Social Question

Seek's avatar

Have you read the study insinuating that the United States is an oligarchy?

Asked by Seek (30176 points ) April 20th, 2014

Here is the article I read, from BBC.

and here is the study itself.

From the study:

“Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

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

”...we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”

Thoughts?

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139 Answers

jca's avatar

I have not read the study but I do agree that the US is becoming an oligarchy. Google “Koch Brothers” and watch the documentary by Robert Reich, “Income Inequality.”

stanleybmanly's avatar

Nothing insinuating about it! It’s just another in the expanding list of confirmations about grim reality. This place is a plutocracy and everybody knows it.

Seek's avatar

I used “insinuating” because the study never actually uses the word itself, but I agree with you, @stanleybmanly.

I read this last night, and I have to say I’m pretty damned depressed since. I mean, I already knew it, but having confirmation in this sort of unbiased manner is taking the wind out of my sails. I, like everyone else my age, was sold this “America is so great blahblah” all our lives, and becoming an adult and being smacked in the face with “Oh, by the way your vote doesn’t matter because no matter who you vote for the real decisions are made by Koch, the Walton family, a few oil companies and the NRA”... sucks.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Yes just came across this the other day. Very Interesting.

bolwerk's avatar

It’s definitely stronger than an insinuation. It’s actually a conclusion. In any case, I don’t know if the USA was ever a “democracy” even in the loose sense of republic with democratic input. They started as a liberal party, but the GOP always had an oligarchic bent and it just ate the party up over the decades. The Democrats were always the party of petty local/parochial interests.

I didn’t read much of the study, but there is probably some heavy psychological conditioning involved too. If you go down a laundry list of issues, the American public is probably significantly to the left of either party on most issues, while gerrymandering pretty much guarantees that it can’t show. But on top of gerrymandering, people are actually cowed into voting against their interests. Of the two major parties, the Democrats are the only one that might occasionally support economic policies that favor at least a last swath of the general public, and they’re easily cowed into giving up or watering down initiatives – Obamacare, for instance, could have been a much stronger law.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Related… Just recently April 2nd 2014.
Supreme Court lifts ban on aggregate campaign donations.

“WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court took another step Wednesday toward giving wealthy donors more freedom to influence federal elections.”
________

In the face of public demand for disclosure and campaign finance reform, the Courts instead justify the worst case opposite scenario we could possibly imagine. If we think it’s bad now, just wait until this new ruling sets in. Goodbye America.

A message to my children
I am so sorry that I let our nation become such a haven for corruption. You’ll have to grow up in this world I’ve created for you. I am so so sorry about that. Please forgive me.

ragingloli's avatar

Just more confirmation of what is blatantly obvious.

Kropotkin's avatar

Yes, I read the whole study a few days ago.

It’s somewhat interesting when empiricism vindicates over a century of rational argument and hypotheses proposed by various political theorists, and even anarchists and Marxists from over a century ago.

As the paper notes, there has been empirical support for this and other particular narratives in the past. I always found the Majoritarian Pluralism view to be really naive, and—if I may speculate a little—probably supported by the very elites who would prefer ordinary people to think they have a say in political matters.

I found the interpretation and analysis to be amusingly tentative, but that’s to be expected in a scientific paper that’s focused mostly on quantitative data. And there’s still that faux-naivety at the end about “democratic society” being “seriously threatened”—when the system was never really intended to be democratic in the first place.

The same institutional mechanisms that allow for oligarchs and business-oriented interest groups to dictate policy decisions exist in pretty much every representative system of government. I would speculate, I think plausibly, that similar results would be found in most other “democratic countries”.

The most depressing part isn’t even that ordinary people have no influence in policy making, but that they actually largely agree with the very elites who do (except for the business-oriented interest groups, where they surprisingly don’t correlate with anyone, while trade unions were the most representative of people—but unions are evil and undemocratic).

As @bolwerk touches on, and which is actually talked about a little in the study, I think there is a quite sophisticated system of propaganda which promotes elite and business interests, and ignores and marginalises views which would represent the interests of most ordinary working and poor people.

Think-tanks, business interest groups (unions for corporations), the corporate media, and the politicians which come from the political class, all more or less sing from the same ideological song sheet, and share similar values and interests. The political discourse is narrowed to a small range of allowable and thinkable ideas, and it’s these that prevail in the popular consciousness. I think it’s partly this why ordinary people with unremarkable wealth, and even poverty, will repeat the slogans, ideas and support policies which go against their interests.

jerv's avatar

Reading this question reminds me of something from high school. My geometry teacher was telling us how some of his college classmates did a term paper of many pages empirically proving that 2+2=4. However, our still-childlike brains marveled at the effort that went into something that could be summers up in five words; “Any damned fool knows that!”.

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths we go to to prove the obvious. And by “amaze”, I mean “disappoint”.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Athenian techniques to prevent the rise of oligarchy
Especially during the fourth century BC, after the restoration of democracy from oligarchical coups, the Athenians used the drawing of lots for selecting government officers in order to counteract what the Athenians acutely saw as a tendency toward oligarchy in government if a professional governing class were allowed to use their skills for their own benefit.[5] They drew lots from large groups of adult volunteers as a selection technique for civil servants performing judicial, executive, and administrative functions (archai, boulē, and hēliastai).[6] They even used lots for very important posts, such as judges and jurors in the political courts (nomothetai), which had the power to overrule the Assembly.[7]

Seek's avatar

@jerv

So, we’ve established the obvious as empirical fact.

Is there anything we – the unwashed masses – can do about it, short of bloody revolt?

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Well, now that which has been quite evident to many is finally settled by our annointed accademics, this hopefully will be taken a bit more seriously by a broader spectrum of citizenry.

The next step is what shall we do about it? I’m not being cynical. For those Americans like myself who do not want their country to be an oligarchy—a country where the wealthy, when displeased, can remove those democratic mechanisms guarranteed to all of us by the constitution. I’m serious. I would like to hear some ideas on what we can do to turn this around?

Let’s turn this thread into a string of sincere suggestions on what can be done. Now that a study has shown this to be a fact, shall we just be satisfied with “I told you so,” then sit back with our thumbs in our lapels and watch it all go to hell for our grandchildren? We can do that, too.

Suggestions?

Seek's avatar

I would suggest bloody revolt, but they can afford bigger weapons than I can.

I mean, I have access to seige machines, but we’re not storming a castle.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Seek My feelings exactly, but also my conclusion as well. So, violent action is out. This is progress. We’ve eliminated something from the equation. With that out of the way, what else can we do?

ragingloli's avatar

Establish an underground guerilla network and start assassinating the neo aristocrats and their families.

cazzie's avatar

France is a great democracy now, but I wouldn’t advise re-enacting the French Revolution. Also, most charismatic leaders who end up leading revolts like this tend to replace oligarchy with despotism.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

A revolution in this country would be handing what little is left to those who are slowly taking it over. I think we just need to stop participating in our own demise. We outnumber our controllers 10,000 :1. They cannot stop an informed, organized mass of people who simply decide to take the country back by civil disobedience. We should stand up for our neighbors when they are singled out and messed with, stop following and push back against bullshit laws, respect each other and educate each other. Violence should only be used for self defense on an individual case by case basis. If we use violence we will loose.

cazzie's avatar

Follow the works of Ghandi. That’s the best I’ve got. If they want to send the Republicans/Libertarians/TeaPartiers to a separated country like they did to the Muslims in India, would that be a good move? Give them Texas and a few other very ‘red’ States? Or ask Canada to invade, politely?

hearkat's avatar

I also think we need to vote with our dollars and be more informed about where our money goes. This is why I try to purchase as much of our food as possible from local farmers and producers. I also purchase more items from small companies that have ecology in mind. I probably still put money in the pockets of the 1%, but I try to minimize what I give to them.

Seek's avatar

The very sad aspect is that these companies have established themselves as necessary to modern life in America.

The infrastructure is built so you must own a car. Cars are built so you must consume oil products. If you don’t have a car you can’t get to work, if you can’t work you have nowhere to live. If you have nowhere to live you can’t find work.

If you want to live in a city that doesn’t require you to have a car, you have to have a considerably higher income than you would in a city that does require private transportation.

If your income isn’t high enough, there are limited places where you can shop and still maintain a reasonable quality of life.

If you choose to do without certain things that until 100 years ago or so were not even part of most households (electricity, central heat and air, indoor plumbing), the powers that be will declare you are living in unfit conditions, condemn your home, and take your kids away. Oh, you have solar power? Well, doesn’t count unless you’re hooked up to the diesel grid.

Municipal organizations are starting to write laws restricting home vegetable gardens.

cazzie's avatar

Free our food, for a start! http://www.news.wisc.edu/22748 The fact that the headline reads ‘novel’ makes me sick.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Those with a vested interest in maintaining (or accelerating) the status quo have seen to it that we who struggle over the crumbs are misdirected as to the reasons for our irrelevance. Thus such absurdities as the tea party and Americans for Prosperity flourish with memberships of middle class people frustrated with their ongoing impoverishment. It’s the equivalent of a nation of sheep with a sizable faction of its population committed to expanding the consumption of lamb chops and mutton.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

They don’t care about politics. They attack our country and freedom from both sides of the isle using different aspects of the same agenda. It’s an agenda of collusion and power concentration. The left-right political climate in this country is a weapon that is used against us. It keeps us from talking and even respecting each other. How could we regain this place under those conditions? It’s not corporate america or big gov’t. It’s both, there is no difference anymore.

kevbo's avatar

@Seek, as someone who has trod this path and come out the other end with a greater happiness than when I started, I’m just going to suggest that you ponder disillusionment as a phenomenon. It’s something you’ve experienced before on as grand a scale. I can’t say that I got to where I did without first exhausting all other possibilities, but what I found is that truth is revealed when false beliefs are dispelled.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

The USA is not a democracy nor has it ever been. It is a Republic.

ragingloli's avatar

@Dan_Lyons
A republic is a form of democracy. #basiceducation

Seek's avatar

@kevbo

Mind translating that to English, minus the psychobabble? I have no idea what you’re talking about.

@Dan_Lyons – We were, once upon a time, a representative democracy. Once, we could vote in representatives that would speak for the citizenry’s desires. That has changed. The public no longer has a voice in United States government. We have been silenced.

Jaxk's avatar

There is little doubt that we are in fact an oligarchy. But you may want to take a moment and think about who really has the power and who they want you to blame. I’ve heard it said many times that it doesn’t matter which party is in power or who gets elected, nothing changes. We have congress at a complete stalemate with nothing (or virtually nothing) getting passed, yet we have more laws being put on the books than we did during Clinton or Bush. Income inequality is getting worse not better so who is it that’s passing all this stuff?

For the past hundred years we have been slowly handing over power to the unelected bureaucrats. We have transferred most of the lawmaking to the multitude of cabinet posts and massive bureaucracies that define the laws and programs that we live by. You could completely dismantle congress, fire the president and close down the courts and nothing would change. Yes dear hearts, I know you hate the rich but that is not where the problems originate.

If you want to get back to a representative government, we need to redistribute the power back to those we elect. At least then we would have a chance.

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ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@kevbo I can’t help but side with you on this even though I’m not entirely sure what you are saying. I think you are saying that this is a natural cycle and that in the end decency will prevail. I don’t think that there is any major country-wide conspiracy going on. It’s just people protecting their own interests. We let our safeguards down that prevent this kind of collusion, that’s all. The problems we have are organizational, power corrupts and those who yield control can do what they want because we let the very structure of our society allow it. We just need to take a lesson from history and not end up like Rome…or France.

Seek's avatar

@Jaxk – This problem originated long before Obama. Where do you believe the problems are originating, and what can be done to halt the decline and restore order?

Seek's avatar

I can’t help but side with you on this even though I’m not entirely sure what you are saying.

I think we just found the problem. People are willing to agree with shit they don’t even understand.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@Seek Do you disagree though? Is this not an organizational problem?

Seek's avatar

I can’t agree or disagree with something that I can’t determine the meaning of.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@Seek this country had at one time a set of engineering controls that prevented this kind of bullshit. Much like a Dam holds back water. We stopped maintaining and upgrading it and it failed, no surprise to me.

Jaxk's avatar

@Seek

Yes the problem started long before Obama. As I said it has been moving in that direct for the past 100 years. We have created cabinet post after cabinet post, bureaucracy after bureaucracy. They are not run by elected officials but rather by career bureaucrat. Regardless who is elected, the entrenched bureaucracies remain. They define what the laws mean and enact regulations to enforce them. Congress has little or no control over what they do and even when they approve a new head to the department the bureaucracy has a life of it’s own.

ragingloli's avatar

yeah, just ignore the fact that the laws that are passed are written by the corporate puppet called ‘ALEC’

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I think one front that must be dealt with is our system of elections; the process in which we fund campaigns, the way the candidates are chosen in the first place. More must be done to enable third and possibly fourth parties to get equal time.

Another front is our system of lobbying and influencing our representatives during and after office with money, sinecures and gifts. Many laws in this area created in the 1970s were tantamount to legalizing bribery in Washington. These laws must be revisited. A look at how other rich democracies handle these things is worthwile. Things can be learned from other nations that have had to confront similar problems, especially in western Europe.

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Seek's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Well, we’ll have to bypass the Supreme Court for that. They are the ones that determined that money=speech.

cazzie's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Campaign and election reform is a HUGE issue. I completely agree, but nothing will ever happen on either of those issues you bring up because it simply isn’t in the system’s interest now. Too late. Horse. Barn door.

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Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Seek Absolutely right, Citizens United vs FEC needs to be overturned. Last month’s SC decision to lift the ban on aggregate campaign donations made it obvious that CU v FEC was just a stepping stone toward total disenfranchisement. Things are moving fast as there is almost no reaction or resistance to these actions.

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Seek's avatar

I FULLY EXPECT a respectful discourse on this question.

This is an important issue and if you can’t table your childish namecalling there will be issues.

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Seek's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus

So, Congress is against us, the Supreme Court is against us, the President is mainly a powerless figurehead, and as citizens we are disenfranchised.

What can we do?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

A few months back I asked a Q (can’t find it) about adopting the Athenian model for political office. It was met with some support from fluther. If anyone could find it, would be much appreciated. I’d like to read through that thread again.

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hearkat's avatar

[Mod says] Just because a Question is in the Social section does not make it a free-for-all; responses must still relate to the discussion, be respectful, and not be disruptive.

Seek's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies – Are you referring to this question, regarding choosing officials out of the phone book?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Yep just found it too. Thanks!

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I didn’t know that was the Athenian model at the time. Now I have a name for it, and an example of how it can overturn an Oligarchy.

flutherother's avatar

I’ve thought this for some time. America has come a long way from Lincoln’s ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’. It likes to pretend it is democratic and it loves to promote ‘democracy’ in countries abroad but it is no longer a functioning democracy itself. The entire process has been corrupted by money.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Seek The people we elect to represent us end up working for the needs of a few because of the laws concerning campaign financing and lobbying. These must be changed if we want our politicians to truly represent the people who elect them to office. This is one front that people can work on here. What changes can we come up with that would make these processes more democratic?

And how about discussing how to revisit and overturn the anti-democratic SC decisions from the recent McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission going back through the patrilineal line of decisions from CU v FEC to Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad.—where things of this sort really started to get serious?

It all sounds daunting, but we’re just talking here and educating ourselves, rather than discussing 8 ways of getting freaky with a book of postage stamps, or Why would a roll of bubble wrap not make a great date. I really don’t think it’s too late for Americans to turn this around; it’s late, but not too late. And it’s certainly not too late to entertain solutions rather than just whine about the problems.

What else needs to be done to repair the damage to democracy in this country?

ucme's avatar

I have nowt to say of any real worth here, so i’ll simply be childish & move on.
Oligarchy that word tickles me, just because.
The old fella in that photo seems to be thinking, “oh how I wish the maid from below stairs would sit on my face”

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I have read this thread.

I read the BBC article about the study, but I did not read the study itself.

I like @Espiritus_Corvus‘s approach to this question. Let’s talk about real reform to bring back the democracy we enjoyed for many years.

We do have the power to vote. We have the power to read and think. This will take a massive change on the part of the average voter, but I believe that is possible. I believe in humanity’s ability to better itself.

I would like to overturn the Citizens United vs. FEC ruling and the latest one from this month allowing unimpeded contributions to campaigns. From there, I believe we can vote for people who will best represent us.

I would like a new progressive tax code. I think newly elected representatives after CU vs. FEC is overturned will approve one.

I would like an end to lobbying period. It’s possible.

I would like to halve the defense budget. It’s possible.

I would like an expanded Bill of Rights akin to what FDR was proposing, including rights to work, organize, healthcare, etc.

I would like to double what we currently spend on education at all levels.

There are many more things I would like, and I believe it starts by cleaning up our election system and getting rid of the money involved in getting people elected. It’s possible.

Our country has seen this before during the Gilded Age of the 1890s. It took some doing, but we ended the rampant corruption of that era. We can do it again.

It’s possible.

Seek's avatar

How does one go about organizing the overturning of something the Supreme Court has already ruled acceptable?

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Seek It starts with a constitutional amendment that has to start in Congress or from the individual states. We citizens have to organize and demand it.

Seek's avatar

And a constitutional amendment requires a ⅔ majority of Congress to pass, right?

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

There ‘s another way. It’s starts with a case to press the Court into decision. There must be groups working on these things. I have to get Betsy out of the cane right now, but I’ll search when I get back. Don’t we have lawyers and paralegals here on Fluther? They must have covered this stuff in school.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The history of the country has always been about the power of money countering the numbers of non rich voters. Money of course won out and reached its pinnacle of dominance at the time of the greatest imbalance—the gilded age. It was a time of virtually unbridled laissez faire capitalism and sparse lax regulation. Interestingly, it was during the administration of the first Roosevelt that the reins began to be pulled on the runaway influence of money, and with the depression, the second Roosevelt basically told the rich that they were going to pay for the country’s recovery , or face the same consequences as the Russian aristocracy. It was an era when the ruling class was sufficiently astute to realize that he might be right. It’s interesting to note that in the middle of the 2nd World War, Roosevelt proposed an income tax rate of 100% on incomes above $200,000. He had to settle for 94%, and has been villified as a traitor to his class in boardrooms ever since. Now with all of this in mind, the one thing that is crystal clear, is that the corrosive power of money, particularly since the advent of Ronald Reagan, has wiped out any pretense of equity between the mass of the voters and the power of money. One thing is certain, and that is that the trend cannot and will not continue. The really big question is whether or not in the era of Fox and Donald Trump, the nation’s elite will come to see that the load must be shifted as a matter (for them) of self preservation.

non_omnis_moriar's avatar

I have seen a great deal of commentary using that word to describe the United States, and from where I am sitting, I’m wondering when we just stop pretending it isn’t. It is what we are.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Well it certainly appears that there is no need to convince the folks here of the validity of the article. The question is when will this become the consensus of the mass of our population?

Kropotkin's avatar

@stanleybmanly ”. . . the nation’s elite will come to see that the load must be shifted as a matter (for them) of self preservation.”

There’s a key difference between now and the depression era. The early 20th century had a politically active and radicalised working class with powerful unions. From the Gilded Age to the New Deal, the period was marked by a violently suppressed labour movement, and the threat of large scale insurrection was more likely and viable, at least in the minds of the elites who feared for their privilege and status.

Today? There’s nothing comparable. If you read the study, it showed that most people largely align with the elites in terms of policy desires. There is no comparable radical movement as there was in the 20s and 30s. There’s no threat of insurrection. The bandits are robbing with impunity, and ordinary people are even defending them for it.

stanleybmanly's avatar

All of this is true. Things are considerably more disjointed, particularly with the loss of organized labor that disappeared with our manufacturing base. But the fact remains that there is a limit to the amount of wealth that can flow uphill at the impoverishment of everyone else. Articles such as this one are increasingly in the spotlight. For the literally astute among us, this article is yesterday’s news. Now the fans of Fox might be (temporarily) deflected from the obvious with such nonsense as “it’s the fault of the lazy poor” but sooner or later the majority of us will come to the proper conclusion.

Seek's avatar

I’d just like for the issue to be fixed by the time my son has to enter the workforce.

If we could just have this wrapped up in fifteen years or so, that would be great.

bolwerk's avatar

Move to a socialist country and get free stuff.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@Seek It doesn’t look good. In order that profits be maximized and the gold laden balloon defy gravity lifting the money to the top, either the average man’s standard of living must be depressed to reflect that of much less fortunate countries than our own OR those less fortunate than ourselves will see their living standards approach our own. I hear that Mexico is currently booming.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@bolwerk Nothing’s free! The question is WHO is to receive the benefits of the nation’s wealth? The current answer to the question is “The folks with the money to buy the government”

cazzie's avatar

I hate to keep harping on about this, but it is all I know and what I am familiar with. When Norway struck oil in the North Sea, they didn’t hire bankers and economists. They hired a philosopher. What was the right thing to do with this resource? They knew it would change the economy here forever. They got help from international corporations who had the know-how and technology and once they were up and running, politely asked them to leave (and pissed them off.) Now nationalised, the entire nation shares in the wealth. They created a fund with the profits that invested all over the world and the money keeps pouring in. With strict rules on the use of both the invested money (only ‘ethical’ investments, please) and how much of the interest can be spent, in January this year, someone came up with the calculation that all Norwegians are now crown millionaires. Hmmmm… socialism has created one of the strongest and safest countries in the world here and it is consistently rated in the top of the best places in the world to live.
Electorally speaking, our last election was a bit of a disaster. About 30% of the people didn’t show up to vote and it was a travesty. Yeah, for Norway, that is a horrible turn out if only 70% of the voting population shows up at the polls for a national election.

bolwerk's avatar

@cazzie: what you describe is state-owned capital and investment. Capitalism!

bossob's avatar

I think that politics has become nothing more than theater that is intended to divide and conquer voters, and keep us distracted so that we don’t pay attention to what is really going on behind the scenes.

I don’t see much changing until voters across the spectrum agree that campaign financing is corrupt, that the tax code is where Congress gets the power to kiss the asses of the fats and ignore the rest of us, and that gerrymandering districts is nothing more than politicians picking the voters rather than voters picking the politician.

If voters of both parties insisted on candidates who promised to fix those three things, and held them to it, it would be a step in the right direction.

Back in the real world, I think the situation is going to get a lot worse (catastrophic) before we see any changes.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@cazzie Now you and I know that there is currently not a chance in hell of such a thing occurring in the United States. Consider West Virginia where hundreds of billions of dollars have been extracted in the form of coal. Now is there anybody here that will dispute the assertion that the mining industry owns the state of West Virginia?

cazzie's avatar

@bolwerk It is State-Owned and run like a corporation of course, and it is a commodity, sold on the international market, but its ownership is NOT in private hands. Norwegians don’t have to buy shares. They simply have to be born Norwegian or become Norwegians. The way the State Own corporation is run has the entire nation to answer to, not just a small boardroom of shareholder representatives.

bolwerk's avatar

@cazzie: it’s still capitalism. The term for that is state capitalism, as a matter of fact.

cazzie's avatar

I’m not getting into a vocabulary lesson, here. I don’t care what it is called in English.

cazzie's avatar

The US subsidises it’s oil and natural gas industries to the tune of billions every year. Our oil and gas industries subsidise the country of Norway.

Like the meme about ‘Soviet Russia’... hahahaha… ’ In Socialist Norway, oil money subsidises YOU!’

bolwerk's avatar

@cazzie: capitalism has never precluded state control and involvement. And if you don’t care about what it’s called in English, why are you bothering discussing it in English?

stanleybmanly's avatar

@bolwerk It is socialism because the wealth belongs and REMAINS in the hands of the state for the benefit of EVERYONE. Were you to suggest that the United States adopt “State capitalism”, and champion such a thing, you should have your life heavily insured.

cazzie's avatar

Do you understand Norwegian, @bolwerk ? Or Swedish or Danish? DO you or have you lived and studied the economy in Norway? Would you like to explain it to me in Norwegian perhaps?

bolwerk's avatar

@stanleybmanly: U.S. states, and perhaps the feds, do practice state capitalism. Alaska does it most famously with its oil proceeds. State and I presume federal pension funds also invest in private securities extensively. And the Federal Reserve’s whole job is to buy and sell securities to banks.

@cazzie: not well enough to discuss it. But it’s not a Norwegian, Swedish, or Danish thread.

cazzie's avatar

@bolwerk which is why I’m discussing this in English.

bolwerk's avatar

@cazzie: then you should care about English language terminology?

cazzie's avatar

@bolwerk Um.. no, because that wasn’t my point AT ALL. It doesn’t matter what it is called. Not in the LEAST. It is different to what the US system is like and that was my ONLY point.

bolwerk's avatar

@cazzie: your point was that socialism did really for Norway. Except Norway isn’t socialist.

cazzie's avatar

And the US isn’t entirely capitalist…. so, what’s your point. And I don’t think i mentioned any of that in my initial post. It is a socialist leaning country. OMG… people who don’t understand the terms again… We use socialist to mean more Left than the Democrats in the US. That is all that means here to us. We don’t mean a pure socialist government any more than you would say that the US is completely capitalist and free market trade. The system of the oil fund is ‘based’ on a ‘more socialist’ concept of ‘redistributing the wealth’ as the Americans are so fond of saying.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@bolwerk The money allowed the citizens of Alaska is a joke compared to the wealth extracted and transferred to billionaires outside the state. Granted that the state is not being looted to the extent that West Virginia has been raped like a third world country. And this gets to the heart of this entire discussion. Who owns the coal under West Virginia, the oil under Alaska, and ultimately WHO OWNS THE UNITED STATES?

cazzie's avatar

Now, I’m going to enjoy some of my State Run Television and enjoy the last few days of my week long, paid Easter vacation. Good night, Amerka. I’m taking out Norwegian citizenship.

Kropotkin's avatar

@cazzie Do the socialist comrades of Norway share their oil wealth with the workers of the world, or just with other Norwegians?

bolwerk's avatar

@stanleybmanly: okay, Norway is more generous than a red state. It’s still practicing the same kind of environmental parasitism OPEC countries do. The ownership structure might be unusual-ish and less oligarchic, but the economic model is entirely capitalist.

cazzie's avatar

@Kropotkin It is an industry. A world wide industry, so it contributes to the world economy. Also, as a nation, they can give aid and assistance and provide education to millions. So, it depends what you mean by does it just go to Norwegians. The pension fund is only for Norwegian citizens, but that isn’t all the money goes to, of course.

cazzie's avatar

‘Entirely capitalist’?.. ummmm… good night folks.

kevbo's avatar

@Seek, I am responding to your realization of an untruth—that we’ve been sold this “America is so great blahblah” all our lives. I am saying process of reaching this disillusionment is similar to what you experienced with religion. Now, you and others are saying, “This thing is happening, so what do we do?”

Others have already touched on the notion that was a revelation of my own some time ago, which is that this information, generally speaking, isn’t new. It’s just new to you. There’s probably not a time in history where things like this haven’t been going down. The only difference is that you happened to make yourself aware of it and happen to have feelings about it.

So, my point is that you (and anyone else who might see this to be of benefit) can digest this as a new and current event that must be examined six ways to Sunday in the hopes of finding a solution that can be implemented, or you can take a step back and try to understand what it is that is happening when you experience disillusionment. When you hold a belief that turns out to be false, what is left?

You’re welcome, of course, to disregard this “psychobabble” (what was it you were saying about name calling?) and turn your attention elsewhere. I’m just adding it to to the list of possible responses to the problem you’ve surfaced.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@bolwerk You can’t see the difference between the Norwegian model and our own brand of what you consider state capitalism? To put it as bluntly as possible, its about what happens to the profits , and I don’t mean the nickles and dimes that the oil companies laughingly bestow on the citizens of Alaska. I mean the BULK of the money. Forget about environmental degradation. It is clear that since the citizens of Norway collectively receive ALL of the profits from the sale of its oil, it is legitimate to claim that the citizens of Norway OWN the oil. We are TOLD that we own the oil, but we by no means have claim to the vast majority of the profits.

Seek's avatar

@kevbo – You still haven’t really said anything, for all the words you’ve typed.

I do not intend to namecall, but you’re relating a political reality to religion. It doesn’t make sense. There is an issue at hand that must be dealt with. I’m looking for a plan of action, not a call to apathy.

bolwerk's avatar

@stanleybmanly: wait a second, where did I ever say there weren’t differences? All I did was make what should be a fairly uncontroversial point about what Norway is doing: state capitalism.

The resource in question seems more troubling to me than the economic model they use to exploit it, or how they dispose of the proceeds capitalistically.

Darth_Algar's avatar

When exactly was this golden age where the government represented the people? At every point in our nation’s history there’s been at least one group (usually more than one) that were disenfranchised or downright prohibited from voting.

non_omnis_moriar's avatar

The least dirty shirt gets my vote.

kevbo's avatar

Deaf ears. Lesson learned.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Seek You asked how a constitutional amendment gets passed. You are correct. Two-thirds of each House of Congress must approve an amendment. That amendment is then transferred for consideration by the individual states. Three-quarters of the states must approve it, and then it is considered part of the Constitution. It’s a very difficult process.

The other way to amend the Constitution is through a Constitutional Convention, which can be called by two-thirds of the states asking for one. We’ve never had one of these. All amendments so far have been the result of the other process.

Here is what the National Archives has to say about amending the Constitution.

How on Earth did this OP devolve into a debate about oil in Norway?

Oh. It’s in the Social Section. We’ll be hearing about pancakes soon.

Seek's avatar

I’ve specifically asked for moderation to allow various avenues of thought pertaining to politics, but to feel free to go heavy on distractions. Hopefully we can discuss whether Norway is capitalistic or socialistic without devolving into breakfast pastries.

jerv's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake Waffles > pancakes :p

@Seek Sorry, but @kevbo is right; I just think you’re too close to see what he’s really saying. Religion and politics share a few things. Both have some people taking the party platform to extremes while making others jaded Agnostics/Independents. Both are used to segregate and oppress, and to “justify” warfare. Both have hierarchies that some worship and others seek to topple. Here in America, money has taken the place of “divine right”, but otherwise politics and religion are practically the same thing.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@jerv I disagree. I think religion is a useful tool, particularly for keeping people in “their place”. It’s also historically a handy distraction to deflect the oppressed (the non rich) from brutal reality. Those who are exploited suffer indoctrination which assures them that the miseries they endure are meaningless in THIS life. “Do as you’re told, and you will receive your reward in heaven.” Moreover the more you suffer here and now, the greater your supposed reward in that other world. Thus the Church is historically the ally of the state in the exploitation of those who toil for the benefit of the ruling classes. I agree that there is scant little to distinguish “successful” (wealthy) preachers from corrupt (wealthy) politicians, but the 2 “professions” are distinct and distinguishable.

Seek's avatar

@jerv I have no idea what he’s saying. Something about truth being revealed. Personally I’m done with nebulous revelations based on introspection.

Identify Problem—Develop Solution. That’s my goal.

jerv's avatar

@stanleybmanly. There are enough parallels in theory and enough intertwining and overlap throughout history that the end results are the same. Both acids and bases cause chemical burns, and being beaten with a baseball bat is little different than being worked over with a tire iron. I’m merely pointing out the similarities in an attempt to explain @kevbo‘s words to @Seek because what seems to make little sense to her seems obvious to me. Are @kevbo and I weird for both seeing the relationship between the two at least so far as it pertains to end results?

cazzie's avatar

I think @jerv and @kevbo are deciding nothing anyone does ever makes a difference to the outcome of anything because the world is now and always has been the way its has always been. Perhaps they found that person peace that comes with reconciling ones expectations of the world with their own sense of cynicism, but to most of us, that personal peace looks no different to apathy and it simply isn’t for us. We want to expect more and our cynicism isn’t crippling us, it is driving us to stand up and look for answers and more social justice.

jerv's avatar

@cazzie I almost made it an entire day without a facepalm until I read your misinterpretation of my motives and opinions that borders on outright fucking offensive.

Yes, I am a bit cynical, not not in the defeatist way that you think I am.

I will just leave it at that until you admit that you don’t understand how I think and feel.

kevbo's avatar

@jerv, thank you for illustrating my POV with such clear analogies. I’ll have to remember them.

I don’t find @cazzie ‘s retort offensive. It is a misunderstanding, and one that is typical, but it also makes fair use of the appearances of end results. Yes, it is a personal peace, but it is also a world peace. It’s “the world has always been the way it has been, so what does that mean for a life?” I have a satisfactory answer to that question that is absolutely not apathetic and not a copout, although it may appear that way.

@cazzie and others are living with the delusion of agency. (I don’t mean “delusion” as a pejorative—it is, after all, a great part of the human condition.) So, there are some responses that are temporarily beyond the pale of making sense. And the change toward understanding if it were to happen would be on the order of a revelation. So a blind disregard for this “apathetic” view is certainly to be expected.

In the process of interjecting my POV I’m learning the limits of when these ideas get play. It’s a lesson for me to see the boundary of when they are accepted and rejected.

cazzie's avatar

@jerv I never said I did, I simply said that the end result appears that way to people looking on. It seems @kevbo understood what I was getting at.

@kevbo I will keep my delusions and you can keep yours.

cazzie's avatar

@kevbo Don’t people make very life-altering decisions involving reproduction rights? If that isn’t agency, I don’t know what is. For example, deciding at a very early age to never father a child, or perhaps a woman has her tubes tied or has an abortion. Deciding to take your own life is a pretty big decision… and then changing your mind about it… another big thing. You can write all these things off as ‘predetermined’ and that we really never have any choices in our lives if that makes you feel better, but that isn’t reality. And I’m really sorry for what happened to you.

kevbo's avatar

@cazzie, I’m comfortable with keeping to our own delusions. We will go in circles if we try to hammer this out, but the key to understanding what I’m talking about involves a shift in perspective. If you had a dream and in the dream you were stressing yourself out over problems you had to solve and perhaps leaping and running and doing whatever to make it through to the end motivated by seemingly real fears and desires, what sense would you make of that when you woke up? Were you really getting something done or just participating in a dream? Does it make sense to say that the choices in your dream were predetermined or not given that the choices were only dream choices? What does any of that matter when you wake up? This is a different kind of waking up, and it’s not sad or something to be sorry for. It’s brought me more happiness and peace than just about anything. And it doesn’t have to be for everyone. I offered it up as a possible response to the problem.

Seek's avatar

@kevbo So, if I’m starting to understand your point of view, the option you are suggesting is that one throw up their arms, say “Fuck it, I can’t fix it anyway”, and pretend like there’s no problem at all, living their life making the best of a sucky situation while doing absolutely nothing to improve it.

kevbo's avatar

@Seek, that’s a stab at it, but not fully what I’m saying. To continue the previous analogy, I’m saying you could begin to wake up. If “life is but a dream,” then is it I who is pretending there is no problem, or is is you pretending that there is a problem?

Jaxk's avatar

Sounds like we’re making good progress. When do we get to decide whether to take the red pill or the blue pill?

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Jaxk Sounds like we’ve already made our choices…

Seek's avatar

If anyone would like to resume actually discussing the reality of the situation instead of playing Morpheus, that would be great.

cazzie's avatar

I want to go back to our commune idea.

Seek's avatar

It’s still my Powerball bugout plan.

It’d be lovely if we could pull it off without the millions of dollars.

Seek's avatar

Oh, COOL!

Cruiser's avatar

I would argue their conclusion here…

“Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. ”

When you look at who these top tier political donating organizations are, 7 of the top ten organizations are union and employee based groups. Plus these pacs get their money from the employees donations so the employees IMO do have a voice in this regards. Granted most of the money probably comes from management donations and not the rank and file.

What was interesting is the majority of top donor groups tilt Democratic and the Koch Brothers showed up in an unimpressive 46th place. To me the real issue is our economy and jobs. I know I am not smart enough to even begin to sift through policies that will stabilize and grow the economy and why I vote for the people I think are smart enough to do the job I expect them to do. I also vote in the most effective way I know many times a day and that is with my wallet. I will not patronize companies that are clearly in it just for the profits, that outsource or have offshore bank accounts.

So in the end I do not see this elite few people are trying to demonize controlling our politics….it is obvious PACS now have more power to bankroll their messages that they did not have before. What needs to change is people doing the homework they should do to elect the right people to office and not be led around by the nose by these Liberal and Conservative pacs and most of all stop believing everything you read as factual.

Kropotkin's avatar

@Cruiser You didn’t read the study did you?

Cruiser's avatar

@Kropotkin I actually did and why it took me so long to reply. It’s all generalizations with fancy college words. Their list of usual suspects is mostly the same list I provided. It just depends on how you choose to interpret the facts. I don’t see it as neatly as they apparently think it is or should be. Anybody can take facts and twist them to make a point of view….I just don’t happen to agree or see it as that neat…to me it is a much more complicated mess with more layers than they are willing to either admit or take the time to make sense of.

I admit I am not the smartest guy in the sandbox but I am smart enough to see through the talking point smoke and mirrors and draw my own conclusions and form my own opinions.

Plus at my age I have been around the block on this stuff….I went from a blind party line Democrat in my 20’s to a man who learned the hard way to get my own facts and make an informed choice in the political matters that directly affect me, my family and my business and why I am a conservative independent.

bolwerk's avatar

Fucking science and its generalizations.

Kropotkin's avatar

@Cruiser Then you’ll know that the study looked at policy cases from between 1981 and 2002, and that it makes absolutely no mention of the Koch brothers, nor does it contain any list of “usual suspects”.

You’ll also have learned that unions, despite whatever donations they make to the Democrat party in election years (they’re absolutely dwarfed during Presidential campaigns, and barely register in lobbying) have little to no influence on policy decisions, despite actually having the best correlation with most average people for desired policies.

”. . . it is obvious PACS now have more power to . . . ”

The study looks at data from 1981 to 2002. Now is even worse.

“What needs to change is people doing the homework they should do to elect the right people to office and not be led around by the nose by . . .”

How do you think potential candidates arise in the first place? What sort of background do you think they have? Half of congress are millionaires. Conducting an election campaign takes a huge amount of funds. The type of people involved are career politicians who have to appeal to the ideology and interests of the rich (which they likely share anyway) to secure the needed funds.

And how do people do homework on candidates who hire small armies of PR managers and marketing experts to look and sound more appealing than they really are? And who say things people think they like to hear? And we’ve not even go onto the larger system of propaganda in place which shapes people’s attitudes and opinions (that includes you) so that they align more with the elites.

”. . . who learned the hard way to get my own facts and make an informed choice in the political matters that directly affect me, my family and my business and why I am a conservative independent.”

Well, isn’t that just swell. Do you think there’s many people who don’t think they’re informed? I come across a lot of cocksure people who think they’re well-informed, and get their “own facts”, and they’re demonstrably wrong about all sorts of things.

Cruiser's avatar

@Kropotkin If you read the Princeton study then you would have seen their list of the nefarious oligarchy we are supposed to be so afraid of….

Airlines
American Bankers Association
American Council of Life Insurance
American Farm Bureau Federation
American Hospital Association
American Medical Association
Association of Trial Lawyers
Automobile companies
Chamber of Commerce
Computer software and hardware
Credit Union National Association
Defense contractors
Electric companies
Health Insurance Association
Independent Insurance Agents of America
Motion Picture Association of America
National Association of Broadcasters
National Association of Home Builders
National Association of Manufacturers
National Association of Realtors
National Beer Wholesalers Association
National Federation of Independent Business
National Restaurant Association
Oil Companies
Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers
Recording Industry Association
Securities and investment companies
Telephone companies
Tobacco companies
Mass-based groups
AARP
AFL-CIO
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees
American Israel Public Affairs Committee
American Legion
Christian Coalition
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
National Rifle Association
National Right to Life Committee
United Auto Workers union
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.
Not coded as either business or mass-based
National Education Association (includes a mass base of teachers but also university professors)
National Governors’ Association (affected by interest groups rather than acting as an independent group)
Universities (unclear status as businesses or nonprofits)

IMO they are the very groups I/we all depend on for conducting our day to day lives and would much rather have them influencing legislation than politicians left to their own devices.

And if you go to the links I provided you can pop your own bubble and take note that the majority of top campaign Pacs are tilted to the Dems. Facts are frisky little critters.

ragingloli's avatar

just another variant of the “Benevolent dictator” nonsense. good lord.

bolwerk's avatar

@ragingloli: you mean, good lords! They pay tribute to their oligarchic overlords.

jerv's avatar

@Cruiser Actually, most are tilted towards their own self interest and merely choose whichever side they feel can serve them best.

bolwerk's avatar

Many make at least a token bid on both horses.

Cruiser's avatar

@bolwerk I agree and why IMO all this does not fit the framework of an Oligarchy. But it is the ones that are heavily tilted to either side that I have issue with. Those are the special interest groups that are bent on forcing change that is against the best interest of all layers of the populace.

The only leg this argument of Oligarchy has a leg to stand on is the apathy of John Q Public. If people would get off their collective asses and vote like they should, these special interest groups would be neutralized by the will of the people.

Kropotkin's avatar

@Cruiser They were comparing different theories of policy influence, which included the role that interest groups play in US politics. The groups included business-oriented ones, and mass-based ones. I’m sorry that I didn’t know what the hell you were referring to when mentioning “usual suspects” in this context.

You also keep poisoning the well with your terms—“usual suspects”, and now “nefarious oligarchy”. Those interest groups include trade unions and things that have nothing to do with business. They also concluded that these non-business groups have very little influence, so they’re not part of the “nefarious oligarchy”.

“IMO they are the very groups I/we all depend on for conducting our day to day lives and would much rather have them influencing legislation than politicians left to their own devices.”

That’s nice. You’ll be happy to learn that they do influence legislation, along with wealthy individuals. But why do you think the alternative is “politicians being left to their own devices”? You know, they could actually represent the people who vote for them, and do their bidding!

“And if you go to the links I provided you can pop your own bubble and take note that the majority of top campaign Pacs are tilted to the Dems. Facts are frisky little critters.”

Your one link didn’t have much to do about anything. The study is about which groups and what sort of people influence political decisions. This isn’t about the Democrats or Republicans.

I don’t know why you think your one link was relevant to anything. It’s the current state of donations for the 2014 election cycle. The data was released on the 10th of March. Yes, it’s mainly unions so far, and it’s going to the Democrats. So what? What are you trying to say?

Why not take glance at the lobbying for last year? Lobbying is the mechanism for influencing legislation and policy decision, and that is what this study was about.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

@Seek Somewhere up there you mention someone has or is making laws outlawing private personal vegetable gardens.
I recently discovered that there are towns and municipalities in the US outlawing personal collection of rainwater as a source of drinking water and bathing water. Or for their now illegal personal garden(s).
Now that I have re-read the definition of an oligarchy then I have to agree that the US is and has always been one.
One interesting way to do anything about this criminally insane system of government is to use their own laws against them.
Like there is this law that now forces us to recognize corporations as if they are human beings in a court of law. That is to say that “the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized corporations as having the same rights as natural persons to contract and to enforce contracts.”
I think that if enough people were to bring lawsuits against corporations for how they are criminally ruining life as we know it, there might soon be a groundswell that could break their hold on us.
The only other way I can see is a way that most people here would find unacceptable due to their personal beliefs.
That is to stop using money (cash / dollars /pounds etc) and go to a barter system bartering services and/or artwork or items you make on your loom. Completely turn our backs on the wealthy elite and let them try to eat their cash and gold.
Since this is not going to happen, I have found my own way which was quite simply befriending the Creator and making my way through life on my terms with her help.

it is working admirably, thank you very much.

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