Heller’s Catch 22: American Business

Catch-22 satirizes American business through Milo Minderbinder. In chapter 24, Milo points out that, in business, truth is often in inconsequential detail. He starts a business called M & M Enterprises in which the M & M stood for Milo and Minderbinder, and the & was inserted “to nullify any impression that the syndicate was a one-man operation.” This name sheds light on two very important details, that truth is inconsequential when it comes to the pursuit of profit and that egomania rules all. Milo could have disguised the fact that the enterprise is a one-man operation by using any number of fake names. For example, the name could have just as easily been M&K or M&T.  But his ego and pride don’t allow him to part with any of the credit, even if that means giving credit to an imaginary person that he made up.

Yossarian views Milo the way that American society tends to view Wall Street. He thinks that Milo is “a jerk” but also knows that “Milo was a genius.” Society is fascinated by Wall Street single-minded pursuit of profit and their lack of allegiance to anyone, even to their own country.  Accordingly, Milo displays a similar lack of allegiance when Major Danby points out that “we are at war with Germany, and those are German planes.” Milo replies, “They are no such thing! Those planes belong to the syndicate, and everybody has a share.” Besides showing a lack of allegiance, this response also points out the way that Milo and corporate society tend to argue out of both sides of their mouth. On one hand, they make public statements about a kill or be killed style of unregulated capitalism and, on the other hand, they try their hardest to construct as pure all the communistic society as possible, one that revolves entirely around what’s good for the small number of people at the top of the corporate ladder who rule the corporation.

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