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Dominance and Plutocracy the American Way
America is not a democracy but a plutocracy that is dominated
and ruled by a wealthy minority.
America’s current form of government is based on a
constitution written a little over 200 years ago by a small group of men that
many today affectionately, some even worshipfully, call “our Forefathers.” In
this work, a more distant or neutral term, the founders, is used.
While claiming to have created a government that did not
unduly favor any particular faction of people, the founders, a small group of
privileged white men, aristocrats of their time, created a government that in fact,
both by its inclusions and its exclusions, favored themselves,
others of their class, their heirs, and similar others through the generations.
The constitution that they wrote protects private property, private contract,
and other interests that were of particular concern to the American aristocracy
while ignoring or minimizing the interests of principal concern to everyone
else. For good measure, this privileged few made it nearly impossible to alter
its constitution and then only by the privileged elites that overwhelmingly
populate the seats of government holding an unending hegemony of power.
It is not that there is anything wrong with the protection of
private property and private contract. Indeed, they should be protected. However, the
Constitution was not written in a vacuum but in the midst of a
society already in existence. At the time of the writing of the Constitution the
distribution of power and wealth in America was already profoundly unjust and
the founders were already among the beneficiaries of that injustice. It was
rather duplicitous of them to protect that which they and others of their class
already held in undue measure while excluding protections of primary interest to
others. The founders even deliberately excluded a bill of rights from the
Constitution. That which the founders protected benefited mostly those who least
needed protection, the powerful and wealthy, while offering minimal protection
to those who most needed protection, the weak and the poor.
interests excluded from the Constitution that concerned non-wealthy people were
that they be fairly included politically and economically. Most importantly, the
founders’ Constitution did not include an electoral system and democratic
process that results in the honest representation of the entire populace within
the government. The lack of an honest
electoral system and true democracy plagues our nation to this day.
To avoid our slipping into monarchy, the founders wisely created three branches of government—the
legislative, the judicial, and the executive—with divided, counterchecking
powers. But our dishonest electoral process, which is dominated by and
overwhelmingly favors the wealthy, has always resulted in all three branches
being populated by self-serving, wealth-serving elites that hold an unending
hegemony of power.
Our supposedly democratic, two-party political system is
entirely a farce. While haggling endlessly about how to best manage it, both
parties ultimately serve the same plutocracy. A political cartoon comes to mind
that illustrates our true situation: A giant wealthy fat cat complete with a top
hat, a big cigar, and a cynical smile is standing legs apart and arms
spread outward above the many tiny people below, the electorate. He laughingly
exclaims, “You may take my Right hand or my Left hand, but you always get
Our elections are and always have been merely a show, a
slight of hand, the exercise of form without any real power for the vast
majority of the electorate to elect truly representative officeholders. To the
extent that our government feigns democracy, it is intended to be just
something to placate the majority, the common people, while the elite avoid the sharing
of any real power.
Superficial political and social issues may be somewhat
affected by the electorate, but the fundamental essence and structure created by
the founders—the plutocratic form, governance by the wealthy—always remains
in place. As a result the electorate is always powerless
to affect any fundamental result or real change.
The result is an unjust
society in which, despite the whining and moaning of the economic upper
half to the contrary, the lives of the economic upper half are permanently
subsidized by the lives of the bottom half. The upper half uses the bottom half
as a beast of burden.
Almost all governments, including the most authoritarian,
pretend toward democracy, often even possessing constitutions that provide for
elections. The former Soviet Union and its several eastern European
satellite countries often held elections in which 90% or more of their electorates
voted. The Catch-22 was that all of the candidates were preselected by the
officials of the state. And in the authoritarian state, who are the officials of
the state that preselect the candidates? They are the powerful and the wealthy.
In America and in all of today’s so-called democracies the
process is the same: In those parts of the government where the general
electorate is even allowed to vote for officeholders, a powerful, wealthy few
preselects and finances the short list of candidates for whom the electorate
will later vote. Theoretically, any person who constitutionally qualifies for an
office may enter the race. But few ever do that do not possess sufficient wealth
or know beforehand that they have the blessings and financial support of the
powerful and wealthy. Few who try without the blessing of big money manage to
win elections. And all who win office owe big money big time. Thus, the wealthy
always maintain an overwhelming hegemony of power, and our nation always gets
stuck with the best government that money can buy.
The few who end up in elective office theoretically serve all
of us. The sorry truth is that our government is effectively owned and populated by wealthy
and wealth-serving elites that serve themselves first and best. The result of our ‘representative’1 form
of government, our ‘republic,’ is a perpetual plutocracy in which wealth and
power become ever more concentrated in the hands of the few while the needs of
the many and the nation as a whole go unmet.
By our actions toward each other and through the institutions
we create, we may make our world a more humane, loving, and beautiful place or
magnify life’s difficulties manyfold. While producing a significant measure of
material comfort for the wealthy, plutocracy also creates abject poverty and magnifies many
of life’s inherent difficulties creating an unmanageable avalanche of
America has a host of social ills: poverty; crime and
violence; overcrowded prisons; millions lacking healthcare; unemployment and
homelessness; a stressed-out, overworked populace; fragmented, dysfunctional
families with a high rate of failure and divorce; a host of addictions;
alienation and loneliness; corruption in government and business; and the loss
of its moral compass.
As profound as some of our many ills may seem, almost all of
them are merely symptoms of our deepest ill. These symptoms cannot be cured
until this deepest ill is cured. To continue the medical analogy, our
nation suffers from a life-threatening congenital birth defect. Treating
superficial cuts and bruises is merely a waste of time, effort, and resources.
Such actions distract from and delay the only treatment that can save the
patient’s life and make that life worth living.
Our deepest ill is, of course, that America is not a democracy
but a plutocracy owned and governed by the wealthy. The cure, the only possible
cure, is to reorganize the powers of our government by sufficiently and
correctly altering the constitution that the aristocratic founders
The status quo is the existing state or conditions of a
society, that is, the current political-economic relationship among the members
of the society, the current distributions of power and wealth, the current way
of conducting government and business, and the current laws, rules, and actions
that produce the current state. Any attempt to critically examine the status quo
or to alter it in a way perceived to be not in the interests of those who most
benefit from it is crushed by any means, however ruthless, illegal, or immoral.
The principal political strategy of America’s dominant class
is to perpetually maintain the status quo by avoiding any fundamental alteration
of the system that so abundantly benefits it. The principal political failure
of everyone else is their not organizing themselves into a focused power
sufficient to the task of fundamentally altering the system.
Is there anyone among us
who has not thought of a solution to this or that problem? Campaign finance
reform, term limits, more oversight, more prisons, alms for the poor…? Such
measures are only Band-Aids for scratches.
In this work, we do not apply Band-Aids to scratches. We go
right to the heart of the matter, and we repair the heart.
We pay no attention
whatever to the “horse races,” which political party is winning or won this or that
race over the last few years or decades and why. Political parties are scarcely
mentioned because they scarcely matter. Given the true nature of our most
fundamental problem, election politics is totally irrelevant, a circus for the
masses. What is wrong is not merely which people currently happen to populate
our government but the structure
of the government, the distribution of its powers.
In a Las Vegas gambling house, the house prospers simply by
setting the gambling odds slightly in its own favor, just slightly over fifty
percent. Given these odds in its favor, in the long run the house wins
more than half of the time and prospers.
Using the mechanisms of business and government, America’s
wealthy elites set odds in their own favor much higher than just slightly over
fifty percent. They do not win all of the time. They are not and need not be an
absolute power. (In fact, it is best for them not to have absolute power, which
would dissolve the illusion of freedom and democracy behind which they now
hide.) The wealthy need only hold a hegemony of power to win enough of the time
generation after generation to amass in their hands a fabulous mountain of our
nation’s wealth, the fruit of everyone else’s labor.
The American constitution and the resulting political-economic
system are in intent and result one giant scam perpetrated and perpetuated
against the many by the few.
The Constitution, the supporting body of law, the resulting
public and private social, political, and economic institutions, and the current
elite class (the American aristocracy) all work together to keep the current
system in place. Rather than correcting the real cause of America’s many social
ills by moving America away from plutocracy, the elite class and our elected ‘representatives’
actively sustain the status quo while appearing to attempt repair by eternally
applying deliberately insufficient and ineffective patches to our unjust social
They then cynically point accusing fingers at those who
seriously attempt reform calling them liberals, leftists, socialists,
communists, radicals, and activists (as if the many actions taken by the elite
and those that serve them to maintain the status quo and their positions of
privilege were not an activist position). Any
loaded, inflammatory, or discrediting terms will do. The goal is not truth or
real change but only and always to win.
We tend to associate tyranny with a government ruled by one
person as in a dictatorship. And we associate freedom with a government ruled by
many people as in a republic or, even better, as in a democracy. While something
can be said for this line of argument, the principal sources of tyranny are the intent
of those that rule and the systems and methods they use to achieve their ends.
With wrong intent, systems, and methods even the most high-sounding and
well-argued system of governance may be used by the few to physically and
economically imprison and exploit the rest of the populace.
We have had no shortage of technological change. America is a
technological marvel. But one should not allow technological change to mask the
fact that we have the same unjust political structure and relationship with each
other that existed at the time of the founders.
Whatever we may think about the founders as a group or as individuals or think
about their methods of achieving their goals, the founders got a good deal
right. America has a long list of blessings resulting from their effort. But
what the founders got wrong they got profoundly wrong. What they got wrong holds
us firmly in the choke hold of our biological past and bars the way to our
transcendence into a more functional and beautiful society and a more perfect
Our political system and the economic system that it manages
are a set of loaded dice that permanently concentrate the lion’s share of our
nation’s power and wealth in the hands of an elite minority creating in effect
an enduring untitled, heritable aristocracy, just as the founders intended.
Informed and motivated by new, honest, democratic intentions we must change the
system by correctly and sufficiently altering the founders’ constitution.
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Beyond Plutocracy - Direct Democracy for America
© Copyright 2001-2017 Roger D Rothenberger
1 Single quotation marks are used to enclose terms which are thrown into
question. The single quotation marks indicate that the enclosed term is
considered to be not really true. Depending on its context,
the term may be used sarcastically or even with scorn. For example, in the sentence The
result of our ‘representative’ form of government, our ‘republic’, is a
perpetual plutocracy. the single quotation marks indicate that our so-called representatives do not really represent and our
so-called republic is not truly a republic. 1