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Plutocracy

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Plutocracy

Plutocracy (from Greek πλοῦτος, ploutos, meaning "wealth", and κράτος, kratos, meaning "power, dominion, rule") or plutarchy, defines a society or a system ruled and dominated by the small minority of the wealthiest citizens. The first known use of the term was in 1652.[1] Unlike systems such as democracy, capitalism, socialism or anarchism, plutocracy is not rooted in an established political philosophy. The concept of plutocracy may be advocated by the wealthy classes of a society in an indirect or surreptitious fashion, though the term itself is almost always used in a pejorative sense.[2]

Contents

  • Usage 1
    • Examples 1.1
    • Modern politics 1.2
    • United States 1.3
      • Post World War II 1.3.1
    • Russia 1.4
  • As a propaganda term 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Usage

The term plutocracy is generally used as a pejorative to describe or warn against an undesirable condition.[3][4] Throughout history, political thinkers such as Winston Churchill, 19th-century French sociologist and historian Alexis de Tocqueville, 19th-century Spanish monarchist Juan Donoso Cortés and today Noam Chomsky have condemned plutocrats for ignoring their social responsibilities, using their power to serve their own purposes and thereby increasing poverty and nurturing class conflict, corrupting societies with greed and hedonism.[5][6]

Examples

Examples of plutocracies include the Roman Empire, some city-states in Ancient Greece, the civilization of Carthage, the Italian city-states/merchant republics of Venice, Florence, Genoa, and pre-World War II Empire of Japan (the zaibatsu).

One modern, formal example of what some critics have described as a plutocracy is the City of London.[7] The City (not the whole of modern London but the area of the ancient city, about 1 sq mile or 2.5 km2, which now mainly comprises the financial district) has a unique electoral system for its local administration. More than two-thirds of voters are not residents, but rather representatives of businesses and other bodies that occupy premises in the City, with votes distributed according to their numbers of employees. The principal justification for this arrangement is that most of the services provided by the Corporation are used by the businesses in the City. In fact about 450,000 non-residents constitute the city's day-time population, far outnumbering the City's 7,000 residents.[8]

Modern politics

Historically, wealthy individuals and organizations have exerted influence over the political arena. In the modern era, many democratic republics permit fundraising for politicians who frequently rely on such income for advertising their candidacy to the voting public.

Whether through individuals, corporations or advocacy groups, such donations are often believed to engender a cronyist or patronage system by which major contributors are rewarded on a quid pro quo basis. While campaign donations need not directly affect the legislative decisions of elected representatives, the natural expectation of donors is that their needs will be served by the person to whom they donated. If not, it is in their self-interest to fund a different candidate or political organization.

While quid pro quo agreements are generally illegal in most democracies, they are difficult to prove, short of a well-documented paper trail. A core basis of democracy, being a politician's ability to freely advocate policies which benefit his or her constituents, also makes it difficult to prove that doing so might be a crime. Even the granting of appointed positions to a well-documented contributor may not transgress the law, particularly if the appointee appears to be suitably qualified for the post. Some systems even specifically provide for such patronage.

United States

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Some modern historians, politicians and economists state that the United States was effectively plutocratic for at least part of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era periods between the end of the Civil War until the beginning of the Great Depression.[9][10][11][12][13][14] President Theodore Roosevelt became known as the "trust-buster" for his aggressive use of United States antitrust law, through which he managed to break up such major combinations as the largest railroad and Standard Oil, the largest oil company.[15] According to historian David Burton, "When it came to domestic political concerns, TR’s Bete Noire was the plutocracy.[16] In his autobiographical account of taking on monopolistic corporations as president, TR recounted
’’ …we had come to the stage where for our people what was needed was a real democracy; and of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of a plutocracy.’’[17]

The Sherman Antitrust Act had been enacted in 1890, with large industries reaching monopolistic or near-monopolistic levels of market concentration and financial capital increasingly integrating corporations, a handful of very wealthy heads of large corporations began to exert increasing influence over industry, public opinion and politics after the Civil War. Money, according to contemporary progressive and journalist Walter Weyl, was "the mortar of this edifice", with ideological differences among politicians fading and the political realm becoming "a mere branch in a still larger, integrated business. The state, which through the party formally sold favors to the large corporations, became one of their departments."[18]

In his book The Conscience of a Liberal, in a section entitled The Politics of Plutocracy, economist Paul Krugman says plutocracy took hold because of three factors: at that time, the poorest quarter of American residents (African-Americans and non-naturalized immigrants) were ineligible to vote, the wealthy funded the campaigns of politicians they preferred, and vote buying was "feasible, easy and widespread", as were other forms of electoral fraud such as ballot-box stuffing and intimidation of the other party's voters.[19]

The U.S. instituted progressive taxation in 1913, but according to Shamus Khan, in the 1970s, elites used their increasing political power to lower their taxes, and today successfully employ what political scientist Jeffrey Winters calls "the income defense industry" to greatly reduce their taxes.[20]

Post World War II

In modern times, the term is sometimes used pejoratively to refer to societies rooted in state-corporate capitalism or which prioritize the accumulation of wealth over other interests.[21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29] According to Kevin Phillips, author and political strategist to U.S. President Richard Nixon, the United States is a plutocracy in which there is a "fusion of money and government."[30]

Chrystia Freeland, author of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else,[31] says that the present trend towards plutocracy occurs because the rich feel that their interests are shared by society.[32][33]

You don't do this in a kind of chortling, smoking your cigar, conspiratorial thinking way. You do it by persuading yourself that what is in your own personal self-interest is in the interests of everybody else. So you persuade yourself that, actually, government services, things like spending on education, which is what created that social mobility in the first place, need to be cut so that the deficit will shrink, so that your tax bill doesn't go up. And what I really worry about is, there is so much money and so much power at the very top, and the gap between those people at the very top and everybody else is so great, that we are going to see social mobility choked off and society transformed.
— Chrystia Freeland ,  NPR

When the Nobel-Prize winning economist

  • The dictionary definition of at Wiktionary
  • Quotations related to Plutocracy at Wikiquote

External links

  • Howard, Milford Wriarson (1895). .The American plutocracy New York: Holland Publishing.
  • Norwood, Thomas Manson (1888). .Plutocracy: or, American white slavery; a politico-social novel New York: The American News Company.
  • Pettigrew, Richard Franklin (1921). Triumphant Plutocracy: The Story of American Public Life from 1870 to 1920. New York: The Academy Press.
  • Reed, John Calvin (1903). .The New Plutocracy New York: Abbey Press.
  • Winters, Jeffrey A. (2011). "Oligarchy" Cambridge University Press

Further reading

  1. ^ "Plutocracy". Merriam Webster. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  2. ^ "The study of attitudes is reasonably easy [...] it's concluded that for roughly 70% of the population - the lower 70% on the wealth/income scale - they have no influence on policy whatsoever. They're effectively disenfranchised. As you move up the wealth/income ladder, you get a little bit more influence on policy. When you get to the top, which is maybe a tenth of one percent, people essentially get what they want, i.e. they determine the policy. So the proper term for that is not democracy; it's plutocracy." Extract from the transcript of a speech delivered by Noam Chomsky in Bonn, Germany, at DW Global Media Forum, 15 August 2013.
  3. ^ Fiske, Edward B.; Mallison, Jane; Hatcher, David (2009). Fiske 250 words every high school freshman needs to know. Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks. p. 250.  
  4. ^ Coates, ed. by Colin M. (2006). Majesty in Canada: essays on the role of royalty. Toronto: Dundurn. p. 119.  
  5. ^ Viereck, Peter (2006). Conservative thinkers: from John Adams to Winston Churchill. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. pp. 19–68.  
  6. ^ Toupin, Alexis de Tocqueville; edited by Roger Boesche; translated by James; Boesche, Roger (1985). Selected letters on politics and society. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 197–198.  
  7. ^ The medieval, unaccountable Corporation of London is ripe for protest, The Guardian, retrieved 01/11/2011
  8. ^ René Lavanchy (12 February 2009). "Labour runs in City of London poll against ‘get-rich’ bankers".  
  9. ^ Pettigrew, Richard Franklin (2010). Triumphant Plutocracy: The Story of American Public Life from 1870 to 1920. Nabu Press.  
  10. ^ Calvin Reed, John (1903). The New Plutocracy. Kessinger Publishing, LLC (2010 reprint).  
  11. ^ Brinkmeyer, Robert H. (2009). The fourth ghost: white Southern writers and European fascism, 1930-1950. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. p. 331.  
  12. ^ Allitt, Patrick (2009). The conservatives: ideas and personalities throughout American history. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 143.  
  13. ^ Ryan, foreword by Vincent P. De Santis; edited by Leonard Schlup, James G. (2003). Historical dictionary of the Gilded Age. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe. p. 145.  
  14. ^ Viereck, Peter (2006). Conservative thinkers: from John Adams to Winston Churchill. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. p. 103.  
  15. ^ Schweikart, Larry (2009). American Entrepreneur: The Fascinating Stories of the People Who Defined Business in the United States. AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn. 
  16. ^ David Henry Burton: Theodore Rooselvelt, American Politician, An Assessment, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1997
  17. ^ Theodore Roosevelt: Theodore Roosevelt: an autobiography. New York, Macmillan, 1913
  18. ^ Bowman, Scott R. (1996). The modern corporation and American political thought: law, power, and ideology. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press. pp. 92–103.  
  19. ^ Krugman, Paul (2009). The conscience of a liberal ([Pbk. ed.] ed.). New York: Norton. pp. 21–26.  
  20. ^ Kahn, Shamus (18 September 2012) "The Rich Haven’t Always Hated Taxes" Time Magazine
  21. ^ Lind, Michael (Dec 2009). "T O-Word". The Baffler. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  22. ^ Barker, Derek (2013). "Oligarchy or Elite Democracy? Aristotle and Modern Representative Government". New Political Science 35 (4): 547–566.  
  23. ^ Nichol, Gene (2012-03-13). "Citizens United and the Roberts Court's War on Democracy". Georgia State University Law Review 27 (4): 1007–1018. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  24. ^ Muller, A., Kinezuka, A., and Kerssen, T (Summer 2013). "The Trans-Pacific Partnership: A Threat to Democracy and Food Sovereignty". Food First Backgrounder. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  25. ^ Etzioni, Amitai (Jan 2014). "Political Corruption in the United States: A Design Draft". Political Science & Politics 47 (1): 141–144.  
  26. ^ Winters, Jeffrey (March 2012). "Oligarchy". Perspectives on Politics 10 (1): 137–139.  
  27. ^ Westbrook, David (2011). "If Not a Commercial Republic - Political Economy in the United States after Citizens United". Lousiville Law Review 50 (1): 35–86. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  28. ^ Liptak, Adam (21 January 2010). "Justices, 5-4, Reject Corporate Spending Limit". New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  29. ^ Full Show: The Long, Dark Shadows of Plutocracy. Moyers & Company, November 28, 2014.
  30. ^ Transcript. Bill Moyers Interviews Kevin Phillips. NOW with Bill Moyers 4.09.04 | PBS
  31. ^  
  32. ^ National Public Radio (15 October 2012) "A Startling Gap Between Us And Them In 'Plutocrats'"
  33. ^ See also the Chrystia Freeland interview for the Moyers Book Club (12 October 2012) Full Show: Plutocracy RisingMoyers & Company
  34. ^ Joseph E. Stiglitz (May 2011) "Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%" Vanity Fair
  35. ^ Piketty, Thomas (2014). Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Belknap Press. ISBN 067443000X p. 514: "the risk of a drift towards oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism about where the United States is headed."
  36. ^ Gilens & Page (2014) Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, Perspectives on Politics, Princeton University. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  37. ^ Winters, Jeffrey A. "Oligarchy" Cambridge University Press, 2011, p. 208-254
  38. ^ Global Wealth Report Credit Suisse, p October 2013 page 53
  39. ^ http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/fi/vol02/no02/editors2.htm
  40. ^ a b c Blamires, Cyprian; Jackson, Paul (2006). World fascism: a historical encyclopedia, Vol. 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 522.  

References

See also

In the political [39][40] Plutocracy replaced democracy and capitalism as the principal fascist term for the United States and Great Britain during the Second World War.[40] For the Nazis, the term was often a code word for "the Jews".[40]

As a propaganda term

A report by Credit Suisse in 2013 states that "Russia has the highest level of wealth inequality in the world, apart from small Caribbean nations with resident billionaires. Worldwide, there is one billionaire for every USD 170 billion in household wealth; Russia has one for every USD 11 billion. Worldwide, billionaires collectively account for 1%– 2% of total household wealth; in Russia today 110 billionaires own 35% of all wealth."[38]

Russia

with respect to the US. [37]Jeffrey A. Winters stated that their "analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts." that Gilens and Page do not characterize the US as an "oligarchy" or "plutocracy" per se; however, they do apply the concept of "civil oligarchy" as used by [36]), which was released in April 2014,Northwestern University) and Benjamin Page (Princeton University A study conducted by political scientists Martin Gilens ([35]

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