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United States Politics

Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy 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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Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

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  • Revolt? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by duke_cheetah2003 ( 862933 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @02:14AM (#46764469) Homepage

    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.

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @02:34AM (#46764595)

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

  • Re:Are you kidding (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thanshin ( 1188877 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @02:57AM (#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.

  • by Neo-Rio-101 ( 700494 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @02:58AM (#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.

  • Structure vs Outcome (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:32AM (#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:Are you kidding (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MrBigInThePants ( 624986 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @04:29AM (#46765019)
    You are being naive in your definition of wealth and are in fact completely very wrong in this. But don't feel ashamed, many other middle/upper class around the world have this wrong also and that is why they vote republican (in the US) or for other neo-con parties that do not actually represent their interests in practice - despite their rhetoric. (studies showing that many in the middle classes believing they will be wealthy soon and thus voting as if they were)

    You are talking about "upper class" and not the sort of wealthy they are talking about in this article.

    The problem with the above mentality (i.e. "I've got mine, fuck you") is that neo-cons are NOT all that good for the upper class. They are only good for the super-wealthy, the finance companies/banks etc. Being well off you will avoid the worst of the symptoms of a country led by their dogma, but you will not be better off.

    So such people are not just greedy, they are stupid and greedy - the two usually go together in my experience.

    And the article is not a surprise to anyone who reads the news even badly.
  • Re:Revolt? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @04:41AM (#46765073)

    Well, there have been rebellions and revolutions by "men of the people", but they are usually not too numerous. Right now, though, this is about the only kind of revolution that could happen. Everyone powerful certainly doesn't want a revolution. Everyone wealthy is in the aforementioned group. Wealth and power have become synonymous. So what's left is keeping the masses from finding someone out of their own group to rally behind.

    That's why we need total surveillance. Such a person must be identified early, before he can develop a following. Do you think we'd have so many problems if we identified MLK earlier, slandered him early enough, before people were able to see through it? Character assassination is much more efficient than actual assassination. It's far quieter and you will not create a martyr, which is about the worst case that could happen. Of course, for it to work out, you have to find the person early, as long as people would still rather believe your lies about him. Once they know him, it's harder to convince the masses.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @04:41AM (#46765075) Journal

    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?

    Actually, the campaign spending limits are aimed squarely at the grass roots.

    The McCain-Feingold act of 2002, for example, was passed in reaction to the massive volunteer efforts that took down Mike Roos from the California legislature in 1991 (and caused trouble for David Roberti in 1994), and Tom Foley from the House in 1994. It makes the equivalent value of volunteer work and supplies (such as paper, envelopes, and stamps) subject to the spending limits and reporting requirements, as if they were contributions, but provides no caps for campaign spending for such people as labor unions, media conglomerates, and billionaires such as George Soros.

  • Re:Carter (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @05:00AM (#46765141)

    Carter was already the liquidator, the system was rotten long before that. I dare say the last prez you had that was decent was Eisenhower. Oddly enough, since I'm neither very pro-military nor Republican. But he was a very level headed politician, he sure made a few rather tough decisions, but he never gave me the feeling that he made any for his personal gains or his cronies, he really strikes me as a man who wants to "serve his country", something that I not only expect but demand from a politician if he wants my respect.

  • Re:Are you kidding (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @05:54AM (#46765299)

    There is a theory, used in South Africa to help ease the transition away from Apartheid, called Spiral Dynamics. It models human development as going through about 6 worldwiews, each with their own sense of morality/justice/values. It spans history, so the first worldview is of a hunter gatherer. The most recent worldview is of an educated Western post-modern cultural relative intellectual interested in minority rights and the environment. Anyway, between those two worldviews you have the view of warlords, then the view of religious-empire-order, and then the view of individualistic achievement/playing to win in a competitive world individualism. That last one by the way was the start of modernity and freedom in the French revolution sense of the word, it recognises that EVERY human is equal and has their won brain and is an equal player and should not be oppressed by religious-empire-orders (Communism is similar in that it is also a single empire order which oppresses individual freedom and ingenuity).

    OK so, this relates to politics because the politicians do, as you say, simply have to FRAME a proposal in language which RESONATES with the worldview of the people being targeted. The point is that when you are born, you are basically at the hunter-gatherer level. Culturally and intellectually and morally you then grow up and somewhere along the way, tend to stop or focus on one of the worldview levels. If you are currently living in a Nigerian bad land, you're probably hovering around warlordism. That's fine, that's just the most appropriate adaption to your environment. A pomo sensitive type will merely become a target in that environment. So whatever level people are at, that's just the best they can manage. Anyway, Spiral Dynamics might not be 100% true, but it is a useful distilling of some of the major differences.

    So yes, the tradition-valuing, we are one nation, one flag, NCIS TV show committed marine of honour and purpose, holy order type worldview is about half of America, I forget the exact percentage they estimate, and so anything that speaks about being a responsible individual who self-sacrifices their own selfish needs for the sake of serving the lager community, any issue framed in that way, will gain a lot of voter approval. People like W. Bush, Al Gore, and Hilary Clinton know all about Spiral Dynamics and such theories (various institutes and advisors etc.) and it is anybody's guess how much they are using them.

  • Re:Are you kidding (Score:2, Interesting)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @06:48AM (#46765505) Homepage Journal

    You are correct in that the Republicans in the USA are not actually free market capitalists, which is what USA is supposed to be - a free market capitalist Republic.

    Republicans are not different from Democrats in that they have their own constituents and those are the people that are tightly connected to the government and the Federal reserve is sponsoring them.

    Unfortunately for the USA (and really for the world in general) USA Republic has degenerated into a 'democracy', which really only means that the majority of people are kept in the dark of who is truly running the show, but that is the problem with the mob, the collective, you can't have a democracy that does not degenerate into oligarchy, because the people are stupid and will vote against their self interest, however when I say that I do NOT mean what the average /.er means. I do NOT mean that voting for free market capitalism is voting against your own self interest, quite the contrary. An average (not one of the top wealthiest people) person should always vote LIBERTARIAN (or more correctly - free market capitalist, whatever that is. It can be a libertarian or it can be an anarcho capitalist or an objectivist, doesn't really matter much which one of those).

    However the mob votes for the short term satisfaction that is promised by any lizard politician and the end result is always the same: the politicians end up with all the power, the individuals end up stripped of their rights and of their property, basically of their right to pursue happiness on their own terms.

    The politicians end up gatekeepers for the top most connected people, the government is a mafia that uses threat of violence to destroy individual freedoms and sell them to the top bidders.

    Free market capitalist republic (or even a benevolent dictatorship, like Singapore) works to improve the conditions for all people by allowing the true private property rights and self determination, people work to improve their own situation and as a result they increase the overall wealth in the system. The top wealthiest people do NOT need free market capitalism, they are just fine within a system that is corrupt, they can afford to purchase the gate keepers.

    It is the middle class and the POOREST of the people that benefit from free market capitalism, they get the lowest prices and the biggest selection of all products and services that the system builds.

    19th century USA was a very good example of what free market capitalist system does to improve the standard of living for all people, not for the richest people, but for everybody. The standard of living was rising faster than at any other time in history because of the freedom, private property rights, the rule of law (rule of law means applying laws equally to everybody regardless of their personal circumstance, that is true justice and morality, not what the mob thinks morality and justice are).

    Today that example is found in Singapore, Hong Kong, Switzerland, China, but actually the Scandinavian countries have been on the correct path for the last 20 years, since the time they started moving in the right direction 20 years ago, when they finally destroyed their economies with socialism. Today they are much more capitalistic and responsible (have little to no debt) than the so called 'capitalist' nations like the USA.

    Of-course currently the ECONOMIC STUPIDITY is reaching some insane local maximum, with the vast majority of the population believing in nonsense, Keynesianism, socialism, welfare state, other such equally destructive patterns of behaviour, so for example in Switzerland there will be a referendum to attempt and introduce a minimum wage and a welfare system, those are huge mistakes and the only reason the Swiss can even talk about it is the fact that they grew their economy so much in an actual free market capitalist system, so now they just may be ready to start destroying it with the socialist nonsense.

    In any case, as I said, people are very very stupid

  • Re:Are you kidding (Score:1, Interesting)

    by flyneye ( 84093 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:12AM (#46765621) Homepage

    But if you vote conservative, you are still voting for the one party Repubmocrat system. Lose/lose.
    Go back to being a republic, give each and every political party an EQUAL amount of time and money(yes, confiscate and redistribute campaign money from ALL parties), even if they are nuts, debate them ALL together, deny any other debates between parties and let the candidates fall where they may.
    We need choice, even not so good ones, to compare and contrast, otherwise most people will go on thinking that the one party system is the only serious way to proceed.( continued downward spiral)

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:34AM (#46765701)

    Another important frame: Pro Life! Abortion is bad, because it undermines the power of the father in the family. When a teenager becomes pregnant, it's her own fault, and she should live with the consequences. She didn't listen to her father, who is the moral authority and who decides what's good and what't wrong. When an adult woman decides to have an abortion because she wants to work on her career, she undermines this strict-father-morale as well. A career is not for women - they should stay at home and raise the children. Pro Life is not about life, it's about male dominance. Pro Life is not about the life of that baby - they don't care about that baby that probably would have little value to them. Pro Life is not about life, because it's OK to physically attack and occasionally kill people who work at abortion clinics. Casualties of war!

    This doesn't seem right. I'm not familiar with pro-life rhetoric being about abortion undermining patriarchal power in the family, usually it seems to be a general attack on women, often no different than opposition to contraception. Usually it seems to be about undermining female sexuality by increasing pregnancy risk, which may affect patriarchal authority coincidentally but not specifically. The other angle seems to be a more general cultural conservatism that sees non-reproductive sexuality as a general contributor to moral decline -- with pregnancy as a non-risk (through contraception and abortion), there's no reason for marriage as a necessity for sexuality since there is no pregnancy.

    I think it's even been argued that contraception and abortion actually contribute to male promiscuity since they also free men from the responsibility burden of pregnancy. It wouldn't surprise me if this doesn't tie into some radical feminist critiques of contraception/abortion as having an inherently patriarchal nature, since it eliminates any male responsibility for their sexuality and reduces women's value to that of merely a transactional sexual partner at best When the classist and gender discriminatory nature of economic relations is taken into account, women are further reduced to near-prostitute status, being obligated by both economy and lack of male sexual accountability. Of course I'm not advocating this as being true, but it's not hard to tie it together with this kind of rhetoric.

  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:09AM (#46765867) Journal

    "...because the politicians do, as you say, simply have to FRAME a proposal in language which RESONATES with the worldview of the people being targeted..."

    Sadly, you do not know the US of A.

    The politicians inside the United States of America do not need to frame any proposal to the people, all the need to do to get anything done is to use their influence to rally a portion of semi-elites to his or her cause, and through the butterfly effect , it is done.

    Case in point - United States attacking Iraq

    When George Bush decides to attack Iraq, he did not need to get the approval from the Americans. All he did was to rally the world community (elites from different countries) to his cause, and when he got the support, off goes the Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

    I was from China, and I still remember how hard the Chinese Communist Party had to rally their own people to support their decision to send troops into Korea to fight the Korean war.

    In contrast to what George Bush did - the Chinese government, under Mao, almost tapped into all the resources it could muster, to get the people into the mood.

    In a way, at least back in the time of the Korean War, the Communist government which rule China was more attuned to their own people, than George Bush, to the Americans.

  • Re:Are you kidding (Score:4, Interesting)

    by coastwalker ( 307620 ) <acoastwalker@hotma i l . c om> on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:22AM (#46765947) Homepage

    American politics from outside seems framed in the terms of what politicians are doing about forcing your own world view on other people who do not hold that world view. In other words politics is framed as a religious war on unbelievers. In this way it is no different to the Iranian theocracy for example.

  • Re:Are you kidding (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <> on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:53AM (#46766243) Homepage Journal

    He might be wrong about some things, but the American Dream(TM) lie is well understood. The UK had a its own version called Thatcherism. The idea that anyone can make it if they work hard. Well, maybe they can if they get really lucky, but for the majority they won't get rich in their lifetime. Not to say that they will have bad lives or anything.

    The problem is people vote for tax cuts for the rich because they think they will be rich one day. They vote based on ideas that only really affect the rich because they think they are upper-middle class, when in fact they are working class. The majority of working class people in the UK think they are middle class, it's that bad. My aunt was a school cleaner and my uncle a factory worker, they thought they were middle class.

  • Re:Are you kidding (Score:4, Interesting)

    by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:44AM (#46766821) Homepage Journal

    And that's not really all that accurate. "From the outside" it becomes trivial to ignore enough elements to make another country's problems seem trivial and one dimensional. This is exactly where the USA's predilection for invading countries comes from. In reality, political dogmas drive only a portion(a largish one though it may be) of our broken political process.

    Other parts come from:
    *Still simmering racial prejudices
    *Gerrymandering, safe districts, winner-take-all elections, and pandering
    *A healthy dose of education issues
    *Unfounded nationalistic pride
    *Really really really bizarre takes on Christianity
    *Our media's obsession with short-term ratings
    *Money in politics
    *Lots more than that

    And I'd say at best the first one is the only one showing much signs of improvement over the past 20 years, and that got rubbed really the wrong way when Obama got elected too.

The best defense against logic is ignorance.