Plutonic Oligarchy

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!

This entry was posted in Hannah More, Madison, Political theory and the news, Rousseau and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Plutonic Oligarchy

  1. dkeezing says:

    Very interesting post; the quotes from the Constitutional Convention are revealing (I had never heard those, either). I would agree with the premise that the wealthy should not have the vast and powerful influence on the government that they do, but the question of whether we should value an “elite” class as being uniquely suited for governing is one I struggle with. Essentially, I am somewhat sympathetic to the point that, in a country that has as large a population as the United States, we should take the viewpoints of the population with a grain of salt. That is to say, I’m willing to listen to the opinion of a normal citizen on environmental issues, for instance, but I would always check the citizen’s opinions against what the experts say (those whose job it is to study environmental issues). That sounds like a no-brainer, but Americans do seem to have an inflated sense of the type of influence they should wield. How often do politicians make that claim that they are just like average folks, and not some elite government bureaucrat? I would suggest that in an ideal world, a politician would campaign on the fact that they ARE an elite government bureaucrat. As in, “I have training in this-this-and-this, which makes me more qualified than any of my constituents. Vote for me!”
    So, we should value elitism in the realms of things that are actually relevant to the act of governing, but one’s wealthiness does not fall in that category. The question is: is it possible to have a democratic republic like the United States that does not turn into a plutonic oligarchy? Perhaps in an idealized world, we could find a way to remove monied interests from elections and the government (public financing of elections and some sort of ban on lobbying), but this seems extremely unlikely, as most politicians (our president included) seem to believe (or are at least sympathetic to) Madison’s belief that the wealthy are “the more responsible set of men.”

  2. scter117 says:

    Thank you very much for your comment. Today Politicians can only become well know with the strong economic support of corporations and banks. However, those politicians often have to promise to help that economic supporter once there in office. That basic occurrence so prevalent today helps explain why the people have their needs second to the wealthy bankers and CEOs. I agree the elitism can be a VERY good quality for leaders of our nation. Those who are the most learned and overall the most qualified should be elected. However, their loyalty to serving the people must also be taken account of. In some ways, Politicians have no choice but to do the bidding of the wealthy in order to have their economic support because without it they could not win a major office position. Therefore, a law ending unlimited campaign funding on a national level could potentially change the problem of wealthy rule. In Vermont very recently, that exact law was passed on a state level. If more states join the bandwagon we could see the development of the 28th Amendment which would eradicate money from politics. If that could develop then this nation surely would lean away from its Plutonic tendencies. Will this movement continue? I don’t know because if money runs this nation, money wont let this nation make that change. However, if there is a large enough support for it from the people then perhaps we could see a different America one day. FINGERS CROSSED!

  3. andymaskiell says:

    I can very much cope with your memories of school. I find that the more I learn about the world, the more I revisit what I was taught in grade school and realize how (often) that information was misleading.

    This idea about “elites” (whatever that means) seems ultimately detrimental. In our current definition of that word, it often comes with the connotations of wealthy, intelligent, attractive, clean, etc. However, what do any of those people know about farming? Would you trust them to raise crops for you to eat? What about making your clothes? Do you think they have an idea how to make a shirt, a sock even? The idea of the stereotypical politician or Wall-Street businessman doing either of those things immediately evokes images of hilarity to me: just picture Joe Biden or Rand Paul tending to a field or sitting next to a sewing machine, handcrafting you a dress sock which looks more like one of Rudolf’s antlers than anything else.

    “Elites” and its present uses in our culture and rhetoric is nothing more than poor labeling by someone who probably wants to perpetuate capitalism for no other reason than that it benefits them personally. Everyone’s work and involvement in a society should not be evaluated on some arbitrary scale of worth. The work of a farmer or factory worker is just as important as that of a doctor or collegiate professor, and any word or idea which suggests otherwise, I’d argue, will do nothing but harm the society in which it’s present.

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