Is the United States of America an oligarchy? Why or why not? A recent study has claimed that the United States is an oligarchy. Define the meaning of the word and why or why not the study is...

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Certainly, there are strong arguments that support the contention that the United States is an oligarchy, a government in which the power is vested in a few, or a dominant class such as the rich or a privileged group.

In the report cited from The Telegraph, it is noted, 

The theory of "biased pluralism" that the Princeton and Northwestern researchers believe the US system fits holds that policy outcomes "tend to tilt towards the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations."

This tilt underscores the old saying that "wealth is power" and comes after the Supreme Court decision of McCutcheon v. the Federal Election Commission. Prior to this decision, donors were limited to giving $48,600, but Stephen McCutcheon argued that such a limitation was a violation of his First Amendment right. The court, then, ruled that the Government could not restrict the number of candidates or causes to which a donor gives support. This ruling, then, has allowed the very wealthy to pour money into the campaigns of those politicians who will most benefit their interests.

In studies of voter preferences regarding policies enacted between 1981 and 2002, the Princeton and Northwestern University studies collected data and found that the majority of Americans had little or no influence while wealthy and privileged groups had the greatest impact. Thus, it has been proven that a smaller group of powerful and influential people do carry much influence in the United States. In a telling statement made by Sheldon Adelson, the 12th richest person in America, he seems to confirm that wealth can have political influence as prior to the 2012 presidential election Adelson stated that he was willing to spend "whatever it takes" to get his candidate elected.

Within the structure of government itself, there have been extremely influential politicians and cabinet members as well as the president himself who have effected outcomes that have not always been in line with the desires of the majority of Americans. Lobbyists and the wealthy certainly have wielded strong influence upon members of Congress. [Before his election, Mr. Obama promised that he would not have lobbyists in the White House if he were elected--a statement that implies their power.]When, for example, companies in states in which certain members of Congress live are awarded contracts for government projects and there is evidence that this particular politician received huge sums of money for his/her congressional campaign from the same company or its owner, it is fairly logical to deduce that the wealthy wield political power.