Plutocracy is rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth.
In a plutocracy, the degree of
economic inequalityis high while the level of social mobilityis low.
This can apply to a multitude of government systems, as the key elements of plutocracy transcend and often occur concurrently with the features of those systems.
The word "plutocracy" (Modern Greek: πλουτοκρατία - "ploutokratia") is derived from the ancient Greek root "ploutos", meaning wealth and "kratein", meaning to rule or to govern.
The term "plutocracy" is generally used to describe two distinct concepts: one of a historical nature and one of a modern political nature. The former indicates the political control of the state by an
oligarchyof the wealthy. Examples of such plutocracies include some city-states in Ancient Greece, the civilization of Carthage, the Italian merchant republics of Veniceand Florence, and Genoa.
Kevin Phillips, author and political strategist to U.S. President
Richard Nixon, argues that the United Statesis a plutocracy in which there is a "fusion of money and government." [ [http://www.pbs.org/now/transcript/transcript_phillips.html NOW with Bill Moyers. Transcript. Bill Moyers Interviews Kevin Phillips. 4.09.04 | PBS ] ] .
The second usage of "plutocracy" is a
pejorativereference to a disproportionate influence the wealthy are said to have on political process in contemporary society. Positive influence includes campaign contributions and bribes; negative influence includes refusing to support the government financially by refusing to pay taxes, threatening to move profitable industries elsewhere, and so on. It can also be exerted by the owners and ad buyers of media properties which can shape public perception of political issues. Recent examples include Rupert Murdoch's News Corp's alleged political agendas in Australia, the UK [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1810266,00.html Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | Rupert Murdoch is effectively a member of Blair's cabinet ] ] and the United States or the oil industry oligarchy, and billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, which may back right-leaning political action committees(PACs), as well as billionaire George Soros' efforts to influence US politics by backing left-leaning PACs.
Recently, there have been numerous cases of wealthy individuals and organizations exerting financial pressure on governments to pass favorable legislation. (see:
Lobbying) Most western democracies permit partisan organizations to raise funds for politicians, and it is well-known that political parties frequently accept significant donations from various individuals (either directly or through corporate institutions). Ostensibly this should have no effect on the legislative decisions of elected representatives; however it would be unlikely that no politicians are influenced by these contributions. Some describe these donations as bribes, although legally they are not. In the United States, campaign finance reformefforts seek to ameliorate this situation. However, campaign finance reform must successfully challenge officials who are beneficiaries of the system which allows this dynamic in the first place. This has led many reform advocates to suggest taxpayer dollars be used to replace private campaign contributions, these reforms are often called clean money, clean electionsreform as opposed to simply campaign finance reform which does not address the conflict of interest involved where most or all of the campaign money is from private, often for-profit sources. Critics of so-called clean elections point out that that having the government decide which candidates would receive tax dollars and therefore be allowed to run would create an effective dictatorshipwhere the government decides who the people can vote for.
Forms of control
A Plutocracy is a government controlled by a minuscule proportion of extremely wealthy individuals found in most societies. In many forms of government, those in power benefit financially, sometimes enough to belong to the aforementioned wealthy class.
Classically, a plutocracy was an
oligarchy, which is to say a government controlled by the wealthy few. Usually this meant that these ‘plutocrats’ controlled the executive, legislative and judicial aspects of government, the armed forces, and most of the natural resources. To a certain degree, there are still some situations in which private corporations and wealthy individuals may exert such strong influence on governments, that the effect can arguably be compared to a plutocracy.
If there are no forms of control within the society, the plutocracy can easily collapse into a
kleptocracy, "reign of thieves", where the powerholders attempt to confiscate as much public funds as possible as their private property. A kleptocratic state is usually thoroughly corrupt, has very little production and its economy is unstable. Many failed states represent kleptocracies.
* [http://progressiveliving.org/plutocracy_defined.htm "Plutocracy Defined"]
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