A new scientific study from Princeton researchers… found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.
“Princeton” concludes?! “A new scientific study…”?! This is some sloppy journalism that you should immediately ignore. But it gets worse…
“Perhaps economic elites and interest group leaders enjoy greater policy expertise than the average citizen does,” Gilens and Page write. “Perhaps they know better which policies will benefit everyone, and perhaps they seek the common good, rather than selfish ends, when deciding which policies to support.
“But we tend to doubt it.”
That’s the close of the article; these “scientists” are about as unsophisticated as the journalist reporting it. They repeat the same old adages about inequality that don’t really mean much: The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting less richer, and (we wrongly assume) membership in these groups is stable over time. Their conclusion is basically “rich, powerful interests promote their own interests… if only the middle class was in charge to promote the public good instead of their own interests!”
And yet, I think there’s something worth reading here. I think the conclusion that the U.S. is an oligarchy is roughly correct. The importance of politically connected individuals and lobbying groups affects wealth creation and distribution. This is an example of where the Left and Right should agree with libertarians: centralization of political power is leading to wasteful rent seeking that weakens the economy (Right/libertarian) and the outcome is that politically powerful groups are given an unfair advantage (Left/libertarian).
We know that Democrats are libertarian on social issues (and this is one of them!) and Republicans are libertarian on economic issues (ditto), but we hit a snag. Each group tends to see the faults of the other party’s pet projects and miss the root causes. Republicans see Democrats centralizing power and weakening property rights and step in to save the victim: businesses. The result is pro-business policy recommendations that also centralize power. The Democrats see this and step in to save the victim: the little guy (poor people and consumers). The result is centralization of power that creates rent seeking opportunities for big business!