Part a: Plutocracy is now.
Some people fear we may soon lose our democracy. But they’re out of date. We’ve already had plutocracy, rule by the rich, for decades or longer. There’s now proof of that:
In a 2014 research paper, university professors Gilens and Page put aside methods such as elections and lobbying. In decades of data, they statistically compared the preferences people have expressed in polls with the outcomes, the public policies that actually get signed into law. They found that the rich end up with the policies they want, and the rest of us don’t.
Business and government have merged, rather than act as checks and balances on each other. And the plutocrats use their power to perpetuate their control.
Part b: The plutocrats are monsters.
Corporations have often paid starvation wages, and beaten or killed union organizers. For decades, the cigarette companies and fossil fuel companies knew what harm their products were doing, and lied about it.
And the USA has been at war nearly every year of its history, killing innocent people for lies and profit, not for defense. And when the truth later comes out, there are no prosecutions. The wars, bank bailouts, and other crimes of government have bipartisan support, so most of our politicians are con men, bank robbers, and mass murderers. And yet we treat them with respect, like some national Stockholm Syndrome.
Power corrupts. That was finally proved in 1971 by the Stanford Prison Experiment. Student volunteers were tested for normalcy, then divided randomly into guards and inmates for a two-week mock prison. Within six days the guards were abusing the inmates so severely that the experiment was halted. Outside of experiments, in real life, we see power corrupting at every level. Bosses bully their workers, guards torture their captives, police shoot the poor, and the rich start wars to make themselves richer.
Evidently we should restructure our society, replacing hierarchies of power with horizontal networking.
Part c: Remedies.
What can we do about this? Reformists believe laws could separate legislators from lobbyists, clean up elections, and so on.
But I have my doubts about that. After all, it’s the plutocrats who determine which bills become laws, and which laws get enforced. The plutocrats are not likely to vote themselves out of power. Money IS influence, regardless of what the Supreme Court does or doesn’t say about that. The only way to avoid rule by the wealthy class is to not have a wealthy class.
But that’s the opposite of where we are now. Today’s divide between haves and have-nots is enormous: The richest six people in the world now have as much wealth as the poorest 3.7 billion people. An imbalance that big didn’t just “happen.” It’s been growing for a long time. Growing inequality must be a basic feature in our way of life. Evidently trade favors the trader in the stronger bargaining position.
How should we change our economic system? Let’s get more people talking about that.