I am revisiting a recent "scientific study": US Is an Oligarchy Not a Democracy, says Scientific Study. My purpose is to ask a fundamental question. If we are to accept the findings of this study, what is the role of elections? The study says:
A study, to appear in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, finds that the U.S. is no democracy, but instead an oligarchy, meaning profoundly corrupt, so that the answer to the study’s opening question, "Who governs? Who really rules?" in this country, is:. Unless you are willing to just write this off as nonsense, you must wonder what we are doing here at a site dedicated to electing people that are supposed to be representing us. Read on below and we can delve deeper into this question for it has many facets.
"Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, ..." and then they go on to say, it's not true, and that, "America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened" by the findings in this, the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, which shows that there is instead "the nearly total failure of 'median voter' and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. 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."
As a scientist I shudder when the words "scientific study" are attached to such reports. On the other hand I do not need scientific studies to convince me that this Nation is ruled by the rich. So why the scientific study angle?
The authors of this historically important study are Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, and their article is titled "Testing Theories of American Politics." The authors clarify that the data available are probably under-representing the actual extent of control of the U.S. by the super-rich:We can go back to Plato and find that we are really not in new territory: The Trouble with Oligarchy: Plato's Surprising Perspective
Economic Elite Domination theories do rather well in our analysis, even though our findings probably understate the political influence of elites. Our measure of the preferences of wealthy or elite Americans – though useful, and the best we could generate for a large set of policy cases – is probably less consistent with the relevant preferences than are our measures of the views of ordinary citizens or the alignments of engaged interest groups. Yet we found substantial estimated effects even when using this imperfect measure. The real-world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater.
Oligarchy, wrote Plato in the Republic, is government by "greedy men" who love money so much that "they are reluctant to pay taxes" for the common good (Republic VIII, 551e). Although the Greek word "oligarchy" literally means government by the few, Plato spins the word to mean the wealthy few. He thus distinguishes oligarchy from timocracy (from the Greek "timos" or honor), which was also a form of government by the few. For Plato, timocracy is government by a few virtuous men who love honor, whereas oligarchy is government by a few rich men who love money.If that does not have a familiar ring to it we must not be living on the same planet. Here's a bit of insight Plato had:
Oligarchs believe that the wealth of a society should be redistributed to themselves and their rich cronies, while the rest of the society is reduced to poverty. In fact, observes Plato, nearly all the citizens of an oligarchy are impoverished, except for those in the ruling class who subvert the laws to protect their own interests, leaving the majority of the populace burdened by debt and disenfranchised.
Plato believed, rather poetically, that there is a similarity between a country's form of government and the moral character of the citizens of that country. Just as an oligarchic state is internally torn apart into two countries, so a member of the oligarchic class is conflicted within himself. In Plato's words, "he is not really one person, but in some way a double man." This type of person may pretend to be quite respectable, but he is not, at least in Plato's eyes, really virtuous.Do you get the picture we have some kind of time travel in effect here? The duplicity of the people who rule us is as Plato describes.
My question seems valid given where we are. Will it be answered?