A brief summary of a report from Princeton and Northwestern universities that proves America is an Oligarchy is linked here.
Noam Chomsky explains how America really functions as a capitalistic democracy that mirrors nothing of true democracy in this article that is quite long but I highly recommend reading some of it linked here.
Our childhood history lessons from school ingrain in us the false notion that America is a beautifully fair democracy. We were taught that this nation was founded on principles that look out for all peoples’ rights and interests. Basically, we learn that justice is at the center of democracy and democracy is at the center of America. While that sounds all fine and dandy, the truth of how this nation and others (which also claim to be democratic) is quite different.
I remember hearing some about the Constitutional Convention from school and my visit to Philadelphia yet some things surely were not highlighted like others. Chomsky in that article linked above quotes very interesting phrases from the Constitutional Convention that I’m sure I’ve never heard before. A quote a fundamental father of our nation, James Madison, reads: “power must be in the hands of the wealth of the nation, the more responsible set of men. Those who have sympathy for property owners and their rights.” Furthermore, the primary task of the government is “to protect the minority of the opulent from the majority.”
Well, our national government (being in all reality a plutonic oligarchy) seems to fit that quote quite well. Another quote from John Jay who was the president of the Continental Congress and then first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court maintains the basis for the constitutional system: “those who own the country ought to govern it.” One must wonder the effects of emphasizing and teaching these facts to high school students would have on our nation.
So why should it be that the rich run this nation? Is that fair or just? Why did our early founding fathers think that this was for our best interest or for the interest of the nation?
I can understand how perhaps at the time of the constitution’s creation the general public may have been a force to fear for the intellectual and wealthy. The public may have been (or at least seemed this way to the oligarchs) very unsophisticated and unintelligent. However, this dynamic reminds me of reading More about early democratic desires in England. The parliament and especially the king felt the people were unfit for higher living, the peasants must remain beneath the upper classes, and the upper classes must be protected from them. I always imagined our nations founding to not share such a dynamic with the monarchy we separated from.
However, it appears that the ideal democracy we learned this nation was in grade school never truly existed. The wealthy class rule and the citizens are swayed to think their voice counts (Public Relations industry) yet they truly have almost no say on polices according to this research.
Personally, I can see that giving all power to the masses and letting their Rousseauean general will reign may be a bad idea. However, the citizens of America must have come a decent way since the time of the constitution’s origin. I can see that a truly knowledgeable and righteous body of people would be better to take a large portion of leading however but why the rich? Does this not seem somewhat corrupt? Capitalist democracy today can seem a beautiful thing for those who find a way to rise to the top (there are few up there) or who wish to try. Yet, for those who care less about money and are still very knowledgeable or righteous, this nation seems to be very frustrating…..May democratic theory live on and may I understand why the wealthy should rule!