Scientific study concludes US is an oligarchy, not a democracy


We are so close to losing our democracy to the mercenary class, it’s as if we are leaning way over the rim of the Grand Canyon and all that’s needed is a swift kick in the pants. Look out below.

The predators in Washington are only this far from monopoly control of our government. They have bought the political system, lock, stock and pork barrel, making change from within impossible. That’s the real joke.

Bill Moyers

For some time, those of us on the Left have been calling the United States an oligarchy, meaning that the democratic process and our elected officials have been co-opted by banks, corporations, and billionaires who have undue influence on public policy. It means a small group of wealthy people control the government for their own ends. When calling the United States an oligarchy, we’ve been accused of hyperbole. Well, no more eye rolling when we say the “O” word. Sadly, we’ve been vindicated.

Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University will be publishing their study, “Testing Theories of American Politics,” in the Fall, 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics. They asked the questions “Who governs?” and “Who really rules?” in the United States. And this is what they discovered:

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. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, . . . America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”

In this first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, Gilens and Page demonstrated that theories that premised America as a democracy failed to hold water. They discovered “. . . the nearly total failure of ‘median voter’ and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America].” When the authors say “median voter” they mean average Americans.

When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

Their study was conducted using “a unique data set that included measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.” The authors suggest that the pervasiveness of corruption could be even worse than their data shows.

So, bottom line, you can keep calling the United States an oligarchy because it is a scientifically proven fact—the study strongly suggests that American democracy is a sham. A choice between corporate owned candidate, A, and corporate owned candidate B, is not really a choice. And neither candidate—Gilens and Page tell us—is going to represent your interests anyway. If your interests are reflected in policy decisions, it’s probably not because they listened to you, it’s because your interests coincided with the interests of the elite. After the recent Supreme Court decision that gives oligarchs free reign to buy as many politicians as they want, your elected officials may no longer have to pretend to listen to you. A hand full will, but the overwhelming majority are going to be serving their corporate donors.

Paul Craig Roberts, ex Assistant Treasury Secretary under Reagan gives a working definition of oligarchy and connects it to US foreign policy:

An oligarchy is a country that is run for private interests. These private interests–Wall Street, the military/security complex, oil and natural gas, and agribusiness–seek domination, a goal well served by the neoconservative ideology of US hegemony.

The takeover of government by oligarchs is both hidden and furthered by corporate-owned news media. These news outlets most often function as stenographers to power, delivering the administration’s official line on the issues of the day. The current reporting on the crisis in Ukraine is one example of how lies and fabrications are reported on a daily basis in order to convince ordinary Americans to accept whatever the administration and its shadow state are doing in service of the elite. Iraq anyone?

Of course there are cracks in the facade. Good reporting happens now and then even in corporate owned media. But, the main point to remember is this: while we are deliberately being distracted by false narratives on government policy and issues (NSA, for another example), or force fed oil and gas company ads claiming fracking is safe and will make us “energy independent,” or entertained by partisan Punch-and-Judy shows, our government is crafting oligarch-serving domestic and foreign policies behind closed doors.