- 1933 — G. K. Chesterton, All I Survey, Essay XXIII: On Industrialism
Modernity is not democracy; machinery is not democracy; the surrender of everything to trade and commerce is not democracy. Capitalism is not democracy; and is admittedly, by trend and savour, rather against democracy. Plutocracy by definition is not democracy. But all these modern things forced themselves into the world at about the time, or shortly after the time, when great idealists like Rousseau and Jefferson happened to have been thinking about the democratic ideal of democracy.
The United States is a plutocracy that operates under the “rule of law.” Except the “rules” to not apply to the “ruling” class who, in a plutocracy, are immunized by default since they created the rules and dictate how they are applied.
A plutocracy is a government that is ruled by the wealthy or controlled by wealthy individuals. The term usually is used pejoratively, because it implies a lack of democratic freedom and social mobility. Many historical governments were plutocracies, controlled by an elite class of wealthy people, and some modern governments have been accused of being plutocracies, including the government of the United States.
One glaring example of how a plutocracy operates was the outcome of the 2000 presidential elections in which the republican candidate; who did not have a majority of the “popular” vote was selected (no elected) by a group of 5 political appointees; who were themselves Republicans and millionaires;
The Disputed Election of 2000
The presidential election of 2000 hinged on the outcome in Florida. First, the television networks said that Vice President Al Gore had carried the state. Then, the state’s election was considered “too close to call.” Then, the networks declared Texas Governor George W. Bush the winner. The presidential election was so close that it took five weeks to determine the winner. Vice President Al Gore carried the East and West Coasts and inland industrial cities, while Texas Governor George W. Bush won much of the Midwest and Plains, as well as the South. Gore gained a half-million more votes than Bush, but Gore lost the Electoral College when he lost Florida. Bush’s official margin in Florida was by 537 votes.
With the presidency hanging on a few hundred votes in a single state, there were lawsuits and requests for recounts. Bitter disputes centered on confusing ballots, missing names from voting rolls, and subjecting minority voters to multiple requests for identification. The punch card ballots posed a major problem–they were vulnerable to voter error. Many ballots were called into question because voters failed to punch a hole all the way through the ballot. In an extraordinary late-night decision, the U.S. Supreme Court halted a recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court. A narrow majority of the Justices said that the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court violated the principle that “all votes must be treated equally.” It also ruled that there was not enough time to conduct a new count that would meet constitutional muster.
The 2000 presidential election was the first in 112 years in which a president lost the popular vote but captured enough states to win the electoral vote.
In a democracy Presidents are elected by a majority of the vote. In a plutocracy Presidents are selected by the ruling class.
I should also note that this very same group of politically appointed Republican millionaires later ruled that “corporations are people” and endowed them with person-hood;
Corporate personhood is the legal concept that a corporation may be recognized as an individual in the eyes of the law. This doctrine forms the basis for legal recognition that corporations, as groups of people, may hold and exercise certain rights under the common law and the U.S. Constitution. …read more here; Reclaim Democracy
That being said, many will argue that is total bullshit. A left-wing commie smear campaign against democracy, equality, freedom, and the pursuit of the American Dream.
Maybe shining the light on this 21st Century America would help clarify things;
Out of 300 million Americans, a few thousand wield disproportionate economic and political influence because of their positions at the pinnacle of America’s corporate and media establishments or their roles as political allies (or puppets) of the corporate ruling class. C. Wright Mills described this group in his 1956 book, The Power Elite, G. William Domhoff has updated this analysis in his book, Who Rules America? (now in its 7th edition), and Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have described how the power elite wields its influence in Winner-Take-All Politics.
Many of them have overlapping memberships on the boards of the largest corporations, business lobby groups, universities and think tanks, foundations, and media conglomerates. They are not part of conspiracy. They do not meet secretly to plot America’s future. And they disagree with each other on some issues, particularly same-sex marriage, abortion and gun control. Some are corporate conservatives and moderates; some are right-wing reactionaries and racists; others are lunatic libertarians.
But they agree on the essential concerns about the economy. The top Wall Street and Wal-Mart CEOs, the media monopolists and their talk-show agitators, the billionaire benefactors, and the business lobbyists share an antipathy toward unions, progressive taxes, and government regulations that protect consumers, workers, and the environment. They fund think tanks and hire college professors to promote their views and to cry wolf about government rules — denying the reality of global warming, warning that raising the minimum wage or strengthening regulations on banks will “kill jobs,” and attacking Obamacare (and Obama) as “socialist.” They work closely with right-wing, conservative, and moderate politicians to carry out their agenda. They act on behalf of big business and the super-rich, but to translate their ideas into public policy they have to persuade voters that their agenda benefits middle class Americans — a task that is getting harder and harder to do.
Yet even among the few thousand members of the power elite, there are a small number whose influence is greater than the others. Here is a list of the 20 most influential members of the power elite. Read more here; America’s Ruling Class Hall of Shame
The ruling class in America “rules by law” evidenced by the horrifying fact that the United States has the (read more here) largest prison population in the world.
The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world—more even than China or Russia. In fact, more people are in prisons in the United States than in all other developed countries combined. Professor Daniel J. D’Amico explains that as of 2010 over 1.6 million people were serving jail sentences in America.
What does this say about the United States? Professor D’Amico suggests that “prisons are not what we think about when we think of America, and they shouldn’t have to be.” According to D’Amico, a free country should not have 1.6 million people in prison, and a fiscally responsible country cannot afford to.
In a plutocracy the rule of law is applied selectively, however. The ruling class are not bound by the same set of rules; and here’s a few glaring example’s
In our plutocratic system we need to depend on the ruling class being fair yet one look at the prison population in relation to the type of crimes and social status would quickly show that fairness (or blind justice) is not a factor.
For example, tax evasion by wealthy Americans is unbridled and has been running rampant for years. It is a crime and there are laws on the books;
Any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax imposed by this title or the payment thereof shall, in addition to other penalties provided by law, be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $100,000($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.
There are also laws on the books against aiding and abetting tax-evaders; in this case a number of international banks doing business in the United States;
Top executives at Credit Suisse Group told a Senate hearing Wednesday that the Swiss bank “regrets very deeply” that it aided billions of dollars of tax evasion by American clients
But the comments marked a new effort by Credit Suisse to get some distance from the practices of its bankers as it came under attack at the hearing of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The subcommittee’s probe found that the bank held as much as $12 billion in assets for 22,000 U.S. clients, up to 95% of which was hidden from the IRS.
Later in the day, lawmakers said they planned to question senior Justice Department officials about what they said was the slow pace of investigations against Credit Suisse and 13 other banks accused of helping clients evade taxes.
Multiple crimes; all felonies. Repeated and premeditated by thousands of people and dozens of large financial institutions over the course of many years, and all documented making for EZ prosecution.
Yet……..how many cases have been prosecuted? How many people have been convicted? How many incarcerated? How much of the embezzled tax dollars have been recovered?
Well, let’s see how this works in a plutocracy.
A crime is only a crime if the ruling class interprets it that way.
The rule of law is a system of rules and rights that enables fair and functioning societies. The World Justice Project defines this system as one in which the following four universal principles are upheld:
The government and its officials and agents as well as individuals and private entities are accountable under the law.
The laws are clear, publicized, stable, and just; are applied evenly; and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property.
The process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, fair,and efficient.
Justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.
Now, here’s how it is applied in a plutocracy like ours; and important to note that only in a plutocracy could the following defense be used because it explicitly uses wealth as the defense.
A wealthy teen who killed four people in a Texas drunk driving accident will not go to jail after a judge ruled this week that instead, he must attend an expensive rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents. The driver was 16-year-old Ethan Couch. He was speeding, with a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit. Couch has admitted to his crime, and in a case that went before a Texas judge, prosecutors sought a 20-year sentence. Instead, Couch was sentenced to 10 years’ probation after a psychologist claimed he had “affluenza,” and testified that his cushy upbringing prevented him from connecting bad behavior with its consequences.
There is no doubt in my mind that these are blatant examples of how the rule of law is defined and applied by a small group of wealthy and powerful individuals which have been able to successfully infiltrate and corrupt every branch of our government. As in the “affluenza” defense case and the inability of the government to enforce the rule of law on tax-evaders, corporations who commit crimes, are caught but allowed to just pay fines and exempt themselves from admission of guilt and immunizing themselves from prosecution using the “too big to fail” defense.
That in itself defines a plutocracy. A society where the wealthy are more powerful (and bigger) than the representative government who are sworn to protect and defend the rule of law on behalf of the citizens of this country.
One reason that doesn’t work very well is because we have a government; especially the Judicial and Legislative branches, that are not representative of the people in general, but only of the wealthy and elite segment of the population;
For example; The Supreme Court; the last word on the rule of law, is made up of millionaires politically appointed to their seats by another group of millionaires (Congress) who, for the most part are bought by wealthy donors who bankroll their campaigns/elections. An elite group indeed, and not at all representative of the American landscape.
At least five and perhaps as many as eight of the nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court are millionaires according to recently released financial disclosures, and only two hold any consumer debt.
Assets on the forms are reported in a range making it impossible to say precisely how much each justice is worth, but suffice to say, none of them are hurting financially.
However, Ginsburg’s actual net worth may be as low as $4.4 million and Breyer’s as low as $5 million. Federal officials are also exempt from disclosing the value of their homes, making an accurate calculation even more difficult.
After collecting nearly $2 million in book advances, Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s assets rose to between $1.7 and $10.3 million, ranking her No. 3 in terms of highest potential net worth. Sotomayor is an appointee of President Barack Obama.
Chief Justice John Roberts, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, possesses one of the court’s most complex financial portfolios. His net worth is valued between $2.8 million and $6.6 million, ranking him No. 4.
As for the rest:
Antonin Scalia, appointed by former President Ronald Reagan, reported a net worth between1.9 and4.2 million, ranking him No. 5.
Elena Kagan’s assets total between815,000 and2.1 million, according to the Center’s analysis, putting her at No. 6.
Clarence Thomas, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, reported between715,000 and1.8 million, ranking him seventh.
Samuel Alito has not yet filed his 2012 report and sought an extension, but in 2011 the George W. Bush appointee reported between380,000 and1.1 million in wealth putting him at No. 8 for maximum potential wealth.
Anthony Kennedy, appointed by Reagan, reported assets of between $330,000 and $700,000, placing him at No. 9.
The House of the People (Congress) is comprised of a majority of millionaires financed by “special” interest groups which is the code word for wealthy.
For the first time in history, more than half the members of Congress are millionaires, according to a new analysis of financial disclosure reports conducted by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Of the 534 current members of the House and Senate, 268 had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012 – up from 257 members in 2011. The median net worth for members of the House and Senate was $1,008,767.
The wealthiest member of Congress? That’s Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, who had a net worth between $330 and $598 million.
The reports found that there wasn’t much distinction between the two parties – congressional Democrats had a median net worth of $1.04 million as compared to about $1 million for Republicans. In both cases, the averages are up from last year, when the numbers were $990,000 and $907,000, respectively.
The release of this analysis comes at a time when officials in both parties are making an effort to address income inequality in the United States.
THERE’S ONE KEY FACT OF LIFE ; This only happens in a Plutocracy!
Some conservatives continue to claim that President Obama is unfriendly to business, but the facts show that the richest Americans and the biggest businesses have been the main – perhaps only – beneficiaries of the massive wealth gain over the past five years.
1. $5 Million to Each of the 1%, and $1 Million to Each of the Next 4%
From the end of 2008 to the middle of 2013 total U.S. wealth increased from $47 trillion to $72 trillion. About $16 trillion of that is financial gain (stocks and other financial instruments).
The richest 1% own about 38 percent of stocks, and half of non-stock financial assets. So they’ve gained at least $6.1 trillion (38 percent of $16 trillion). That’s over $5 million for each of 1.2 million households.
The next richest 4%, based on similar calculations, gained about $5.1 trillion. That’s over a million dollars for each of their 4.8 million households.
The least wealthy 90% in our country own only 11 percent of all stocks excluding pensions (which are fast disappearing). The frantic recent surge in the stock market has largely bypassed these families.
2. Evidence of Our Growing Wealth Inequality
This first fact is nearly ungraspable: In 2009 the average wealth for almost half of American families was ZERO (their debt exceeded their assets).
In 1983 the families in America’s poorer half owned an average of about$15,000. But from 1983 to 1989 median wealth fell from over $70,000 to about $60,000. From 1998 to 2009, fully 80% of American families LOST wealth. They had to borrow to stay afloat.
It seems the disparity couldn’t get much worse, but after the recession it did. According to a Pew Research Center study, in the first two years of recovery the mean net worth of households in the upper 7% of the wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28%, while the mean net worth of households in the lower 93% dropped by 4%. And then, from 2011 to 2013, the stock market grew by almost 50 percent, with again the great majority of that gain going to the richest 5%.
Today our wealth gap is worse than that of the third world. Out of all developed and undeveloped countries with at least a quarter-million adults, the U.S. has the 4th-highest degree of wealth inequality in the world, trailing only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon.
As for the rest of Americans living in a Plutocracy?
The Census Bureau is out with the annual report on incomes and poverty. And while you might think that after years of stagnant incomes and elevated poverty rates, we would be inured to the depressing facts contained therein, it still somehow has the power to shock.
For my money, the most depressing fact about the economy is not the fact that household incomes were basically flat in 2012 (the real median household income was down to $51,017 from $51,100 in 2011, a statistically insignificant change). It wasn’t even the fact that 15 percent of the U.S. population was living in poverty, according to the official, flawed definition of the term.
In 1989, the median American household made $51,681 in current dollars (the 2012 number, again, was $51,017). That means that 24 years ago, a middle class American family was making more than the a middle class family was making one year ago.
This isn’t a lost decade for economic gains for Americans. It is a lost generation.