Political Science 2305 Notes for First Test on Plutocracy, Polyarchy Summer Session I 2018.doc

Property rights offered reliable safeguards not only

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Property rights offered reliable safeguards not only against potential antagonists without property, but also, no less important, against other oligarchs and the armed state itself that administered the entire arrangement. 26
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Riches have always been a source of power, and nothing about modern societies or institutions fundamentally changes that reality. Neither the shift in wealth away from landed estates nor the achievement of universal suffrage has disrupted the fundamental connection between money and power . The essence of oligarchy within a representative Republic rests on the near-veto power oligarchs retain on threats to concentrated wealth. Congress doesn’t dare to threaten the property owned by America’s oligarchs. If it does and passes legislation that does so, members of Congress know that they are subject to a dramatic loss in campaign funds and the probability of a well-funded opponent in the next election. Plutocracy is closely related to aristocracy as a form of government, as generally wealth and high social status have been closely associated throughout history. Of course, plutocracy is a government system where wealth is the principal basis of power , as has been discussed. A simple view of an oligarchy is a government by the rich for the rich . 27
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In the United States, though the founding fathers constructed (through the Constitution) a government system that was intended to protect wealth and property, the rich have not been able to control such a huge country and diversified population as one might expect in a true oligarchy. Thus, under pressure to get the Constitution ratified, a Bill of Rights was added. Under the pressure created when the Southern states seceded, black slaves were emancipated, given citizenship, and eventually (many years later) actually enabled to vote. With the Great Depression many new government programs aimed at the American middle class and unemployed Americans were begun. 28
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2015: Down and out in America---living on the streets In the 1950s the American middle class solidified and actually had some control of government. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, the well-to-do in America were reinserting themselves as the controllers of American government. That process is pretty much complete in 2014. Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 percent (the wealthiest of the wealthy), perhaps the greatest is this: the erosion of our American sense of identity, in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community have always seemed important to us. A longstanding principle proclaimed by American politicians is that the United States is a fair society, where everyone has an equal chance of getting ahead. 29
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The statistics suggest otherwise : the chances of a poor citizen, or even a middle-class citizen, making it to the top in America has been and still is smaller than in many countries of Europe.
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