We’re all taught in elementary school that America is a democracy… that every one of us has a say in how we’re governed.
But unfortunately, I’m here to report that our teachers were dead wrong. In fact, we might as well take down our monuments of freedom while we’re at it.
You see, researchers at Princeton University have definitively concluded that America isn’t a democracy… instead, it’s an oligarchy.
Dictionary.com defines an oligarchy as a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique, government by the few. And sadly, it looks like the Ivy League elite who study our government hit the mark this time.
The definition proffered by the researchers is only slightly different: “An oligarchy is a system where power is effectively wielded by a small number of individuals defined by their status called oligarchs. Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well-connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well-placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.”
So the real question is: How did our democratic republic, known for the slogan “Power to the People,” slip silently into the hand of the billionaires, Hollywood moguls, and political elites?
Did it slowly succumb? Was it secretly taken over? Or was it always in the hands of the elite? I’m not sure any historian could give us an adequate answer, but I intend to share my own.
Gov’t of the Money, By the Money and for the Money
Luckily, my answer is simple. The problem is big government.
When America was founded, the central government was small and remote. Most people never had cause to deal with the government, so they really didn’t pay much attention.
Taxes were miniscule and were mostly collected as tariffs on goods coming in and out of a few harbor towns. There was no personal income tax, no capital gains tax, and no corporate income tax.
Money consisted of a particular weight of silver or gold, and people didn’t worry about government manipulation of the currency. The government couldn’t fake or inflate a silver dollar or a $20 gold piece.
Schools were organized by local communities, and the government didn’t have a reason to interfere. This was long before the days of Common Core State Standards, No Child Left Behind, standardized tests, and sex education mandates.
On top of that, there was no Department of Agriculture to tell farmers which crops to plant or how much they’d get paid for a gallon of milk or a block of cheese.
I could go on like this about a hundred other agencies that utopians had yet to dream up at the time of our country’s founding, but you get the point.
Once the government began to grow, our democracy was toast.
Then political insiders learned they could fleece one group of people and – as Barack Obama is famous for saying – “spread the wealth around.” Immediately afterward, groups began spending money on elections to get “their guy” in office. Their guy would “bring home the bacon.”
What started as small corruption mushroomed into widespread corruption within a matter of years… and then the big money got involved.
The government began to bestow favors on select groups, and the big money started to collect its portion. Thus, the system grew until 2008, when we bailed out the biggest and wealthiest banks and insurance firms in the country. TARP money kept storied companies like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase out of bankruptcy, while the taxpayers and the little guys took it in the chops.
The billionaires who had their fortunes protected by the government largess in TARP included Warren Buffett, George Soros, and Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. They’ve all remained billionaires despite being heavily invested in financial firms that took money from TARP. If Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan had been allowed to go bankrupt, the damage to these billionaires’ portfolios would’ve been much worse. These three are not alone, of course, but merely noteworthy examples of how the oligarchs benefit directly from government action.
The bottom line is, until we end the fleecing and the payoffs, the elites will continue to rule America. The reality remains that the money they spend to control Congress and the presidency is chump change when compared to the money they pocket.
This commentary originally appeared at WallStreetDaily.com and is reprinted here with permission.