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US Oligarchy Study: Analysis Says America is No Longer a Democracy

Image: US Oligarchy Study: Analysis Says America is No Longer a Democracy People walk past melting ice and water puddles near the U.S. Capitol Building on the National Mall, Washington, D.C., March, 2014.

Wednesday, 16 Apr 2014 09:55 AM

By Nick Sanchez

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The U.S. is an oligarchy, claims a study from professors at Princeton and Northwestern Universities.

According to Business Insider, the researchers looked at 1,779 policies enacted between 1981 and 2002 and compared them to the preferences of "Poor Americans" (10th income percentile), "Average Americans" (50th percentile), "Affluent Americans" (90th percentile), and large special interest groups (both business-related and not). They concluded that the vast majority of Americans have a "minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."

The researchers said that democracy does not rule the U.S., and that the enactment of policy that aligns with the majority opinion is often the result of a coincidental alignment with business interests.

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"When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it."

In addition to the data analysis, the professors also dive into political theory — particularly those known in academia as "Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic Elite Domination, and two types of interest group pluralism, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism."

By examining the data in regard to these theories they make additional conclusions.

They claim labor unions "represent average citizens' views reasonably well . . . But the interest group system as a whole does not." At the same time, "business oriented groups are negatively related to the average citizen's wishes."

The authors also walk through hypothetical scenarios built on presumptions about the wealthy, writing in their conclusion, "Surely wealthy Americans and corporate executives tend to know a lot about tax and regulatory policies that directly affect them. But how much do they know about the human impact of Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps, or unemployment insurance, none of which is likely to be crucial to their own well-being?"

The study is set to be published in the fall 2014 issue of "Perspectives on Politics," and will be used in conjunction with coursework at the respective universities.

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