It’s official: The United States is an Oligarchy

April 17, 2014 | By | 5 Replies More

We have no hope of fixing any problem in this county until we fix THIS problem, described by Zachary Davies Boren of the U.K. Guardian:

The US government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities has concluded.

The report, entitled Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, used extensive policy data collected from between the years of 1981 and 2002 to empirically determine the state of the US political system.

After sifting through nearly 1,800 US policies enacted in that period and comparing them to the expressed preferences of average Americans (50th percentile of income), affluent Americans (90th percentile) and large special interests groups, researchers concluded that the United States is dominated by its economic elite.

The peer-reviewed study, which will be taught at these universities in September, says: “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. . . . “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it.””


Category: Campaign Finance Reform, Corporatocracy, Corruption

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (5)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    What kind of oligarchy? As Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan explains, Gilens and Page’s findings provide support for two theories of governance: economic elite domination and biased pluralism. The first is pretty straightforward and states that the ultra-wealthy wield all the power in a given system, though some argue that this system still allows elites in corporations and the government to become powerful as well. Here, power does not necessarily derive from wealth, but those in power almost invariably come from the upper class. Biased pluralism on the other hand argues that the entire system is a mess and interest groups ruled by elites are fighting for dominance of the political process. Also, because of their vast wealth of resources, interest groups of large business tend to dominate a lot of the discourse.

    In either case, the result is the same: Big corporations, the ultra-wealthy and special interests with a lot of money and power essentially make all of the decisions. Citizens wield little to no political power. America, the findings indicate, tends towards either of these much more than anything close to what we call “democracy” — systems such as majoritarian electoral democracy or majoritarian pluralism, under which the policy choices pursued by the government would reflect the opinions of the governed.

  2. > “democracy”

    Well, at least we have the word.

    I think the truly powerful simply don’t care what system they manipulate c.q. control, as long as they can stay relatively invisible and leave the world stage to those who crave to be in the public eye.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Plantary – I agree. They don’t care about the type of dog and pony show that is playing for the general public, as long as they get their way. In the case of the fossil fuel providers, all they want is to control the debate so that sustainable energy and pollution are downplayed, and then control a market that tends to be lacking in competition. That’s all they want, and if it takes a lot of behind the scenes money to get it done, then that is merely the cost of doing business.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    From TPM

    Asking “[w]ho really rules?” researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America’s political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.

    Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters.

  4. Tim Hogan says:

    America has never been a democracy but is a democratic republic. We elect others to represent our views or to act in accordance with our percieved “good judgment” before the various legislatures.

    It used to be that “smoke filled rooms” and “party insiders” picked the various candidates but elecion reforms passed in the 1970’s changed the landscape of elections. Open primaries and primary lections thrust paid media and politcal punditry to the forefront in the peer review function of the electoral process.

    The problem is so bad in the state and federal legislatures that now we had a candidate raise and spend $1 million in Missouri’s 24th State Senatorial District election. Senator Lamping was funded by corporations, millionaires and billionaires for Republicans in Missouri to achieve a veto proof majority in our state senate. Similarly, several State Representative elections cost $400,000 or more to achieve the same result in the Missouri House. Now, Republicans can and do routinely override vetoes of their masters’ favored legislation.

    Now Republicans can be rented by the various corporations, millionaires and billionaires to enact whatever legislation the big spenders want, and they get it even if vetoed by the state’s Democratic Governor, Jay Nixon. Governor Nixon has used his veto powers probably more than any other governor in Missouri history but, the political make-up of the bi-cameral General Assembly allows Republicans to routinely, and in record numbers, override any gubanatorial veto.

    The only way for Missouri, and other similarly situated people in other states, to overcome the Republicans’ takeover schemes is to enact a series of state constitutional amendments so as to restrict the ability of the legislatures from acting bad laws or diverting money away from certain essential priorities, established by direct democracy.

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