The American Oligarchy

The Aristotelian view of democracy showed democracy as a supreme state of being, promoting equality more than anything. It allowed every person to have as much say in a government as any other person, and yet still allowed individuality to reign. To follow this path of “true” democracy is to follow the path to a perfect country. Yet America, which prides itself on being a truly democratic nation, is filled with corruption and extortion, nothing like the Utopia Aristotle portrayed.

America is in the hands of a select few. A tiny fraction of the population holds any real political power, while the rest simply sit idly by. This goes against the very principle of democracy. Aristotle said of this

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Any one man [of the many] may be inferior [to a man of excellence], but the city-state is made up of many men. Just as a meal done by many is better than a single and simple one, for this reason a mass (ochlos) can judge many things better than any one man. In addition, that which is many is less likely to be corrupted. So, although an individual’s judgment can be corrupted when he is overcome by anger or some other emotion, it is difficult for all to become angry and make erroneous judgments simultaneously. If all the men are good men and good citizens, they are less corruptible than one man.

However, seldom is this the case with American politics. There are far fewer politicians then there are low class workers or unemployed, and yet these politicians decide upon most all of the important decisions the country is faced with. The only time the rest of the people are involved is when these politicians spew out money and promises in an attempt to gain the popularity of the public whom they are so far from.

Although the majority of the United States is low to middle class, the only people in high political positions are those who spend millions of dollars to get where they are. Equality is one of the largest foundations of democracy, and yet those who are not fabulously wealthy or who have not spent all their life attempting to establish themselves as a politician have no chance of becoming a successful one. According to Aristotle, “Justice as understood in democracy is equality, but this considers only part of what is just; the same is true of the notion of justice in oligarchy.” The American system of democracy is anything but equal.

The original Bill of Rights was very clear about having one person represent many. The very first article stated

After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred… …there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred… …there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.

To have one person speak for numbers exceeding thirty thousand is certainly not democratic in its original sense. It is not possible for one man to properly ensure that the differing rights of thirty thousand people are upheld. This article was not ratified, but it was proposed to be Article I of the Bill of Rights. Although America claims to have been founded on the principles of democracy, its very foundations proposed something so very undemocratic that this claim becomes preposterous.

The definition of democracy is “ruled by many”. Many, however, do not rule America. There is another term for this. It is oligarchy, which means, “ruled by few”. America is quite definitely an oligarchy, and it shows many qualities as such. Aristotle referred to Sparta as an oligarchy because its political system was to have two offices elected by the people, as opposed to having everything run by the people. He says

The Spartan common messes were intended to be a democratic institution, but they did not work out that way. Everyone is required to contribute [to the shared meals], but some of them are too poor to do so. The very poorest cannot easily share in the common messes, yet this is the ancestral defining principal of their system of government. Thus the very poor do not have a share in it.

This is the perfect picture of America. The poor cannot contribute, and therefore are left out, pushed aside by the rich, who can rule. This nation is not the democracy Aristotle speaks, but rather an oligarchy very similar to Sparta.

Aristotle’s democracy was a democracy that endorsed equality to its fullest. Instead of forcing the thoughts of everyone through one biased individual, it allowed every person to have a voice. America is not a democracy. It tries very hard to make the people of the world think it is, but it is not. It goes against much of what Aristotle spoke of with fervor. Not everyone has an equal opportunity, nor does everyone have a voice. In fact, equality continues to diminish despite steps taken to push it further. Most of America is a simple façade that can be stripped away with minor effort. It is a mere pretense of democracy that would die out if it were to attempt to become anything

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The American Oligarchy. (2018, Jun 12). Retrieved from