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Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the cats-and-dogs-governing-together dept.

United States 818

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers from Princeton University and Northwestern University have concluded, after extensive analysis of 1,779 policy issues, that the U.S. is in fact an oligarchy and not a democracy. What this means is that, although 'Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance,' 'majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.' Their study (PDF), to be published in Perspectives on Politics, found that '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.'"

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Are you kidding (5, Insightful)

sandbagger (654585) | about 4 months ago | (#46764459)

You lift the limits on campaign spending, declare that corporations have the right of political speech and are now surprised that the rich people have all the say?

I have no sympathy. In fact, many of you cheered it as a sign of greatness and freedom that America was doing this. Your allies, however, were fucking appalled. Let

Re:Are you kidding (5, Informative)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | about 4 months ago | (#46764529)

This is *before* those limits were lifted. As a citizen, I'm looking forward to seeing the power of the wealthy further cemented in this country, and so exquisitely draped in the pretense of democracy that my fellow citizens believe themselves empowered. It's gonna get better! (For the wealthy). How exciting for those of us who imagine ourselves upwardly mobile within the American caste system.

Re:Are you kidding (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764575)

You lift the limits on campaign spending, declare that corporations have the right of political speech and are now surprised that the rich people have all the say?

I have no sympathy. In fact, many of you cheered it as a sign of greatness and freedom that America was doing this. Your allies, however, were fucking appalled. Let

Hey dummy, do you know what oligarchy means? It means we're ruled by judges, not by elected representatives. It means the courts make policy, not the representatives. How do you tie this study to limits on campaign spending?

Re:Are you kidding (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 4 months ago | (#46764589)

No, it doesn't. The summary itsself contains a list to a definition.

Re:Are you kidding (2)

TheP4st (1164315) | about 4 months ago | (#46764655)

No that is not what oligarchy means, it simply mean that the power of rule lie with a small group of people which can be judges but it can also be the wealthy, military, corporate. If campaign spending is a deciding factor decide on who the next policy makers will be and they are put into power by funding from the wealthy the likelihood of policies favoring this small minority greatly increase.

Re:Are you kidding (1)

umghhh (965931) | about 4 months ago | (#46764749)

I recall an interview with a judge of federal constitutional court of Germany (Bundesverfassungsgericht) about deficits in democratic system in Germany and he claimed that he does not feel any deficits. Clearly he would not as people come to him to answer constitutional questions. So I guess we have an oligarchy in Germany too. That is not a big surprise. There is no conspiracy - it would be silly if mighty and wealthy have given up a possibility to game the system. It is only reasonable that most of them do. What surprises me from time to time is that some of them might & wealthy actually see that as a danger for the system that allowed them to become and stay mighty&wealthy.

Re:Are you kidding (1)

dave420 (699308) | about 4 months ago | (#46764859)

One guy saying something does not an oligarchy make, regardless of who that guy is.

Re:Are you kidding (2)

lymond01 (314120) | about 4 months ago | (#46764615)

You lift the limits on campaign spending, declare that corporations have the right of political speech and are now surprised that the rich people have all the say?

I will remind you that even the summary suggests the average American has near zero say in lifting anything in terms of American policy. I'd also like to suggest that people find it easier to be angry at losing than making an effort to win. Directly related somehow.

Re:Are you kidding (5, Interesting)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 4 months ago | (#46764711)

It starts before that. You must first suppress the knowledge of history by underfunding teaching institutions and manipulating curricula.

Only when the people are ignorant of their past can you pull such ridiculous capitalist dictatorships without opposition.

Ignorance is the one and only true enemy. Trying to convince the ignorant is a losing strategy, teaching the next generation is the only correct first step.

"little influence" (5, Insightful)

kthreadd (1558445) | about 4 months ago | (#46764461)

It took a study to figure that out?

Re:"little influence" (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 4 months ago | (#46764627)

It took a study to figure that out?

And likely a government-funded one, to boot!

Re:"little influence" (5, Insightful)

SigmundFloyd (994648) | about 4 months ago | (#46764849)

It took a study to figure that out?

It took a study to find proof.

Re:"little influence" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764869)

The perspective of one person is simply too narrow to make a determination in this kind of systemic issue. The next question is why won't anybody do something about the scientifically confirmed fact. It's like the climate change: too abstract for an average individual to care until it's too late. The bread and the circus muffles the problem like a whole pack of Xanax and a bottle of really smokey Scotch.

Re:"little influence" (1)

Anna Merikin (529843) | about 4 months ago | (#46764895)

It took a study to figure that out?

No, it took a study to demonstrate it.

research mearly confirmed a known issue (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764467)

It's not that that was not clear years ago to people who actually follow politics

Revolt? (5, Interesting)

duke_cheetah2003 (862933) | about 4 months ago | (#46764469)

Does this give us a free pass to revolt now?

I do believe the founding fathers would like it that way.. if the government isn't right, take up arms, overthrow it, and put it back the right way.

Re:Revolt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764487)

No.

Re:Revolt? (1)

aybiss (876862) | about 4 months ago | (#46764547)

Oblig Futurama: "[Shoot] someone who deserves it for once!" - Bender

Re:Revolt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764691)

It wasnt Bender, it was Malachi, who implored Bender to "smite someone who deserves it for once" when Bender was the Metal Lord in Godfellas.

Re:Revolt? (5, Insightful)

FlyHelicopters (1540845) | about 4 months ago | (#46764561)

Does this give us a free pass to revolt now?

Yes, but you've had that right the whole time...

You will, however, find it very much harder to do today than it was 230 years ago...

It isn't just that the US military has tanks and stealth bombers (they help of course), it is that they more or less control the media, thus control what people see, read, and think...

To this day, the average person continues to believe the news, as if everything they say is a "fact"...

The other truth is... the American Revolution wasn't started by a bunch of serfs, it was started by rich land owners who didn't like their deal...

Re:Revolt? (1)

umghhh (965931) | about 4 months ago | (#46764811)

...

The other truth is... the American Revolution wasn't started by a bunch of serfs, it was started by rich land owners who didn't like their deal...

That is the truth about almost any revolution there ever was. In reality any uprising of the masses that did not get organized by some silly or evil group from the top, failed.

Re:Revolt? (3, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | about 4 months ago | (#46764571)

Does this give us a free pass to revolt now?

I do believe the founding fathers would like it that way.. if the government isn't right, take up arms, overthrow it, and put it back the right way.

I don't know about you, but I'm already revolting! :)

Re:Revolt? (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 4 months ago | (#46764645)

Now I'm revolted.

Re:Revolt? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764577)

Does this give us a free pass to revolt now?

Why would it? A revolt is against the existing rules, so you don't get a free pass. You lost the republic the founding fathers handed you.

I do believe the founding fathers would like it that way.. if the government isn't right, take up arms, overthrow it, and put it back the right way.

The founding fathers revolted against their government. They did not revolt against other oppressive governments. This is your time and your country. Not the time of the founding fathers, and not their country.

Re:Revolt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764673)

and put it back the right way

Overthrowing the government is whatever. Governments have been overthrown before.

Getting it right the next time is the hard part.

Duh (-1)

DMJC (682799) | about 4 months ago | (#46764471)

So basically what I've been saying for a few years now. Welcome to Russia Americans. Have fun with that. That leaves Canada and Australia as the last bastions of freedom in the world.

Re:Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764489)

And Cold Fjordistan. Your free to say any kind of shit there.

Re:Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764505)

Heh. Don't blink.

Man, Slashdot take a long time to accept your post when it's port scanning your ip to see if you're using an open proxy...

Re:Duh (2)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about 4 months ago | (#46764537)

Australia? hardly. We exported Rupert, remember.

Try our neighbours across the Tasman Sea.

Re:Duh (2)

aybiss (876862) | about 4 months ago | (#46764569)

Even in our (Australia's) supposedly modern democracy, politicians can say anything at all to get elected and can't be held to it once they are. And once they're in they can hide behind things like parliamentary privelege and say anything they like without having to prove it's true.

There is NO true democracy anywhere in the world as far as I know.

Re:Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764641)

Australia still has a few journalists left, or did last time I was there. The US would do well to ask the tough questions to their politicians, Oh sorry your viewers dont care, nevermind then carry on.

Re:Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764713)

We actually had a tough question asked by a journo of our Prime Minister today, who responded with anger that he was asked such a tough question...

Re:Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764679)

Switzerland is pretty close, they have referendums pretty frequently for major public policies.

Re:Duh (5, Insightful)

DMJC (682799) | about 4 months ago | (#46764717)

In Sydney we just arrested the State Premier for corruption over a bottle of wine. The system works. The Prime minister is not above the law in Australia. Something that the USA has never managed to sort out with their corrupt system. Nixon should have been jailed, but really the rot had started to set in long before then. The Greens in Australia are a credible threat to the Liberal and Labor parties. Unlike America, where there is no alternative political movement that can ever get into office. The minor parties in Australia actually get to set policy and ensure that the average person retains a speaking voice in our government.

Re:Duh (5, Insightful)

gslj (214011) | about 4 months ago | (#46764797)

You know, I think the surest way to keep politicians semi-honest is to have a multi-party system and its corollary, the minority government. Just in my own lifetime I've seen a prairie protest party (Social Credit by name, not nature) disappear, a major party on the right (Progressive Conservative) go from the largest parliamentary majority ever to extinction, a party that wants to break the country in two become the Official Opposition, another prairie protest party on the right (Reform) try to take national power, a socialist party (NDP) go from perennial third or fourth party status to being the Official Opposition, Canada's other major party, the Liberals, drop down to a poor third, the party on the right reconstitute itself, the Green Party get a member in parliament for the first time... And I'm simplifying. New parties are always bubbling up, and the three biggest parties go up and down and sometimes disappear.

Nothing keeps the rascals on their toes like fear of the electorate.

-Gareth

Not arrested (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764873)

He wasn't "arrested", he QUIT. He should be arrested though since in addition to the actual corruption he just perjured himself in a courtroom.

Re:Duh (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764675)

Most Americans think that Australia and New Zealand are the same country.

Re:Duh (1)

mudshark (19714) | about 4 months ago | (#46764803)

We're on the verge of totalitarianism in NZ, and have been for a few years. Call back when we get the current bunch of neoliberal rent-seeking thugs out on their behinds. Hopefully we won't just replace them with a kinder, gentler bunch of neoliberals who love the Deep State as much as the present crew.

Re:Duh (1)

DarrylKegger (766904) | about 4 months ago | (#46764853)

New Zealand free?!?! We're living in oligarch's wet dream here! Unions destroyed years ago, privatised public services, low tax rates, corporate media, sedated population, low wages, no tax on capital gains the list goes on and on. Australia has one huge advantage over NZ, you've still got strong unions. Therefore you've got: 1. better pay 2. employees who are at least exposed to how industrial relations are supposed to work. Over here people just take what they're given because they've been told for over 30 years that they're worthless and so people actually believe it.

Re:Duh (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764599)

You think Australia is free? Hahahaha! As If!
We've got Bush 3.0 and some Tea Party rejects running the show down here, tearing everything positive and egalitarian down, selling off all of the public's assets, repealing racial discrimination laws, telling bald faced lies to the public and getting away with it because the media is complicit.

We're just a cheap copy of you guys now, the closest thing to freedom is in the Scandinavian countries I'd say.

Re:Duh (2)

DMJC (682799) | about 4 months ago | (#46764741)

Yes, we have elected a terrible government. However, there will be a massive voter backlash at the next election. Also, the government hasn't been able to pass all the legislation it wants because it is being blocked by minor parties in the senate. The fact is the majority of Australians voted for a shit government and that's what they're getting. They will however be stopped at the next election now that everyone realises just how terrible this government is. My sister is on $150k+ and even she hates the current government. The Liberal party is about to get smacked down for their arrogance and bad policy.

Bush 3.0? Not quite. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | about 4 months ago | (#46764757)

Wow! Bush 3.0? Will Australia invade Iraq to make money for Bush 3.0 and his family and friends who have investments in oil and weapons companies?

Will Australia imprison 6 times the percentage of its people as the percentage imprisoned in European countries, partly to make money for those who run prisons under contract?

Who has Australia tortured? Who has Australia kidnapped and taken to other countries?

Is Australia holding people in prison without trial?

Is Australia spending taxpayer money to spy on the entire world?

I'm sympathetic about the degradation, but it isn't quite Bush 3.0.

Quote from a book about George W. Bush: "He was arguably the most disliked president in seven decades."

Re:Duh (2)

Quantum gravity (2576857) | about 4 months ago | (#46764801)

According to the Democracy Index which attempts to measure the state of democracy in 167 countries, Norway comes up on top as the most democratic country in the world, followed by Sweden, Iceland and Denmark. Australia is in 6th place and the US comes in at 21. North Korea is (no surprise here) at the bottom and Russia was recently downgraded to an authoritarian regime.

Re:Duh (1)

Yaotzin (827566) | about 4 months ago | (#46764871)

Still, as a Swede talking, I don't feel like I live in a true democracy. We only have public votes once every 10 years or so, and the results of those are often discarded. I'm aching for a more direct democracy where the government only has the executive mandate. I don't know if the country would be run better, but at least we'd get a say.

Re:Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764693)

Canada is Americas bitch, wholly owned subsidiary of America. Virtually every product on the shelf(less computers of late) is nearly twice the cost of the identical product in the USA; Lower pay and higher taxes... Take home for the same job at same dollar figure would be an approximate half than the USA... Where do most of our resources go? To the south, which we buy back our own products for more...

I'd give my left nut to be allowed into the USA(freedom to have the means and to defend yourself/property, climate, more affordable everything..) to stay(or Australia, tho imo their political system is worse still), but I'm not wealthy or rich enough to make that happen legally(Just settle for snowbirding for 5-6mo/winter)..

Re:Duh (4, Insightful)

pr100 (653298) | about 4 months ago | (#46764723)

Try the Scandinavian countries instead.

Re:Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764827)

...where the goverments turn to McKinsey & co in exchange of a lot of Kroner to write up their economic policies? Hmmm...

Re:Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764737)

Wait... What's wrong with the EU?

Re:Duh (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 4 months ago | (#46764843)

The elected portion has very little power and lacks the cohesion to actually agree to much.

Re:Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764739)

freedom != democracy

Re:Duh (1)

aristotle-dude (626586) | about 4 months ago | (#46764779)

So basically what I've been saying for a few years now. Welcome to Russia Americans. Have fun with that. That leaves Canada and Australia as the last bastions of freedom in the world.

I wish that were true. In some ways it is but not in other ways. I cannot really talk about that though. Sorry.

Ha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764799)

As an Australian I'd disagree. We have all the same shit happening here. In fact a state premier lost his job TODAY after getting caught out accepting lavish gifts (a $3000 bottle of wine) from an (allegedly corrupt) industry group without declaring it.

We might be. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764493)

I honestly don't know.

That's a very hard thing for an American to think about.

Folks here do not have things that others do (99%) but we as a society say that they do?

I'd like to blame it on the Republicans but i cannot. The gridlock is to severe. It takes 2 to tango.

Re:We might be. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#46764551)

You don't know. That's why we have researchers to handle that part of the job.

Re:We might be. (1)

anubi (640541) | about 4 months ago | (#46764559)

I guess its kinda like tax law. The government decides how much they want to take.

However we may get to vote on whether they take it from the left pocket or the right pocket.

I would like to see the American people demand meaningful elections.

Re:We might be. (2)

rioki (1328185) | about 4 months ago | (#46764795)

You can have a meaningful election. In almost all cases there are more than two boxes to check. For a change do not check the first two. Changing America can be quite simple, the first step is to get out of the current gridlock by introducing more parties and actual politics. I america the entire political spectrum is concentrated in two parties. For example the Tea Party, that is not a party they are Republicans! Why?! I don't agree with them, fine but they could do the first step and found an actual party that would fracture the political spectrum. But alas, the average American is to narrow minded fore more than two parties.

Re:We might be. (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 4 months ago | (#46764855)

People want the government to spend money more than they want the government to not take it.

The reason both major parties are so similar is that they target their platform to what most voters want.

I for one.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764535)

...welcome our new US overlords!

Empty Suit (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 4 months ago | (#46764543)

Tune into http://www.whitehouse.gov/ [whitehouse.gov] , just like any other idiot box channel be it http://abc.go.com/ [go.com] , http://www.nbc.com/ [nbc.com] , http://www.cbs.com/ [cbs.com] , http://www.cwtv.com/ [cwtv.com] , http://www.fox.com/ [fox.com] , suck up the corporate cool aide and be informed, of what you are meant to know, and about how you are meant to think and whom you have to vote for. All the channels with the same corporate message, all the talking heads reading off the same Teleprompter feed. The US no longer has a president, it just has another puppet, saying what it is told to say, pretending it thinks for itself, and working ever so hard at dumbing down the airwaves. Of course the rest of the world is looking at the office of the President of the United States and realising just how a empty suit really occupies that position.

Carter (4, Insightful)

bussdriver (620565) | about 4 months ago | (#46764885)

Carter was the last President; after him, it has been a complete sham. One reason he had it so bad is because he went up stream against a system that was near death.

You only have power in a corrupt system as long as you go with the flow; it's empty power but it is enough to still attract tools. Like a C or B movie villain's 2nd in command, the second he falls out of line all that power does nothing to stop a dramatic (and cliche) example from being made of them.

A republic -- if you can keep it. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764549)

Benjamin Franklin chose his words well.

Heading off the Republic Pedants (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764553)

Some twit always comes into any mention of "democracy" and "United States" in a story with that chestnut of "the U.S. is a republic, not a democracy". Because those terms are not mutually exclusive: the U.S. is a democratic republic.

Re:Heading off the Republic Pedants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764593)

You Republicans are morons. This is not a Republic no matter how many lies your kind tells. If your kind was smart enough to understand history, you would know that the Seventeenth Amendment gave us the right to vote directly on senators. That makes us a Democracy no matter what you people claim.

Re:Heading off the Republic Pedants (3, Interesting)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 4 months ago | (#46764595)

Countries that describe themselves as democratic republics generally aren't very good at either.

Re:Heading off the Republic Pedants (1, Insightful)

cpm99352 (939350) | about 4 months ago | (#46764597)

Technically I believe the United States is a Constitutional Republic.

Danger: anecdote ahead...I listened to an NPR interview recently where it was stated there was significant fear during the Irish/Italian immigration waves that the immigrants were not capable of appreciating US' liberty, and would effectively dilute it. I now think that was accurate, and came to pass.

One cannot argue that in today's United States we have liberty - cutting down a tree requires a permit, even when there are no safety considerations. Growing various plants is illegal. Operating a hair-cutting business without the proper permits is illegal. The list goes on...

Republic? Long gone... One can debate, but I would nominate Wilson at the latest. FDR is the common scapegoat, but Wilson certainly set the stage. There may be earlier contestants, but this is not my area of expertise.

Re:Heading off the Republic Pedants (2)

91degrees (207121) | about 4 months ago | (#46764777)

It is indeed a constitutional republic. It is also a representative democracy. Apparently you can be both.

Re:Heading off the Republic Pedants (1)

dave420 (699308) | about 4 months ago | (#46764911)

It's not a republic any more? The US has a dynastic leader, akin to a royal or dictatorial family? Weird. Or, maybe, you just don't know what the word "republic" means. That would make more sense.

Re: Turtles all the way down (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764557)

"AMAZING: Via @hblodget via @DKThomp: The gain in wealth isn't about the 1%. It's about the top 1% of the 1%. pic.twitter.com/wBqHfpNGR9"
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bj8lUAoCEAAfsCu.png
source: https://twitter.com/GSElevator

In fact, all money in the entire world is actually embedded with a small rare earth magnets in the ink. This has a small but statistically significant impact on spending patterns in such a way as to cause all economic activity to be repelled from the earth's magnetic poles. This money reaches equilibrium near the equatorial climates where the additional energy required to reach escape velocity is much lower.

Wealthy people aren't actually any more hard working: they've just discovered this physical phenomena which is why they all live close to the equator! Whenever they observe significant patters of economic activity via increased trading volumes in the stock markets, they all climb in to their private jets with butterfly nets and catch the money suspended in the atmosphere. When they exhaust the supply of levitating money, this results in the "Flash Crashes" observed on Wall Street & attributed to high frequency trading.

All these people then take their money and use it to buy bigger airplanes and better quality butterfly nets. This is why the real wealth concentrates in the Top 1% of the Top 1% of the Top 1%: the Sporting Goods store which discovered that the cast of "Duck Dynasty" could sew magic butterfly nets from the beard hair on their chins.

It's not so much a conspiracy as it is a giant tragedy for their wives.

Sun comes up in the morning... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764609)

Sun comes up in the morning, to the east of .... most people. Then sets later (evening). News at 11:00. In other news, We expect it to be light during the day followed by increasing darkness towards evening. Oh, and America is a Corporatocracy. Imagine that.

Re:Sun comes up in the morning... (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about 4 months ago | (#46764839)

"We still need to find a cure for cancer."

"ORLY?! Amazing news there, buddy! Let me get right on getting pumped!"

"Oh, sarcasm! Just when I thought I knew you, you come up with something utterly new, out of nowhere. Too bad you have better things to do than curing cancer, I'm sure you would be awesome at it. :)"

Terrible summary of an interesting paper (5, Informative)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 4 months ago | (#46764611)

The original paper is an interesting approach to studying power balances.

The summary is puerile flamebait.

The actual conclusion of the paper is simply that the power in government is not concentrated in massive grassroots organizations or in direct electoral representation, but rather it is concentrated in the small-but-vocal interest groups and economically influential individuals. In other words, causes, no matter how big, don't really get power until they can pay enough to be taken seriously. That might mean lobbying, marketing, or awareness campaigns, but it still takes money to look like your cause has merit.

Re:Terrible summary of an interesting paper (2)

duke_cheetah2003 (862933) | about 4 months ago | (#46764701)

So in other words, it just brings truth to the old saying: The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Cool.

Re:Terrible summary of an interesting paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764745)

or, the golden rule.

Those who have the gold make the rules.

Re:Terrible summary of an interesting paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764705)

As per the paper, in terms of influence from greatest to least, it goes economic elites > interest groups > everyone else. That's pretty much a textbook oligarchy.

I am not sure why this is news, though. If it wasn't obvious before Citizens United, it should damn well be obvious after McCutcheon. We even had the chief justice arguing that corruption cannot exist without outright bribery.

Re:Terrible summary of an interesting paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764731)

The original paper is an interesting approach to studying power balances.

The summary is puerile flamebait.

The actual conclusion of the paper is simply that the power in government is not concentrated in massive grassroots organizations or in direct electoral representation, but rather it is concentrated in the small-but-vocal interest groups and economically influential individuals. In other words, causes, no matter how big, don't really get power until they can pay enough to be taken seriously. That might mean lobbying, marketing, or awareness campaigns, but it still takes money to look like your cause has merit.

Sure, now tie in the increasing wealth disparity in the US. The fact is that the vast majority of Americans don't have the money needed to look important. When the top 1% have around 33% of the total wealth and the top 10% have about 90%, that just doesn't leave the bottom 50% much power. Especially when you factor in how the more money you have, the more money you can afford to toss around.

And it's only getting worse.

Re:Terrible summary of an interesting paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764783)

All you said agrees with the fact that US is more an oligarchy than a democracy.

Re:Terrible summary of an interesting paper (5, Informative)

dave420 (699308) | about 4 months ago | (#46764875)

Which is the very definition of oligarchy... your point? :)

Re:Terrible summary of an interesting paper (1)

mpe (36238) | about 4 months ago | (#46764901)

In other words, causes, no matter how big, don't really get power until they can pay enough to be taken seriously. That might mean lobbying, marketing, or awareness campaigns, but it still takes money to look like your cause has merit.

I wonder how many of these groups first use their influence to gain a source of public funding. Which would entrench their position.

And this is news, how? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764639)

Sorry to play the cynic, but to foreign observers this has been evident for years.

What this basically means... (2)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#46764643)

Is that it's time to start killing our way through politicians until we find some who are properly terrified of the general populace enough to actually simulate honesty and do their job with minimal graft and corruption.

The Ruling Class (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 4 months ago | (#46764653)

Who are these rulers, and by what right do they rule? How did America change from a place where people could expect to live without bowing to privileged classes to one in which, at best, they might have the chance to climb into them? What sets our ruling class apart from the rest of us?

Its attitude is key to understanding our bipartisan ruling class. Its first tenet is that "we" are the best and brightest while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained. How did this replace the Founding generation's paradigm that "all men are created equal"?

World War I and the chaos at home and abroad that followed it discredited the Progressives in the American people's eyes. Their international schemes had brought blood and promised more. Their domestic management had not improved Americans' lives, but given them a taste of arbitrary government, including Prohibition. The Progressives, for their part, found it fulfilling to attribute the failure of their schemes to the American people's backwardness, to something deeply wrong with America. The American people had failed them because democracy in its American form perpetuated the worst in humanity. Thus Progressives began to look down on the masses, to look on themselves as the vanguard, and to look abroad for examples to emulate.

In Congressional Government (1885) Woodrow Wilson left no doubt: the U.S. Constitution prevents the government from meeting the country's needs by enumerating rights that the government may not infringe. ("Congress shall make no law..." says the First Amendment, typically.) Our electoral system, based on single member districts, empowers individual voters at the expense of "responsible parties." Hence the ruling class's perpetual agenda has been to diminish the role of the citizenry's elected representatives, enhancing that of party leaders as well as of groups willing to partner in the government's plans, and to craft a "living" Constitution in which restrictions on government give way to "positive rights" -- meaning charters of government power.

The ruling class is keener to reform the American people's family and spiritual lives than their economic and civic ones. In no other areas is the ruling class's self-definition so definite, its contempt for opposition so patent, its Kulturkampf so open. It believes that the Christian family (and the Orthodox Jewish one too) is rooted in and perpetuates the ignorance commonly called religion, divisive social prejudices, and repressive gender roles, that it is the greatest barrier to human progress because it looks to its very particular interest -- often defined as mere coherence against outsiders who most often know better. Thus the family prevents its members from playing their proper roles in social reform. Worst of all, it reproduces itself.

At stake are the most important questions: What is the right way for human beings to live? By what standard is anything true or good? Who gets to decide what? Implicit in Wilson's words and explicit in our ruling class's actions is the dismissal, as the ways of outdated "fathers," of the answers that most Americans would give to these questions. This dismissal of the American people's intellectual, spiritual, and moral substance is the very heart of what our ruling class is about. Its principal article of faith, its claim to the right to decide for others, is precisely that it knows things and operates by standards beyond others' comprehension.

America's best and brightest believe themselves qualified and duty bound to direct the lives not only of Americans but of foreigners as well. George W. Bush's 2005 inaugural statement that America cannot be free until the whole world is free and hence that America must push and prod mankind to freedom was but an extrapolation of the sentiments of America's Progressive class, first articulated by such as Princeton's Woodrow Wilson and Columbia's Nicholas Murray Butler. But while the early Progressives expected the rest of the world to follow peacefully, today's ruling class makes decisions about war and peace at least as much forcibly to tinker with the innards of foreign bodies politic as to protect America.

Describing America's country class is problematic because it is so heterogeneous. It has no privileged podiums, and speaks with many voices, often inharmonious. It shares above all the desire to be rid of rulers it regards inept and haughty. It defines itself practically in terms of reflexive reaction against the rulers' defining ideas and proclivities -- e.g., ever higher taxes and expanding government, subsidizing political favorites, social engineering, approval of abortion, etc. Many want to restore a way of life largely superseded. Demographically, the country class is the other side of the ruling class's coin: its most distinguishing characteristics are marriage, children, and religious practice. While the country class, like the ruling class, includes the professionally accomplished and the mediocre, geniuses and dolts, it is different because of its non-orientation to government and its members' yearning to rule themselves rather than be ruled by others.
Angelo M. Codevilla

This is just the tip of the iceberg, the entire article is huge and tells us exactly what we knew already: our rulers have nothing in common with us and see us as dangerous idiots [spectator.org] .

Re:The Ruling Class (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764775)

our rulers have nothing in common with us and see us as dangerous idiots.

I'd come to the same conclusion some time ago. Unfortunately, I seem to be trapped in the same economic class as the rest of the dangerous idiots.

Rish versus Poor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764671)

I happened across a Dr. Phil episode on youtube about Amy's Baking Company (ABC) / Kitchen Nightmares. Dr. Phil was going on about the cyber-bullying (of the owner's of ABC). And he never really addressed the way that theABC owners treated their employees or their customers. At the end of the show Dr. Phil talked at length about how good their food was - and how everyone should eat there.

Well, first, there were some interesting psychological questions about whether the ABC owners had some form of borderline personality disorder - that Dr. Phil never even touched on.

Then there was the bigger issue of rish versus poor and powerful versus powerless. There's an awful lot of people in the world with abusive bosses and it's very common to try a new restaurant only to get overcharged for bad food. So it's understandable that there would be a lot of diffuse anger against the ABC owners. But Dr. Phil really didn't seem to get it. He just called it cyber-bullying.

Re:Rish versus Poor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764847)

Phil Donahue hasn't been relevant in over twenty years. You're showing your age by trying to use him as an example.

Of course, maybe you're attacking him because he is a well known liberal that fought for progressive causes.

In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764677)

Study finds water is wet, and the Pope wears a silly hat.

Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764709)

I could have told them this 30 years ago. And I don't even live in the States. Some people really need to get a real job.

Tyrant: The computer game (5, Interesting)

Neo-Rio-101 (700494) | about 4 months ago | (#46764715)

I learnt an interesting political lesson on my Commodore 64 back in the day.

There was this political sim called "Tyrant" (ancient descendant of Tropico, or civilisation), and you played as the dictator of a communist state.
It was a pretty hard game, as most times the state would collapse and there'd be a revolution.

Eventually, after playing it long enough I managed to find the one way to prevent that state from ever collapsing and have it eternally make money.

Firstly, you had to invade all the surrounding countries and smash external threats.
Then you convert to a democracy and install elections.
Then you generate lots and lots of jobs for people in the secret police
Then you brainwash the populace with masses spent on election funding.
With the population happy and brainwashed, you could raise the tax rate through the roof and no-one would care... also thanks to the huge secret police force they would turn on each other instead of resist the ridiculous taxation and the root cause of said taxation (thanks to election brainwashing)

Does this sound familiar?

It was kinda fun for a buggy BASIC program.

Re:Tyrant: The computer game (1)

GrahamCox (741991) | about 4 months ago | (#46764877)

While sorta fun, those games are not simulations. All you revealed was the program(mer)'s built-in biases and assumptions, rather than any insight about what happens in reality. If you could set up a simulation without any biases and with enough variables it might tell you something, but I have a feeling it couldn't be done.

Welcome in the real world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764759)

Democracy is an idea. Just that.

Since when (1)

wulfmans (794904) | about 4 months ago | (#46764773)

The US of A has NEVER been a Democracy, Our founding fathers knew that a Democracy was not the way to do proper government and framed what we are today called a Constitutional Republic. What we have now is a twisted mess of a government that is controlled by the money not the people that it was intended to be controlled by.

DUH. (1)

bussdriver (620565) | about 4 months ago | (#46764819)

Nobody means literal democracy when they refer to it. They almost always mean the kind of thing we used to have in the USA.

Oligarchy- DUH.

Only good part is those of us who get to say "I told you so" over and over as more people wake up. (It loses it's fun by the time it gets popular.)

Re:Since when (4, Informative)

aristotle-dude (626586) | about 4 months ago | (#46764835)

The US of A has NEVER been a Democracy, Our founding fathers knew that a Democracy was not the way to do proper government and framed what we are today called a Constitutional Republic. What we have now is a twisted mess of a government that is controlled by the money not the people that it was intended to be controlled by.

Oh crying out loud, not this shit again? No wonder your country is so messed up. You are confusing structure with whether your representatives are elected democratically or not. China is a constitutional Republic as are a bunch of other republics around the world. You are confusing the structure of a government with how it is elected. There are various types of forms of government such as Republics, Parliamentary Systems and Parliamentary Republics. Some are partially democratic, completely democratic or undemocratic.

See:
ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Republics
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]

Finland is an example of a Parliamentary republic because it has an elected President as head of state and a unicameral parliament with a Prime Minister. Canada is an example of a Federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy where the Queen is the head of state and the Prime Minister is the leader of the winning party of parliamentary elections.

Re:Since when (1)

dave420 (699308) | about 4 months ago | (#46764903)

You don't even know what these words mean, yet get so irate when people use them correctly. What's wrong with your brain? A republic means a country without a dynastic leader. That's it. It might have democracy, it might not, it has nothing to do with it.

Not to worry (1)

SomeoneFromBelgium (3420851) | about 4 months ago | (#46764781)

Will be forgotten in no time! The economical elite and their political laceys will get this article downplayed and kept away from the forefront.
If there would be any kind of debate on TV (yeah, right) they'll just schedule another rebroadcast of 'Dallas' on the other channel. That should do the trick;-)

Not too late! Constitutional Convention! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764805)

We can take our country back, but it will take a Constitutional Convention to remove corporations are people. Or we could just keep with the status quo of partisanship bickering to keep the stupid people busy.

Captcha: illusion

Re:Not too late! Constitutional Convention! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764879)

remove corporations are people

No! There was a reason liberals fought so hard to make sure they were. I know you Republicans hate the idea of holding people accountable to contracts and requiring them to pay taxes, but those are the historical reasons for treating a group of people acting together as a person. Without that, our country would be destroyed by you conservatives. Employment contracts would no longer mean anything. It would result in the destruction of unions. Also without it, companies would pay no income tax. Of course since you conservatives don't give a damn about anyone besides yourself, I guess you don't care.

Structure vs Outcome (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764829)

The US structurally still remains a republic (not a democracy).

However - when people are too ignorant to cast an educated vote, the result can mirror one found with a structural oligarchy - but to imply then that the US is somehow thus structurally transformed to an oligarchy is wrong headed.

A consequence of truly free society is that you are free to give up your freedom to someone else - either explicitly or through complacency.

You can't fix stupid.

Re:Structure vs Outcome (1)

aristotle-dude (626586) | about 4 months ago | (#46764841)

The US structurally still remains a republic (not a democracy).

However - when people are too ignorant to cast an educated vote, the result can mirror one found with a structural oligarchy - but to imply then that the US is somehow thus structurally transformed to an oligarchy is wrong headed.

A consequence of truly free society is that you are free to give up your freedom to someone else - either explicitly or through complacency.

You can't fix stupid.

You are right you cannot fix stupid. Republic is the structure stupid. Democracy is the method of how representatives are chosen. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]

Look at that list. It shows various types of republics with differing levels or democracy or the complete lack there of.

It was supposed to be a democratic REPUBLIC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46764851)

You insensitve clod!

Did the study at least get THAT part right? I know the new /. missed it.

Its Like That Because... (2)

rally2xs (1093023) | about 4 months ago | (#46764867)

...most of the voters don't give a F, and therefore don't vote.

Rectification of this abomination may eventually take those millions of guns that exist in American society for exactly that purpose, although I'd like to think that there is some other way. The Article V constitutional convention that is being proposed by certain states may be able to tackle this, dunno. But the gov't doesn't do what's good for the people, that can be seen in our unemployment stats and so forth.

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