How to Make the United States an Oligarchy
While the United States purports to be a democratic
republic, it is either already an oligarchy
or but a few steps away from it. In this context, an oligarchy is a political
structure in which power is held largely by a small number of people. While all
hierarchical systems have power disparities, the hallmark of an oligarchy is that
power is highly concentrated in a few. Russia, which is ruled by Putin and his
fellows, is a clear example of an oligarchy.
While oligarchs can be elected democratically, a proper
democracy distributes power—the choices of the many are not nullified by the
will of the few. Likewise, for a proper republic—while power is concentrated in
the representatives, they are to serve the people they represent rather than a
few who hold the power. Preventing an oligarchy from emerging from the corpse
of a democracy or republic requires preventing the concentration of power.
Alternatively, allowing the butterfly of oligarchy to emerge from the caterpillar
of democracy requires shifting power from the many to the few. Let us now take
a brief look at some broad strategies and tactics to make this happen.
One important step towards the oligarchy is to ensure
that limits are removed from the use of money in politics. The United States
has hyper-concentrated wealth, which means that the hyper-wealthy are vastly
outnumbered by everyone else. If the use of money in politics is strictly
limited, then the hyper-wealthy must compete for political influence using the
same tools as the non-wealthy, which means they will not always get their way. To
the degree that the wealthy are free to use money to influence politics, they
gain an advantage over the many and can use this advantage to concentrate
political power to match their concentration of money.
A second important step towards the oligarchy is
to weaken or eliminate groups that can compete with the potential oligarchs.
While the many cannot match the wealthy few in individual spending and influence
in a money-based political system, the many can pool their resources and match
the few with their collective effort. One obvious example of this collective
group is the labor union. As long as these groups are viable, the potential
oligarchs cannot enjoy the full concentration of power they desire. As such, making
the United States an oligarchy requires crippling or destroying these unions—something
being attempted with right
to work laws and other legislation. While it might be thought that business
tends to oppose unions because of financial reasons, unions also pose a clear
political threat to oligarchs. There are, of course, other groups besides the
unions that can exert political influence. For example, religious groups have
political clout. Because of this, building the oligarchy requires eliminating,
weakening or assimilating these groups. One way that has proven effective is
shaping Christian groups so that they focus on homosexuality and abortion
rather than on social justice issues; this encourages them to hand power to
those who claim they will outlaw abortion and oppress homosexuals—people who
also tend to favor concentrating power. Racism and sexism are also very useful
here as tools for keeping groups from forming seemingly sensible alliances
against the potential oligarchs. For example, the people hurting white working-class
people the most are not brown or black workers, but the rich white people who make
the economic decisions. If all white workers realized this, it would be bad for
the rich white people. Once the significant
groups are neutralized or assimilated, then the oligarchy can really get going.
Of course, there are still the pesky voters—they can still, in theory, resist
the oligarchy, which leads to the third step.
While the United States still has elections,
allowing honest and fair elections would be an impediment to the oligarchs.
After all, the many might vote against what the powerful few want. As such, the
influence of certain voters must be reduced. Fortunately, there are already
well-crafted tools to make this happen. One is gerrymandering, which allows numerical
minorities to foil the will of the majority—an important condition for oligarchy.
Another stock tool is voter suppression, something forged throughout United
States history (especially the Jim Crow laws). If the
right people can be prevented from voting, then the results of elections can be
influenced. Combining the two tools and adding a few more into the mix (such as
candidates supervise their own elections) can really get the oligarchy moving
Lastly, there is the rather important strategy of
concentration itself—power must flow from the many to the few. One ongoing
method is crafting laws and policies that ensure
that money flows upward and concentrates rather than flowing downward. Another
method is to hoard opportunities, something that the
college admission scandal exposed (now largely forgotten). This is all part
of keeping power concentrated—if the poor stood a good chance of gaining at the
expense of the powerful, then that would be end of the oligarchy. As such, they
must be kept in their place if the oligarchy is to be an enduring reality.