Princeton and Northwestern Study: The US is An Oligarchy
By Dennis Loo (4/16/14)
As reported today by the UK's Telegraph, a newly released study by Princeton and Northwestern Universities, Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, concludes:
After sifting through nearly 1,800 US policies enacted in that period [1981-2002] and comparing them to the expressed preferences of average Americans (50th percentile of income), affluent Americans (90th percentile) and large special interests groups, researchers concluded that the United States is dominated by its economic elite.
The peer-reviewed study, which will be taught at these universities in September, says: "The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."
Researchers concluded that US government policies rarely align with the the [sic] preferences of the majority of Americans, but do favour special interests and lobbying oragnisations [sic]: "When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it."
"Independent" influence or impact refers to a variable having a causal impact on the dependent variable. In this instance, the study examined whether or not the premises of different views were validated by the data. The premise of democratic theory, that the average citizens' opinions are the independent variable impacting the dependent variable of government's policy decisions, was not supported by the evidence: "mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."
As the Telegraph article points out, this study comes in the wake of the US Supreme Court's decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission that lifted the existing ceiling on individual contributions to political campaigns on the grounds that those limits allegedly interfere with political free speech. That's right, Virginia, you can now spend unlimited amounts of money to make sure that your views are paid attention to by public officials. Isn't that marvelous? Aren't you glad that you have huge sums of money so that your interests are protected? Aren't you glad you're not one of the beknighted 90% of the population who don't have your assets?
This is why I have argued that systems cannot be changed from within and that the only way change can occur is through actions designed to mobilize people in collective action to get rid of the system and replace it with a radically different system. Any other actions that are based on the flawed notion that public officials can be persuaded to abide by the wishes of the people or that by putting different people into the same offices and within the same system are futile. When the Bolsheviks as part of their larger political strategy ran some individuals for political office prior to the 1917 October Revolution, they did not run on a platform of "vote for me and I will make the system work." They ran on a platform that the system itself is unredemable and that if elected they would use their posts as a platform to expose the system and its workings. Anyone who runs for office in the US and claims that they will make the system work is telling you a lie. The system is working the way it's actually designed to work and it's working in a manner that actually fulfills the assumptions and logic of democratic theory. Democracy isn't a great idea that just needs to be implemented properly. Democracy is an impoverished theory, robbed from its inception of what it allegedly promises to fulfill, authentic popular rule. The problem isn't the practice, the problem is the theory and the conditions that gave rise to it and sustain its pre-eminence theoretically.
Democratic theory, contrary to its proponents and even most of its critics, rules out of hand from the very start the outlandish notion that the people should ever actually come to over time progressively govern every arena of society. Instead, democracy and voting specifically is viewed as the only way that the "ruled" can throw out those who "rule" when the rulers become overly tyrannical. Democratic theory, in other words, provides no means by which the "ruled" can ever become the "rulers" themselves. See, for a much more developed discussion of these points, this link.
This site aims to accomplish two related goals. First, it complements Dennis Loo's book Globalization and the Demolition of Society so that people reading the book can get more deeply into it. (See navigation bar above, labeled "GDS Book Annotations"). We believe that his book is a landmark, providing a solid foundation for politics of a new path. Taking such a path is critical to humanity and the planet's future. As his book's dust jacket states:
[F]ree market fundamentalism - also known as neoliberalism - makes us not more secure or prosperous: it tears the social fabric and undermines security, leading inevitably to disasters on the individual, regional, and global levels.
Neoliberalism is based on the mantra that market forces should run everything. It aims to eliminate job and income security, the social safety net (including welfare and other social guarantees), unions, pensions, public services, and the governmental regulation of corporations. It consequently undermines the basis for people to voluntarily cooperate with authority as almost everyone is increasingly left by themselves to face gargantuan private interests, with governmental and corporate authority ever more indifferent to the public’s welfare.
Those in charge of our collective fates in government and business personify a heartless system based on profit and plunder. They have been relentlessly instituting profoundly immoral and unjust policies even while they insist that they are doing the opposite. We, on the other hand, stand for and are fighting for a radically different system and set of values than this.
Second, in order to get at the truth and because the ways in which humanity's historic striving for understanding and its capacity to wonder and imagine are very rich and diverse, we seek to reflect that richness and diversity on our site. See "About Us" on navigation bar. We intend to be engaging and compelling, as the best investigative journalism and art are, and relentlessly scientific, rigorous, and direct, as those who cherish the truth are. We believe that we can be both accessible and sophisticated. As Loo lays out in his book,
Defeating the empire is not something that occurs only on the literal battlefield. It is also something that is determined throughout the continuum of battles over many issues, including: ideas; philosophy; forms of organization and leadership in economy, politics, and other realms; ways of arguing; ways of responding to and respecting empirical data; interest in truth as opposed to expedience; how people and the environment should be treated; the nature of relations among people (e.g., between women and men, different races and ethnicities, rich and poor countries, etc.); ways of responding to criticism and ideas that are not your own; ways of handling one’s own errors and those of others; and more, all the way up through how warfare is carried out. The contrast between the methods and goals of the neoliberals and those of us who seek an entirely different world is stark. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 326-7)