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Dominance and Plutocracy
Here we are, you and I, in this world guessing as to the
source, nature, and purpose of our being. Given the limits of our seeing and
understanding, we gather with surprising certainty into various camps and
proceed to feud and war over our differences. As if authoritatively declaring
the nature of the turf weren’t enough to bring us to arms, we are also up in
arms over the turf itself. We grab and hang on for dear life to as much as we
can hold. As we emerge from the bloodiest century of our long, bloody history,
we shake our weary heads and wonder, isn’t there a better way to work these
should or might we arrange our varying ways of being that we may live peacefully
together and intelligently husband our world? When we form governments, what
should be the relationship among us all? What should be the relationship between
the individual and the state? What makes a government legitimate? What is and
what kind of government best produces “the good society”?
When studying the social or political relationships among the
members of a nation, one encounters the phrase the few and the many. The
few refers to a wealthy, powerful elite that dominates and rules. The many means everyone
else, the greater part of the populace.1 (Mouse-click footnote numbers to go to
and return from footnotes.)
What is the cause of this phenomenon, the division of every nation’s populace
into the few and the many? What should be the relationship between the few who
dominate and rule and the larger society? Should there even be a few and a many,
that is, should there even be a dominant, ruling class?
What is reality? What are we? What should be our relationship? What is a good society? What kind of government will best produce it? What makes a government legitimate?
These are some of our oldest and most profound questions. Each of us holds dear an assortment of guesses, beliefs, and
opinions about these and many other of our most fundamental questions. We have
no shortage of religious, philosophical, theoretical, economic, and political systems and
paradigms. For every thesis we find its antithesis. For every belief we find a
dozen variants. Our opinions vary widely, and our disagreements multiply. We
find ourselves at war both within ourselves and with each other.
Each of us is born into a world already in progress. Of
necessity, even with our many questions and uncertainties, we must make
decisions and choices, and we must act. We must go about our lives and find or
create our various niches. And, whatever our opinions and ideals, we must
pragmatically hammer out some kind of working relationship with each other and
with the world in which we live.
We are not equally interested in fundamental or idealistic
questions and answers or concerned with the thoughts or needs of others. While
some contemplate and debate our questions, others go out and conquer the world.
Despite our idealistically declaring ourselves to be equals
under the law or in some other sense, within nature we are decidedly not equal.
Although we share much of our human condition in common, there are wide
physical, emotional, intellectual, and behavioral variations among us. Each
person has unique circumstances, experiences, dreams, goals, and capability. For
any given trait or characteristic, a few suffer the lean end of things, most of
us muddle along in the mediocre middle, and a few are blessed or gifted and
We witness among ourselves what has been called “nature’s
aristocracy.” Although we may opine variously in particular cases, it is
obvious to all that there are those among us who are the most beautiful,
healthy, strong, intelligent, wise, gifted, talented, or capable. Among we
billions, genius and excellence are a rarity, and we find few saints.
Aristocracies of an entirely different sort exist within our
societies. The most aggressive, competitive, domineering, greedy, and ruthless
people among us claw their way to the top of the political-economic heap. They gain, hold,
and wield a hegemony of power. They take, hoard, and squander most of our
wealth. They define themselves to be an aristocracy or create laws and rules
that make themselves into one in result if not in name. It is an aristocracy of
power and affluence. By brutal and legalistic means this aristocracy perpetuates
itself generation after generation no matter how incompetent, insane, corrupt,
or base become its members and no matter what the consequences are for everyone
else. It is a sickness within our race and a burden to us all.
We find at the top of every society an ironic mixture of those
who are there by merit and capability and those who merely grab, hoard,
and wield power and wealth. The excellent mingle uneasily with beasts that claim
Every nation has its many, the general populace, and its few,
the elite who dominate, rule, and favor themselves with wealth and privilege. It
is and always has been the way of the world.
It is not difficult to understand why this is so, why every
society and nation forms itself into the many and the dominant few. We need only
examine our biological roots. Brute strength, aggression, and dominance are
widespread in nature. Among many others, they are important survival strategies.
Although they are also a part of our biological heritage, we
need not dig down to our elemental or cellular roots. We need not examine frogs
and fish. We are primates. We need look no further than our primate roots to
understand one of the most central and important aspects of human behavior.
In The Lemurs’ Legacy2 Robert Jay Russell
writes, “…human social organization has been inherited with only slight
modifications from that of our ape ancestors. … Our societies
echo strongly the troops of ancient apes. Social dominance of males has been
characteristic of human evolution, and is characteristic of virtually every
Our closest, living, primate cousins are the chimpanzees which
function very similarly to us. Although it is not the case for all primates, for
both chimpanzees and humans what is called by primatologists a “male
dominance hierarchy” serves as the principal social organizing mechanism.
It forms, so to speak, the social backbone of chimpanzee troops and of human
Chimpanzee troops and human societies are organized
into male dominance/submission hierarchies from the most powerful, dominant
males in the group on down to the weakest, most submissive males. By means of a
mixture of posturing, threat, physical aggression, conspiracy, and cooperation,
both chimpanzee and human dominant males form a relatively small but powerful
coalition or oligarchy that rules the larger group by political power.
In a chimpanzee troop, females achieve their status by
association with the males, and offspring receive their status from the females.
Today, in many human societies females increasingly participate directly within
what was heretofore an exclusively male dominance hierarchy. While male and
female roles may be changing, the dominance hierarchy itself remains at the
center of human social organization.
Perhaps you disagree with the notion that humans and
chimpanzees have a common ancestor and are closely related to each other?
Perhaps you are soured by the notion of evolution and embrace a divine creation
of the world and humankind? Setting aside this claimed evolutionary connection
and heritage and examining human behavior in and of itself, the conclusion to
which we are drawn remains essentially the same. All of history, including the
history contained within the Christian Bible and other religious works, and the political organization and
function of all of the nations of the
world today stand as overwhelming testimony to the fact that dominance (whatever
its source) has been and still is the central principle of human social
In this work the notions of our evolutionary connection
with and heritage from preceding species and of our primate male dominance
hierarchy are embraced. But anyone who does
not embrace these notions should have no difficulty appreciating and embracing the notion of dominance
as the central organizing principle within human societies.
From earliest human history to the present and everywhere on
the planet, one of humankind’s most consistent themes has been that of a
small, organized, powerful group of people dominating, oppressing, and
exploiting a larger, disorganized, weaker group. The dominant few inevitably
takes and hoards the group’s accumulated wealth and establishes itself as a
privileged class. Although varying in their superficial appearance and cultural
artifacts, all groups, societies, states, and civilizations, whether nomadic
bands, theocracies, monarchies, dictatorships, or today’s so-called
democracies, have at their hearts an authoritarian form of social organization
based upon a primate dominance hierarchy.
Authoritarian government is the cultural expression of our
underlying biological dominance. A strong few dominates and rules the rest of
the populace. In that the powerful few takes as much
wealth unto itself as it can manage, the authoritarian form of government is also in
its essence plutocracy. Plutocracy is
governance by the wealthy. Whatever their superficial appearances or claims,
all of the governments in the world today are authoritarian plutocracies.
Unfailingly, even in so-called “enlightened” or “democratic” societies, domination by the few rests
principally upon physical, political, and economic enslavement and exploitation.
The cry and fight against tyranny are as ancient as civilization itself.
Humankind has suffered uprising after uprising of the many against the few,
often with the idealistic call for a new, more just society. And yet, for all of
that, we find ourselves today with essentially the same few, the same many, the
same dominance, the same exploitation and tyranny, and the same bloody
In some ways our track record is not too shabby. We have accomplished much. In evolutionary measures of time, we have moved from
caves to skyscrapers in a flash. We explore the ocean depths and fly through the
air with the greatest of ease. We have walked on the moon, live in space, and
explore the solar system and beyond. We communicate instantaneously anywhere on the
planet and create a continuous stream of intricate tools and
methodologies. We probe ever deeper into the realms of the very large, the very
small, and the very complex. We have even unraveled much of the mystery of our
own bodies and of life itself. We have donned clothing, embraced the institution
of marriage, and progressed well beyond the basic necessities of survival. We
have created great religions, philosophies, sciences, nations, and
civilizations. We have produced magnificent art and architecture. Through
cultural creativity and accumulation we have leaped beyond our biological roots
in a host of ways.
But we have failed in many ways too, and we have
myriad problems. For all of our technology and wealth, we remain firmly rooted
in primitive behaviors and unjust relationships with each other.
At any given
moment we are at war with each other in several different places on the planet.
We suffer genocide after genocide. Terrorism has become a way of life.
Our avalanche of ever more powerful technology is a
double-edged sword. We have used it to create every comfort and amusement, but
we have also used it to bring every kind of destruction and horror onto
ourselves and the world.
We have created great economies that generate fabulous
amounts of wealth. And yet a relative few hoards most of this wealth while
billions of people dwell in poverty, hunger, disease, and misery. Millions die
of starvation and curable diseases every year.
Mighty multinational corporations
envelop the world playing one nation and person against another in search of their
Holy Grail, maximum profit and minimum responsibility no matter what are the
environmental and the human costs. Greed, taking,
hoarding, and inhumanity are without limit. Political oppression and economic
exploitation are the way of the world.
We are caught within a spider web of dictatorial corporations
and omnipresent governments that favor the few and conspire against the larger populace. Most people find themselves running at a faster and
faster pace just to stand in place. We face more and more laws, rules, and
demands that increasingly circumscribe personal freedom, happiness, and justice. Awash in a
sea of technological toys, we rush about exhausted, fearful, angry, jaded, and
Ironically, one of our wildest successes is also our greatest
failure. Genetically we have prospered and now number in the billions. Most of
us agree that we are too many. We are destroying the environment and eroding our
quality of life. We have learned how to read the geological and archeological
records. We see great extinctions that have wiped out much of life including
many once great species. The suspicion is growing that we may already have
entered into the next great extinction and that we are the cause of it, that we
are irrevocably altering and fouling the world that produced and sustains us.
So far we have been ineffectual in reducing our numbers and correcting our ways.
We skirt precariously along the brink of disaster. On the one
hand we may miraculously undergo some as yet unseen transformation and transcend
our current dilemma. On the other hand we may slide or explode into a great
decline in which most if not all of our race joins the economic bottom half in
its current misery, leading perhaps even into Armageddon and extinction itself.
Or perhaps we may not transcend our current ways and miseries
and yet somehow not self-destruct entirely. We may muddle along within our
self-created purgatory with a slight taste of a more divine way of being amidst
the many horrors we perpetrate against each other and against our world.
If we cannot find the wisdom and self-mastery to control our
numbers, restrain our excesses, conduct ourselves intelligently, and live in
peace, then nature will reduce us in its own tooth-and-claw way. In fact, it
already does. All that really remains to be seen is this: Will the more
comfortable half squander its opportunity to save us from ourselves, or will it
rise to the occasion and find a new way that we may live sanely and peacefully
together and intelligently husband our world?
So far, we are failing at this most important of all human
tasks. As we leapfrog ever
faster through technological change and develop ever greater capability for war
and self-destruction, our relationship with each other has remained in its
essence frozen and unchanged. The fundamental relationship that we have
with each other, dominance, has remained basically the same throughout human
history. And failing this task, we
may well fall from our mighty heights and crash onto the rocks below.
The principle of social organization by dominance may have
been a successful evolutionary strategy for the survival of chimpanzees, certain other primates, and
early human groups, but today, with our huge, complex societies and war
capabilities, it has become a liability and our single greatest source of
self-created pain and misery. It may very possibly be the seed of our
Why are we caught up ad nauseam in this eternal reoccurrence
of war after war and horror after horror?
What mighty force holds us fast in our perpetual purgatory? Why have we managed
to leap beyond our biological roots
in so many ways and yet remain incapable of rising above our
dominance? What could free
us, at last, from our current way of being?
We must transcend dominance, authoritarianism, and
plutocracy for the human race to survive, move beyond its ongoing purgatory, and secure true justice,
freedom, and happiness for everyone. The principal purposes of this work
are to examine our current state and to offer for your consideration a way for us
to move beyond that state.
Existing at the very heart of our social structure, dominance
affects every important cultural institution that we create and every aspect
of our private and public lives. It affects our families and friendships, our
places of employment, our communities, and our religious, social, and political
institutions. In this work we will focus our attention almost entirely on our relationship with
each other in the largest sense as societies and nations.
We will pick apart some of our modern forms of government.
From the wreckage that results, we will recover those elements that are most
serviceable and combine them together in a new way along with other entirely new
elements resulting in a new form of
government that transcends the principal ills of all current governments. This
new form of government is designed to produce a new kind of relationship among
us and to facilitate our taking at least the first step toward a truly new world
order … beyond plutocracy.
Since it is the culture and society in which I live and, therefore,
know best, this work is focused principally on America. But ultimately, it
applies to and is directed at every nation on the planet.
To any and all enemies and detractors of America: Do not take
comfort from the criticisms of America made in this work. What is wrong here is
wrong everywhere. The problem of domination is far worse in most of the world
than in America. For all of its faults there
are few if any places in the world that are better places to live than in
America. While some governments and nations seem a horror to us,
America has moved far enough along in some ways that one may harbor at least a
guarded measure of hope that it may someday transcend its current state.
This work is not an examination of America’s many wonders,
beauties, and blessings but of its (our) difficulties and shortcomings. It focuses
on the most central and fundamental of our hierarchy of problems and offers
for your examination a way for all of us to come together and to rise above our
current state into a new and better way of being.
Table of Contents Introduction
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Beyond Plutocracy - Direct Democracy for America
© Copyright 2001-2017 Roger D Rothenberger
some works the phrases the few and the many (or, on rare occasions,
a few and a many) are capitalized. In other works they are
italicized. Hereafter in this work no special treatment is given them, their
meaning being made clear by their beginning with the article the or a
and by the context in which they are used. The phrases refer to singular
entities containing multiple members. Since the phrases are so frequently used
in this work, it seemed less cumbersome and more natural to streamline their use
by treating them sometimes as singular and sometimes as plural, depending on
the context. 1
Lemurs’ Legacy by Robert Jay Russell, p. 156, published New York :
Putnam, 1993, a Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam book,
ISBN 0874777143. 2