Don’t call America a democracy, call it a plutocracy

ASHLEY FISHER | Evergreen columnist

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The United States government is dominated by an elite group of individuals who hold all of the money, and therefore, all of the power.

This is the conclusion of a recent study conducted by Princeton University Professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Professor Benjamin I. Page.

In the study, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens,” Gilens and Page compared 1,800 different U.S. policies that were enacted by politicians within a 20-year period between 1981 and 2002, to the type of policies preferred by the average and wealthy American, according to an article by The Washington Times.

This comparison revealed economic elites and organized groups that represent business interests have a significantly greater impact on U.S. government policy than average citizens. The research concluded that average citizens – including all of us here at WSU – actually have little to no independent influence.

The study went viral upon its publication. Headlines of countless articles from various news sources declared that the United States is no longer a democracy, but an oligarchy. The headline of an article by MSNBC reads: “U.S. more oligarchy than democracy, study suggests.” 

In simple terms, oligarchy means government by the few. However, while the word “oligarchy” is currently being cycled in the news world, this imprecise term ignores Gilens and Page’s own description of the current state of the U.S. government.

Interestingly enough, Gilens and Page never used the word “oligarchy” to describe the ruling class in their study. This was a vague descriptor selected by reporters to jazz up headlines.

Instead, Gilens and Page refer to the ruling class as “economic elites,” which means a more correct term to characterize the current U.S. government is plutocracy.

A plutocracy is a government by the richest people, and unfortunately, that is what the United States is today.

Not a democracy or an oligarchy, but more precisely, a plutocracy.

The study states: “In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule – at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”

As ominous as the term “plutocracy” sounds, it largely remains a faceless threat.  So who are the elite groups, and what do they control? The Rockefeller, Gates and Morgan families are to name only a well-known few. Over the course of the last few decades, their influence on politics, banking systems, vaccines, food, and education in America is inconceivable.

It doesn’t end there. Additional studies suggest that the world as a whole could be a plutocracy.

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich conducted “an analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations (and) identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy,” according to an article by New Scientist.

Further research will reveal that a very small core group of huge banks and giant predator corporations dominate the entire global economic system. This suggests the manipulation of the U.S. government and state affairs is representative of the entire global system.

Although Gilens and Page do not refer to the “economic elites” by name or discuss the manipulation of the global economy, they do state that these small number of affluent Americans “seriously threaten” America’s claims to being a democratic society.

So, the American democracy is a sham. Now what is left for the average, powerless American citizen to do?

Sadly, there is not much we can do other than conduct individual research to inform ourselves on the true history and current state of our country.

We are not a part of a democratic nation. We are merely pawns in a game ruled by kings and queens.

– Ashley Lynn Fisher is a junior English major from Gig Harbor. She can be contacted at 335-2290 or by [email protected] The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of Student Publications.