I often hear people saying “we live in an oligarchy” or “we live in a plutocracy” (or both). We title ourselves a democratic republic, but is that still the case today?
First, a few definitions (from Google) for those younger/ignorant readers:
1. Democracy: A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives
2. Plutocracy: Government by the wealthy
3. Oligarchy: A small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution
4. Republic: A state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch
5. Totalitarian (from Wikipedia because I liked their definition better): Government regulates nearly every aspect of public and private life
6. Meritocracy: Government or the holding of power by people selected on the basis of their ability
So, now that’s out of the way we can start to look at this. Immediately we can say that we do not live in a meritocracy given that the GOP controls the House.
It would be very hard to say that we are not living in a plutocracy given that most of the politicians in Washington are extremely wealthy and the fact that it is damn near impossible to be elected into a high position without wealth from the private sector.
The debate could rage on about whether or not we live in an oligarchy or not but I would argue that if we are in a plutocracy (which we are) then it must also be an oligarchy because the elected officials are only from the top 2% or so, which is a (relatively) small group of people.
It is quite clear (just by the definition) that we do not live in democracy solely based on the definition. That being said, we do live in a representative democracy in which we vote for people that vote for us. It is not a democracy in the original sense, but it is a modification of it.
Added to that is the part of us being a republic. I think that without a doubt we are a republic if you look at the definition, there just isn’t really any arguing with that.
And then we get to my favorite, the totalitarianism. Based on that definition it would be hard to argue one way or another. Yes, the government does control much of our lives. But, we do still have freedoms that we use daily. In my mind we have not gotten to the point of being totalitarian and I feel that the American spirit will keep that away.
So what are we then? I would say we are a Demoplutoligaric Republic, but that’s just me.
We live in a society that is becoming more and more elite. Although the tone of this may sound pessimistic I am not. My feeling is that we must commit to what we want to be, we must make progress in some direction.
If we want the wealthy to rule the country, lets be honest about it and just commit to it. If we stop being closet elitists then we can decide to make progress. That being said, we must be careful what we choose.
We live in a key time where the power could switch very quickly into hands that may not use it in the way we want. We as a country must come together and decide where we need to go and how we will get there.