America is an Oligarchy, University Study Finds

Written by Ralph E. Stone. Posted in News, Politics

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Published on April 22, 2014 with 2 Comments

America is no longer a democracy, according to a new joint study by Princeton and Northwestern universities.

America is no longer a democracy, according to a new joint study by Princeton and Northwestern universities.

By Ralph E. Stone

April 22, 2014

America is no longer a democracy, according to a new joint university study.  Instead, it has evolved into an oligarchy dominated by moneyed special interests.

The study, entitled “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” by Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, concludes that ordinary citizens have effectively lost their say over public policy. Thus, America now resembles an “economic elite domination” or a form of government in which the wealthy economic elite (less than 1 percent of the population) has near exclusive control over policy-making decisions.

“The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence,” the authors state. “Our findings indicate, the majority does not rule – at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”

In other words, when the economic elites want something, it tends to happen, and if they don’ t want something, it tends not to happen. In effect, the elite class wields veto power over maintaining a “status quo bias” to guarantee a long life of oligarchical control which began to emerge during the Reagan administration.

The data under scrutiny in the study was from 1981-2002. Imagine how much worse things have gotten since the 2008 financial crisis. The study found that even when 80 percent of the population favored a particular public policy change, it was only instituted 43 percent of the time. We saw this with the bank bailout in 2008, when Americans across the board were opposed to it, but Congress passed the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) anyway.

The study’s conclusions should not be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. So why should we care? We should care for at least two reasons: First, there is a certain influential segment of the population which requires empirical evidence and academic studies before they will accept uncomfortable truths. Second, the study may actually prove helpful in making the case for publicly funded elections and other campaign and lobbying reforms.

The late George Carlin was one of the first luminaries to shine a light on political elitism in America, famously stating that America’s political class is a “big club, and you ain’t in it.”

Ralph E. Stone

Ralph E. Stone

I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since retirement involved in domestic violence prevention and consumer issues.

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