It’s Official: America is an Oligarchy and NOT a Democracy or a Republic

George Washington's picture

We noted last year:

American democracy – once a glorious thing – has devolved into an oligarchy, according to two leading IMF officials, the former Vice President of the Dallas Federal Reserve,  the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Moody’s chief economist and many others.

But don’t take their word for it …

A new quantitative study by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern’s Benjamin Page finds that America is not a democracy … but is an oligarchy.

Here’s a quick visual overview from the study:

In other words, when the fatcats want something, it will probably happen.  But when the little guys want something … not so much.

Highlights from the study:

A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors, but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model. This paper reports on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.




Economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.




Very few studies have offered quantitative evidence concerning the impact of interest groups based on a number of different public policies.




Prior to the availability of the data set that we analyze here, no one we are aware of has succeeded at assessing interest group influence over a comprehensive set of issues, while taking into account the impact of either the public at large or economic elites – let alone analyzing all three types of potential influences simultaneously.




The chief predictions of pure theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy can be decisively rejected. Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions; they have little or no independent influence on policy at all.


By contrast, economic elites are estimated to have a quite substantial, highly significant, independent impact on policy.




These results suggest that reality is best captured by mixed theories in which both individual economic elites and organized interest groups (including corporations, largely owned and controlled by wealthy elites) play a substantial part in affecting public policy, but the general public has little or no independent influence.




When a majority – even a very large majority – of the public favors change, it is not likely to get what it wants.  In our 1,779 policy cases, narrow pro-change majorities of the public got the policy changes they wanted only about 30% of the time. More strikingly, even overwhelmingly large pro-change majorities, with 80% of the public favoring a policy change, got that change only about 43% of the time.




Our findings probably understate the political influence of elites.




What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. 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.




If policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

No wonder the chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University said that politicians are not prostitutes, they are pimpspimping out their services to the highest bidder.

The Supreme Court is not much better: their allowance of unlimited campaign spending allows the oligarchs to purchase politicians more directly than ever.

Moreover, there are two systems of justice in Americaone for the big banks and other fatcats, and one for everyone else.

And not only do we not have democracy, but we also no longer have a free market economy.  Instead, we have fascism, communist style socialism, kleptocracybanana republic style corruption, or – yes – “oligarchy“.

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DeusHedge's picture

That's because the rich want what's best for the country. For it to grow and prosper. Also, those who seek to profit from the destruction of the United States won't try and take it in one fail swoop through the Reserve or debt. Too many good military men and women. Instead, they will start with the smallest freedoms.

Decimus Lunius Luvenalis's picture

More and more, I understand the idea behind murdering the entire Russian royal family.  I don't see myself ever doing it, but I get it.  

the grateful unemployed's picture

i think Democracy can work in this country, we just haven't tried it yet. we have to abolish the electoral college and the two senators per state business. then we establish 2/3s quorum to pass any legislation, bad legistlation is the problem not gridlock. then we put voter initiatives on the ballot. the voters decide where money will be spent. don't like the war in Iraq, defund it. if we break up the electoral college system it will be nearly impossible to rig electronic voting machines, the current system allows the miscreants to focus their efforts on close races. we also need a parliamentary system in Congress to give third parties a seat. there are direct solutions but let these structural changes take effect.

hardcleareye's picture

For a Democracy to work you have to have a educated population..... good luck with that!

Kobe Beef's picture

Exactly. People are not fungible.

wagthetails's picture

I don't like the Oligarchy in its current form, but to be fair, the founding fathers set it up that way.  sure it has been manipulated and deformed into the current state...but it's pretty hard to agrue for a pure democracy.  Again, i'm not saying i love the current form but this issue will be self correcting with next collapse/depression.  i mean, pure democracy sounds great, but have you talked to the "average american".  pretty scary.  but then again, the average american's ignorance is precisely what has allowed this mutation of hijacking of our country. 

dscott8186's picture

Not to worry, WWIII is coming, the idiots and clever alike will be purged and thus starts the cycle again.  All is proceeding as it has before.  

Yum, yum, it smells like chum...

dscott8186's picture

So does this mean that gay marriage and ObamaCare are the successes of the Elite?  OR is this an example of the 43% of the time the little people get for themselves?

The motivation of the elite is to make money especially at the expense of the population using a predatory form of Capitalism called Mercantilism using government tax credits, subsidies and mandates. So where is the money to be made for the elites?

ObamaCare is liberal jobs program which staffs all those committees and working groups created by this Law.  And gives the government the ultimate power of life and death by withholding life saving treatment and drugs as we have already seen.

Gay Marriage?  A divorce lawyer's dream come true given the relatively short duration of most (not all) relationships.  Gay Marriage will be a billion dollar addition to the divorce industry in short order, just in time for lawyers since they were experiencing shrinking revenues and higher unemployment.

IF AGW legislation is successful, billions more will flow into liberal coffers added to the billions they already reap from so called "studies" funded by the government.  

Yes, the elites will profit, THE MONEY (SPICE) MUST FLOW! They must be supported in the manner to which they have become accustomed. 

therearetoomanyidiots's picture

"moreover, there are two systems of justice in America - one for the big banks and other fatcats AND POLITICIANS, and one for everyone else"

There, fixed it for you GW

SmittyinLA's picture

Oligarchy, that Russian for "Jews own everything including the politicians"?

kompetitur's picture

Do you believe our elected representatives are in control of our country? (If not, who?)

Are the oligarchs and the governmental representatives one and the same?

Who has the real power? Are those people actually known to us?

How is control of a country obtained?

Which country has the largest middle class and why?

Take everything you think you know and ask yourself how do I know if it's true.

Comment on the following: "He who controls the media (all media) controls the minds of the people"



SmittyinLA's picture

FNM and its creditors own our gov.

The FNM lobbyist choose the politicians

The AG has the real control

The control is obtained through bond sales(allowing fraud)

Japan has the largest middle class on account of their island status and immigration policies

We know it's true cuz FNM now has a direct pipe to the treasury.

The media is controlled by Congress via FCC.

We have networks with zero competition, cable and telco monopolies nationwide.


Jumbotron's picture

The bottom line is.....EVERY socio-economic construct including democratic republicanism / capitalism devolves eventually into Feudalism of some sort where the elites rule and have rules made for them.....and another set of rules and a different reality for the masses.

The only difference between republicanism, communiism, socialism, fascism, the speed in which the system collapses to dissolution by the inherent corruption of all men and women.  Some can handle it for a while better.....but inevitably they all fall down.

America is no different.  The proof is all around us.

Welcome to Prison Planet.

cherry picker's picture

There are so many rules, laws, regulations, snoops, armed inforcement types, reasons to go to jail than any other country and they dare call the place land of the free? 

What are Americans free from?  There is persecution, racism, violence and the constant fear of terrorism.  The government taxes everything from soup to nuts and it is almost impossible for a head of a household to support a family anymore, but it has more fucking nuclear powered air craft carriers, subs, and weapons of mass destruction than almost all other countries combined.  What the fuck is wrong with this picture?

You don't have control of your children as big bro figures he can do a better job raising them.  Yet big bro has been caught counlesss times lying and more, yet the people still 'trust' big bro.

America, you are one sick puppy of a country and unless they start repealing 90% of the bullshit out there and allowing people to be free again, it will be akin to living in a place they used to call hell.

SmittyinLA's picture

Funny, Putin is the anti-Oligarch, our only hope like Ben Kenobe.

People forget Putin rode to power halting the Commie insider liquidation of Soviet assets.

He removed looters, unlike our govt.

John Wilmot's picture


This government is in power because the voters put it there.

This is a democracy.

Let me be clear: this FUBAR situation is not a perversion of democracy, this is democracy.

This is what happens when you allow retards to elect the government.

You end up with government by the slickest used car salesman.

Anyone who thinks we need "more democracy" is a stupid fucking cunt.

P.S. If your IQ is above 120, read this (pdf, free)

wagthetails's picture

Good point...although probably first identified in Plato's Republic.  he give's a great explaination as to why democracy doesn't work (they pander to voters)...although i believe most readings have him saying democracy is the best of all the terrible forms of gov.  If he is right, the next phase of democracy is tyranny.  maybe we haven't evolved after 2500 years after all.

messymerry's picture

P.P.S.  If you IQ is below 120 read this:


OBTW:  When the acorn stops spinning, it will be time to head for the hills...

Comte d'herblay's picture

uuu...uhhhh, John, THis is not a democracy.

It is a Democratic Republic.  So I guess you're the El Stupido.  If it were a democracy, the Electoral College would not exist nor would the House.

The people running this government are hardly stupid, or slick used car salesmen. Many of them are part of an Academic/Corporate/Financial Elite.  And their staffs are likely even more elite. 

Their IQs are at least 120 or more.

The Vote is only there to make you think that you have a say in how you are ruled.  Did you personally vote for a Trillion Dollar defense budget?  Did you vote for the TARP bailout?

When it comes to something extremely vital to the general welfare, you have nothing to say about it.  But if "Gay Marriage" is you thing then you might be able to make a case for this trivial bit of nonsense that affects about 2% of the population.

There are 40,000 lobbyists on K Street.  They run the government, write the laws, target specific Committee Heads for bribes, extortion and other emoluments like Cayman Bank Accounts.

You need to spend more time with George Carlin to enhance your meager education. You certainly don't need any more help in swearing, cursing and insults.


Tall Tom's picture

It is a Democratic Republic.  So I guess you're the El Stupido.  If it were a democracy, the Electoral College would not exist nor would the House.


Take a good look in the mirror.


The United States Constitution, as originally written, was for the establishment of a Representative Republic. The Electoral College was established to elect the President. The public was not to have a direct choice.


The US Senators were chosen and appointed by the State Legislatures. That changed in 1912 by Constitutional Amendment. The public was to have no vote for a Senator whatsoever.


The ONLY person that was to be elected by the public to the Federal Government was thier respective US Representative.


Thus it was called a REPRESENTATIVE Republic.


Before you revert to the use of ad hominems it may be useful to have some knowledge about that which you are writing about.


Damn. And you passed High School History and High School Civics? Just what in the hell has happened to education?


What school did you attend so that I know not to hire the graduates?

Tall Tom's picture

I was born in the state of Arizona, USA. I reside in Lakeside, CA, USA, an unicorporated suburb of San Diego, CA.




Go back to school.

Comte d'herblay's picture

I'll return to school when you agree that you don't know what a democratic republic is. In spite of it being right there in front of you.

hardcleareye's picture


There is a very good argument to make the the USA in it's current form of government is actually a Federalist Constitutional Republic.

  • The United States is a federal constitutional republic in which the President of the United States (the head of state and government), Congress, and judiciary share powers reserved to the national government, and the federal government shares sovereignty with the state governments.
  • The judicial branch, composed of the Supreme Court and lower federal courts, exercises judicial power.
  • The judiciary's function is to interpret the United States Constitution and federal laws and regulations.
  • The federal government's organization is explained in the Constitution.
  • Within the federal government, officials are elected at the federal (national), state and local levels.
  • The United States is a federal constitutional republic in which the federal government shares sovereignty with the state governments.

The CIA has a web site that provides information on all the countries in the world including descriptions of the government structure...  it is a easy link for commonly used government structure definitions as used in our current daily language...  hence the cite.  " (Note that for some countries more than one definition applies.)":

My Mama used to tell me to keep my words soft and sweet cause I may have to eat them....... lol

John Wilmot's picture


If by republic you mean a government which is (more or less) popularly elected, but which has strictly limited powers, the United States ceased to a republic when property qualifications were removed and the rabble were given the vote: just as Jefferson predicted. As soon they were given the opportunity, the masses voted themselves and the dissenting minority into slavery: just as everyone with half a brain has been warning about since Aristotle.

The electoral college is irrelevant; at most it determines (on rare occasions) the outcome in a contest between two demagogues. And the 17th amendment gutted the Senate. Now both houses of Congress are popularly elected.

Of course the politicians are not morons. They are sophisticated con-men. And the voters are morons who fall for their nonsense. That's my point. Democracy does not mean rule of the people, the people cannot rule, they have no clear ideas. Democracy means rule of whoever is best at conning the people: aka best used car salesmen.

Tall Tom's picture

You were writing as I was writing.


Of course the 17th gutted the US Senate and destroyed the 10th.

Ghordius's picture

when it's about the 17th, a few select people realize that direct election is not necessarily the better option. it's heavely dependent on the other checks and balances

yet when I point out that the EU has a confederational setup thanks to the centrality of the Council... crickets

all I read then is the usual chorus of "unelected" and "undemocratic"

John Wilmot's picture

Indeed. The problem with the EU is not that's it's undemocratic.

That's a joke. Look at the sort of politicians which the people of the member states do elect...precisely the same sort of swine.

The problem is that it's extremely centralized.

(...and it doesn't help that it was created by Marxists)

But if there are two key principles for the preservation of liberty, they are these: don't give the masses the vote, and keep political authority as decentralized as humanly possible.

Not only should the EU be dissolved, all of the nation-states of modern Europe should be dissolved. Italy should dissolve into Veneto, Lazio, Genova, etc. Germany should dissolve into Bavaria, Wurttemberg, Saxony, etc. The more independent polities the better. The smaller the average polity the better.

The superiority of Western civilization is a result of the radical political decentralization that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire. That allowed for the emergence of freedom.

If Europe doesn't wise the fuck up, it's going to end up with another Caligula.

Don't worry Europeans, I'm not prejudiced, the US is arguably in even worse shape vis a vis centralization. The last attempt to resist the central power here was put a bloody end to nearly 150 years ago.

therearetoomanyidiots's picture

"Not only should the EU be dissolved, all of the nation-states of modern Europe should be dissolved. Italy should dissolve into Veneto, Lazio, Genova, etc. Germany should dissolve into Bavaria, Wurttemberg, Saxony, etc. The more independent polities the better. The smaller the average polity the better."

Would that it were

laboratorymike's picture

Ironically, one of my Senate candidates is a used car salesman!

John Wilmot's picture

The same idiots who take out 72 month payment plans on pieces of shit that will be worth 40% of that in 24 months vote...every election.


....oh, rust-proofing you say?

...gotta have that.


Tall Tom's picture

....oh, rust-proofing you say?

...gotta have that.


Yeah. I think that it is called PAINT.


It is sad that they are allowed to rip off the ignorant.

malek's picture

I dislike the headline to an uninformed reader confirming a Democracy or a Republic are equal, or almost equal...

intric8's picture

No distinction is made between the two, but why bother? With a true functioning democracy or republic, the masses have a chance of getting what they want. An oligarchy is TYRANNY.

malek's picture

Thanks for proving my point.

Jumbotron's picture

When the masses get what they want....that is just another form of tyranny.

Bankstein Swissgoldberg's picture

democracy, tyranny of the majority!- "Democracy in America", Alexis de Tocqueville 1835. that was in the good old days...

Atticus Finch's picture

I recently reviewed the structure of the Justice Department. I also reviewed the entities that stand as independent agencies of the Government such as SEC and the CFTC.

I reviewed the structure of the US Treasury and the structure of the Intelligence Communities and the CIA as an entity under no Governmental structural control. The CIA has no hierarchy above it-no controlling judicial agency.

After an hour, I was able to conclude that the structure of the Government does not and cannot support enforcement of Constitutional law. However, it's current structure does lend itself to the creation of a police state.

Bottom line; there is no longer a Constitutional Republic named the United States of America. The corruption is to the point where a Constitutional Republic cannot be restored.

hardcleareye's picture

The branch of government that the CIA and US Treasure fall under is the Executive Branch, the ultimate controlling entity is the President of the United States.....The power of the Executive Branch is vested in the President of the United States,  hence the expression from President Truman "The Buck Stops Here".

Currently the elected person responsible for the "nonsense/policies" going on in those two Executive Branches of government is President Obama.....

Furthermore it is the responsibility Judiciary and Legislative Branches to make sure that the Executive Branch acts with in the Constitution....

In a ideal world that is how it is supposed to be...  however in the current system of crony capitalism and corruption it is FUBAR.

Kobe Beef's picture

Time for a fundamental civics lesson. There are three Branches of Governance in the USSA: Liars, Thieves, and Killers.

Sometimes they occupy offices of the government. Sometimes they don't.

There may indeed be good people working in the Three Branches of Government, but Power lies with the Unholy Trinity. 

Pee Wee's picture

Not to point out elephants, but when justice is monetized you are looking in all the wrong places.

Start with TARP, ZIRP and homeland insecurity.

jomama's picture

the paper is great, even if incomplete.  i'm probably the 0.000001% of the population who will actually read it.

the grateful unemployed's picture

its both incredible and uncertain that george harrison wrote some biting lyrics (Little Piggies) and that charles manson heard them and acted out, and the rest of us are trying still to figure out who is wrong.

tomcat1762's picture

Is this a surprise to anyone?  We need a new constitution for the whole world.  Break the planet up into several thousand small political/economic units.  Give everyone freedom of movement and outlaw debts of all kinds along with taxation of labor.  Good start?

sessinpo's picture

tomcat1762    Is this a surprise to anyone?  We need a new constitution for the whole world.  Break the planet up into several thousand small political/economic units.  Give everyone freedom of movement and outlaw debts of all kinds along with taxation of labor.  Good start?


Good start as long as you realize that it is like the Matrix. It just starts all over again. It resets and rebuilds until a new revolution is needed because corruption just comes back. This is how has been and nothing has changed that.

the grateful unemployed's picture

i was pointing this out to someone, Seaworld in SD is under a lot of scrutiny, after the docu Blackfish, a great number of locals feel that Orcas in captivity (for paid entertainment purposes) is simply wrong, but of course when put to the city council of SD, well what about those tourist dollars? (and those campaign contributions) so you see how it works, now they want a BILLION dollar stadium for a losing football team, (which taxpayers must support) and since probably most of the those socalled taxpayers pay no taxes or none at all, they are probably all in. keep the chargers, keep the whales, bring in the tourists on the carnival cruise line SS Vomitatrotous. anything for a buck

williambanzai7's picture

Amerika is led by a Hegemoron...

the grateful unemployed's picture

at normandy w2 they were hedge hoppers, now they are hedge hopping the shark. how long can they beat up the fascists while the band plays deutscheland deustcheland, and leni refenstahl remakes triumph of the yes we can.