Welcome to the Oligarchy

study that will appear in the Fall 2014 issue of Perspectives on Politics, a very highly regarded academic journal, concludes that the U.S. is no longer a democracy. Instead, we have become an oligarchy, and a pretty corrupt one at that.

“Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.”

The study provides pretty conclusive evidence that the US government does not represent the interests of the majority of our country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by the rich and powerful. As the Telegraph reports:

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.  

That domination helps to explain another recent study, this one by French Economist Gabriel Zucman.  Zucman looked at international data on what economists call investment positions (each country reports its assets abroad and foreign-owned assets at home). He found that the numbers don’t add up: globally, according to the reports, liabilities substantially outnumbered assets. But that’s mathematically impossible.

Zucman investigated further; He eventually concluded that the only way to explain such a result is if a lot of money is run through offshore havens, and the ownership doesn’t show up in any country’s national statistics. 

Zucman estimates that the world’s wealthy are using tax havens, including Swiss banks, to hide at least $4.5 trillion but more likely $6 trillion from the tax collectors. That’s $6,000,000,000,000—close to six percent of the entire world’s gross economic output for one year. In other words, as one pundit noted, not chickenfeed.

Not only are we being governed by wealthy oligarchs, for all intents and purposes–they aren’t even beneficent oligarchs. What’s ours is theirs, what’s theirs is theirs–and they aren’t sharing.

Welcome to our brave new global economy. The American republic was nice while it lasted.


  1. The oligarchy is on full display in the governance of the City of Indianapolis. You never seem to have much to say about that though.

  2. The Romans gave bread and circuses to keep the masses from rebelling and from crimes. We don’t give enough bread to keep the poor from being hungry and our circuses (football, basketball, etc. )are too expensive for the masses. Slave labor was popular in Rome. We just underpay, while like Rome, our rich get richer behind their gates.
    And like Rome our government representatives suck up to the rich powerful. And they do seem to be rewarded after leaving office. (Bribes?)
    Will we learn from history? I am afraid not.

  3. The oligarchy is further evidenced by the fact that although huge majorities favor reasonable gun safety law, raising the minimum wage and regulating the financial industry, none of these measures can pass a Congress gerrymandered with the blessing of a Supreme Court which in a judicial coup d’état installed the illegitimate George Bush as president in 2000, thus entrenching the oligarchs who now call the shots.

  4. Neil Tyson mentions in his series Cosmos about Selection- Natural vs Human Selection. We have for instance artificial selection vs natural selection. Animals such as dogs and cats are the result of artificial selection (domestication).

    Several words have been used used to describe the control of our society: Oligarchy, Plutocracy, Neo-Aristocracy, or the 1%. The 1% engages in artificial selection or domestication of the political system for their own purposes. Those politicians that will serve the 1% are selected, by the 1%. These politicians that have been selected receive Campaign Contributions, free tickets to Sporting Events, or junkets paid for by the 1%.

    The result on display in Marion County is a Republicrat Party. Millions of tax dollars each year is funneled into the Pockets of the Owners of the Pacers or Colts and at the same time our Public Parks, and Public Transportation are starved for funding. The Elected Puppets of the 1% see no contradiction here to what should be basic American Values. The Elected and Appointed Puppets vigorously defend the diversion of millions of tax dollars into the Pockets of the Pacers and Colts. Our local Media never questions this Crony-Capitalism.

  5. Louie; let’s not forget the newly acquired Fuel and Eleven and whatever they name the pro cricket team as recipients of these monies. Will ping-pong be next? It is a ball.

  6. Instead of saying “America is an oligarchy”, the papers need to say it like it is: “America, where the rich own you and your opinions don’t matter”. It’s about time for folks to get mad enough to do something, like stop supporting the ones who allow it to happen. If Indiana isn’t an example of this, I don’t know what is.

  7. We have some Excelon stock, and it’s time to register our vote for the upcoming annual meeting. One shareholder proposal is “to limit individual total compensation for each of the Named Executive Officers to 100 times the annual median compensation paid to all employees”. The company advises stockholders to vote against it. If their reason to vote against this is that they can’t get good leadership, would anyone out there be willing to work for 100 times the median salaried employee? You might be on the lookout, just in case they had a shortage of applicants.

    Maybe this is the beginning of the rise of the non-oligarchs.

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