You live in one, right now.
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....

As one illustration, Gilens and Page compare the political preferences of Americans at the 50th income percentile to preferences of Americans at the 90th percentile as well as major lobbying or business groups. They find that the government—whether Republican or Democratic—more often follows the preferences of the latter group rather than the first.
That was predictable from the redistributionist society we have developed. As Aristotle himself points out, in a democracy the most important thing to the stability of the regime is to protect the wealthy from having the democrats vote themselves access to the money and property of the rich. Because the people are really powerful, you have to protect the wealthy or they will be stripped of everything (and revolt).

In an oligarchy, by contrast, stability comes from 'sharing the wealth.' To put it another way, to make up for the fact that the political wishes of everyone else are ignored you buy them off with bribes. Because the people have no real power, only the illusion of power, to keep them in support of the system you have to provide them with real financial support.

So far, the system seems pretty stable in spite of the redistribution. That suggests, on independent grounds, that this study is correct about the real distribution of power.


raven said...

From where I sit it looks to me like the oligarchs are re-distributing alright- but not their money-instead, the working stiff middle class is getting robbed by them to distribute to their selected set of moochers. I know my "disposable" funds are getting less and less, the only thing that has saved us is that we have no debt and live frugally. Also I have put a lot of work into improving my production to keep competitive. Can't wait till I have to pay a fine to the bastards for the offense of not having suitable insurance, AFTER those scum deliberately destroyed the insurance I did have, and forced my Doctor to retire-and I, am supposed to pay THEM, for this?

Grim said...

That's a good point. The oligarchs we have are ones who have figured out how to redistribute your money, although I hear that the top few percent still pays most of the taxes.

Still, the Obamacare model is for more than half of Americans to be on some form of welfare payments -- even if they are for expenses that the government mandates.

Ymar Sakar said...

Democracy was always designed to be an oligarchy, just take it to the logickal conclusion.

51% of 100 is what?

51% of that 51% is what? 51% of the 26% is what? 51% of the 13% is what?

Sooner or later, you get to Rule by the 5%. And then Rule by the 3%. And then Rule by the 1%. How is that not oligarchy?

Btw we went past oligarchy already, those slow pokes haven't figured out we are a MONARCHY now by Divine Right.

Ymar Sakar said...

Princeton is a bunch of idiots. This little factoid was known several years ago by the 3%. And they didn't need a "study" to group think their way to it.

Eric Blair said...

The country always has been an oligarchy.

Difference is now, there's no frontier to decamp to once it gets to onerous, and the scale of the govt' has gone all beyond anything that the people could have imagined in 1787.

MikeD said...

Eric has the right of it. I think all this "we've slid into oligarchy" stuff is nonsense. We've always been an oligarchy. Name the last President who was truly poor before coming into office. Sure, many rose from poverty (Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln come to mind), but all were wealthy men before they became President. So too with Congress and the Senate. Our political class is and always has been made up of the wealthy. Pretending there once was a time that this was not so is delusional. Some, I believe, cared more about the good of all the people than others, but ultimately, there has always been a ruling elite.

This argument goes hand in hand with "the rich get away with anything now!" Which I hear from the Left. If anything, the opposite is true. Even 100 years ago, a wealthy industrialist could get away with crimes up to, and possibly including murder and suffer no penalty. We actually live in an era where the rich are under greater scrutiny than any other time in human history. But they're somehow under the impression that "things are worse now than ever," which even a cursory examination of history puts the lie to.

And to bring it back to the original topic, let's examine our oligarchs. Even just 50 years ago, a young President bedded many young women with near reckless abandon in complete contravention of the mores of the time, and yet, even though it was widely known among the press, no one dared report on it. 30 years later, a brief fling with a single intern almost brought down a Presidency. The times may be a-changin, but the days when an oligarch didn't play by the same rules as the rest of us are getting better, not worse.

Ymar Sakar said...

Even 100 years ago, a wealthy industrialist could get away with crimes up to, and possibly including murder and suffer no penalty.

And that's different from Ted Kennedy and rapist Clinton, how?

E Hines said...

Even just 50 years ago....

And 100 years ago, an oligarch personally and directly intervened to stop a financial panic in its tracks.

There's a subtext to that, too: for all the out-of-bounds degree of today's wealth and income inequality being whined about, the concentration of wealth today doesn't exist (nor does the regulatory environment, come to that) that obtained that century ago; such a personal and direct intervention no longer is possible.

Eric Hines