Is the United States an Oligarchy?

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The greatest characteristic of humanity rests in our ability to collectively evolve by understanding our shared history.  If a physicist did not have the knowledge of Gaillelo before them, then they would be equally perplexed with the questions he faced. Having the knowledge Gaillelo provided allows a physicst in the modern world to skip around and move on to greater questions.

Similarily, in political science we are fortunate to have people like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke or Karl Marx, these are the people who have come before us and asked similar questions.

After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of corporations in the landmark ruling of Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, I had to ask myself a series of tough questions.

  1. Is the United States still a Democracy or Republic?
  2. What type of government is the United States currently?

These questions are very loaded and it has taken me almost a year to come up with any form of an answer.

We live in a world where money can get you anything. A person can be ignorant, ugly, unfit and evil and if they have money to spend their opinion will matter.  Also, a person can be smart, fit and have good intentions and their opinion will not be heard at all.

We also live in a country where we elect our leadership to represent our interests. We usually have two primary choices and make the decision based on what candidates we agree with or like the most.

Recently, we have seen the true effects the Citizen’s United decision will have on our democracy, and it is not good. We are seeing the advent of Super PACs who can spend unlimited amounts of money persuading you to vote for someone or to not vote for someone.

The GOP race has been completely controlled by a few people who have donated large sums of money to Super PACs.

-Shedlon Adelson the casino mogul who has given Newt Gingrich’s Super PAC over $11 million. He recently stopped this funding and in response the Newt campaign has lost support. They can no longer compete.

– Then there is Mitt Romney’s campaign, from the NY Times, “Three individuals gave half a million dollars apiece: Joseph W. Craft, an Oklahoma mining executive; Bruce Kovner, a billionaire hedge fund founder from New York; and David Lisonbee, the founder of a Utah vitamin supplements company.” Romney’s Super PAC spent $14 million in advertising in January alone.

– Harold Simmons gave $5 million to Karl Rove’s Super PAC in December of 2011. He also gave $1 million to Rick Perry and $1 million to Newt.

– Foster Friess has given $1 million to Rick Santorum’s Super PAC and supplied 40% of the total funding as of the beginning of 2012.

-Paul Thiel, the founder of Paypal also got into the business of politics by donating $1.7 million to Ron Paul’s Super PAC. Even Ron Paul, a supposed champion of the people, has gotten into the billionaire’s game.

What we are seeing is a system evolving to suit the people with a means to control others, i.e, the people who have more money. One could call it a system where a few people rule over a large amount of people, otherwise known as an Oligarchy.

Oligarchy: “Government by a few, especially by a small faction of persons or families.”

Democracy: “Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.”

Republic: “a form of government in which the people or their elected representatives possess the supreme power.”

In 1911 the famed German sociologist Robert Michels wrote a book entitled, “Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy.” In this book he coined a term called the “Iron Law of Oligarchy.”

The “Iron Law of Oligarchy” states that rule by an elite few is inevitable within any organization, particularly democracy. He defined it simply, “Who says organization, says oligarchy.”

His philosophy can be summed up rather easily. When an organization forms and is successful it grows and forms a bureaucracy in order to maintain efficiency. Growth continues and the organization either centralizes control or decentralizes control. If it decentralizes control it usually breaks apart because there are competing interests. If it centralizes the control the few in power will use all means necessary to preserve the power structure that keeps them in power.

A leader of a bureaucracy cannot do ever task associated with the organization, so they delegate some power. They will have one person do marketing, one will handle finances, etc…  Michels argues that this further alienates the leadership from the masses and entrenches them in office.

We then see the creation of a hierarchical organization which leads to rationalization and routinization of the authority, further entrenching their power role.

In the United States we have seen the evolution of our oligarchy over the past few hundred years. Usually, the power was balanced by the will of the people. In the 1900’s the will of the people urged President Howard Taft to bust up large monopolies thus reigning in the power of these corporations.

During the Great Depression, FDR was compelled to create vast programs aimed at helping the common person while curbing corruption in finances and Wall Street.

Today we see the power corporations have on the common person. They control who is elected into office, they control political movements, they drown out unions and smother the voice of the common citizen.

By wielding the sword of big money the wealthy elite have in-fact declared war on the middle class.

No longer is the United States a Republic or a Democracy. We stand at the precipice of a new history where decisions will be made by a few, not by the many. We, as citizens, already faced an uphill battle against corporate power and influence. Now, they have changed the rules so it is effectively impossible for an ordinary citizen to become president, senator, governor or a representative. The point they made is clear, if you are not rich you should not be allowed to have a voice. You should sit still, be quiet and let the big-boys talk.

With the recent advent of Super PACs in mind, what form of government best represents the form of government used by the United States?

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