administration undervalues American labor by presuming laborers can only be cogs in a machine rather than complete human beings.

Instead of insisting on continuing an industry destined to fail, private industry and government should be offering living-wage transition, and education for new jobs; i.e. jobs that look to a future rather than a past.

Sinclair exposes the dark side of poverty and immigration in the United States.  It reminds one of Charles Dickens’ stories of child labor in London but does not offer much warmth or balance.  Sinclair’s story offers no respite from utter degradation.  There is no respite for the reader to believe there is any redemption for being poor in Chicago in the early 1900s.

“The Jungle” is a grim tale written by Upton Sinclair about the meat-packing industry in early 20th century America.


Lessons of “The Jungle” are reminders of the limits of unregulated capitalism, industry’ greed, and government neglect.  Sinclair attacks the meat-packing industry of the 1900’s. 

Descriptions are given of spoiled meat ground into sausages; loaded with chemicals for appearance and smell, with too much production to be adequately inspected by too few inspectors. Employees lose limbs and lives in accidents; with corporate lawyers preparing to swindle the uneducated with unfair financial settlements.  Wages are too low to offer enough money for shelter and food; let alone any savings, to break the cycle of poverty.  Promotion is limited to those who are willing to compromise their morality by feeding a corrupt system that thrives on human exploitation.

Herbert Hoover is the 31st President of the U. S. when the meat packing industry is at its worst. Like Herbert Hoover, Trump seems to think the strong survive and the poor deserve their fate.

To some, this is the same as today’s stories of the coal industry.

Don Blankenship (Former CEO of the 6th largest coal company in the U.S., Massey Energy)

Convicted on a misdemeanor charge of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety and health standards in 2015. Sentenced to 1 year in prison and fined $250,000.


Images of poverty and what it leads to are still seen in American cities; i.e. people living on the street, begging for a dollar to eat; some drinking the dollar away at a local tavern because it blunts the pain of being poor and offers a haven from a cold winter day. Young people, some children, turning tricks to survive; selling their body because low paying jobs of high volume/low price conglomerates do not pay enough for rent and food.

Hearing of the meat industry–its lax government oversight, greedy corporate owners, and corrupt politicians deeply offends American ideals.  Grinding poverty changes a family of ambitious immigrants into cogs in a meat butchering machine that breaks spirits and turns good people into bums and latent criminals.

In Dickens novels, there are some remnants of human joy; even in impoverished London.  In Sinclair, the only glimmer of light is small-scale concern for fellow human beings.  The early days of the union movement offer some hope.  However, even Sinclair’s positive sentiments are corrupted by politics.  Sinclair idealizes socialism and touches on early communism.

America still offers the best known vehicle for freedom in a regulated democracy.

Since 1789, America’s relationship to immigrants has been a work in progress.

The United States has a growing need for younger workers; not to the extent of countries like Japan, but after 2020 it is increasingly important.

America needs more youth to re-balance its economic growth.

The influx of immigrants generated much of America’s success in the industrial age. Immigrants offer the same opportunity for America in the tech age.

To some immigrants, the avenue out of poverty is crime and immorality, but that has always been true in America’s history. That is why American democracy is founded on rule-of-law. Human nature does not change.

The life cycle for an honest immigrant is grim; arriving poor; staying poor, and dying.  American Presidents who only focus on the business of business fail to understand or care about the trials of the poor, the newly arrived immigrant, or the social condition of impoverished communities.

Every country in the world benefits and suffers from the nature of man and the effects of urbanization; none offer Eden.  America remains a land of opportunity, but to close our doors to those who want to improve their lives with freedom and honest work is an unconscionable mistake.  Demographics are destiny. America’s and many post-industrial economy’s populations need help.

Modern America is not quite so dark but inequality of opportunity still plagues capitalism with wealth, greed, and political corruption hiding the dire condition of the poor.

As long as the poor remain hidden; the rich and middle class will avert their eyes, mutter “get a job”, and think the poor get what they deserve.

America is Constitutionally responsible for the welfare of its citizens.

Those who think the business of government is only business are incorrect. Business is a tool to use in forming a more perfect union; governing with justice, supporting domestic tranquility, providing for a common defense, and promoting the general welfare.

Author: chet8757

Graduate Oregon State University and Northern Illinois University, Former City Manager, Corporate Vice President, General Contractor, Non-Profit Project Manager, occasional free lance writer and photographer for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

One thought on “BUSINESS IN AMERICA”

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