Thursday, April 17, 2014

America Is Not a Democracy - It's Worse

For as long as I've been teaching, I have always encouraged my students to understand the nuanced reality that "America is not a democracy." Despite the platitudes and the grandstanding of talk television, the reality of "democracy" in America is, in fact, limited by the U.S. Constitution. Instead, as most astute voters will explain, the United States of America is a democratic republic. Basically, we have representative democracy in that the voters elect representatives to voice their views and govern for them. This is not a bad thing, per se. It's really a blessing. For democracy - or "rule by the people" - is actually a logistical nightmare. It quickly devolves into anarchy. This is what prompted Winston Churchill to note, "Democracy is the worst form of government - except for all the others."

However, Churchill got it wrong.

The worst form of government is not a democracy, but more importantly, a democratic-republic that is actually not one, though it masquerades that way to a naive and ideological and misinformed electorate. And that is the conclusion drawn by a team of researchers at Princeton University. Apparently, close data analysis can reveal, and even prove, that America is not a democracy or democratic republic. It's, instead, a more sinister form of government than even fascism: The United States of America is an oligarchy. America is basically ruled by, and in the interest of, a small number of wealthy elite who can impose their will upon the legal system. Sadly, this is the system that people like Thomas Jefferson feared far more than tyranny. Tyranny is a clear and obvious enemy. An oligarch is a far more insidious one.

I have noted this for years in conversations and on blog discussions. America is an oligarchy because the power, for the most part, is concentrated in the hands of a wealthy few. And the recent SCOTUS rulings on campaign finance have only reinforced and emboldened this reality. Campaign finance is really nothing more than legalized bribery, and it's not "free" but instead very expensive speech. It only takes a cursory read of the news, or books like Perfectly Legal by David Cay Johnston to expose the true nature of our "democracy." Other great examples would include.

Pity the Billionaire by Thomas Frank

The Trillion Dollar Meltdown by Charles Morris

Come Home America by William Greider

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