Faustian bargain

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From the medieval legend of Faust, who made a contract with the devil, exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures.


Faustian bargain (plural Faustian bargains)

  1. (idiomatic) An agreement in which a person abandons his or her spiritual values or moral principles in order to obtain knowledge, wealth or other benefits.
    The expulsion of the competent and the abandonment of founding values in exchange for a boost in the university's Satanic social status was a Faustian bargain.
  2. (idiomatic) A deal in which one focuses on present gain without considering the long term consequences.
    • 1974, Joel Primack and Frank von Hippel, "Nuclear Reactor Safety," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol. 30, no. 8 (Oct), p. 5 (Google preview):
      It has been remarked that all technology is a Faustian bargain: one obtains conveniences and sometimes luxuries, but in exchange one gets an increased potential for catastrophe.
    • 1997 July 20, "Blackmail!," Businessweek (international edition) (retrieved 29 Aug 2012):
      But for decades, many executives actually employed sokaiya as muscle to keep unruly investors in check during their choreographed annual meetings. . . . Yet executives' reliance on mobsters turned out to be a Faustian bargain. By the 1970s, the sokaiya had figured out how to become stockholders themselves and threaten to ask embarrassing questions at annual meetings.
    • 2011 March 10, Ellen Barry, "Plain Speaking From Biden in Moscow Speech," New York Times (retrieved 29 Aug 2012):
      Vice President Joseph R. Biden . . . used a speech at Moscow State University to criticize Russia’s legal and political systems. “I urge all you students here: Don’t compromise on the basic elements of democracy. You need not make that Faustian bargain.”



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