With the recent 2016 presidential election finally coming to a close, America seems more divided than ever. A business magnate claiming to be “anti-establishment” is set to be our new president; a decision that has left many people scratching their heads, wondering what the hell is going on with the country.
Ask any American what kind of government is best and they’ll likely tell you “Democracy! It’s the best governing system in the world.” It’s a sentiment that has been drilled into our brains since we were little kids. Meritocracy reigns supreme and you get back what you put in. But, what if I told you that America isn’t actually a democracy? Would you be upset? Would it rub you the wrong way to learn that it’s really an oligarchy ran by a few powerful groups of people?
Because that’s exactly what one study conducted by the University of Princeton and Northwestern University discovered after analyzing extensive policy data ranging from 1981 to 2002.
The report, titled “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens,” looked at almost 1,800 U.S. policies put in place over that 20-year time period, comparing them to the preferences expressed by average Americans (50th percentile of income), wealthy Americans (90th percentile of income), and special interests groups. What did they find? America is highly influenced and controlled by the economic elite.
The peer-reviewed study confirms what many of us have known for years and is set to be taught in universities around the country, as it maintains that “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."
Furthermore, researchers all agreed that American government policies very rarely represent the preferences of the majority of the people who live in the country, as they typically favor corporate lobbyists and special interests groups.
"When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized 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."
They did find that the politics of average Americans and affluent Americans coincided occasionally, but that this wasn’t representative of anything, as the average American’s interests being served occurred exclusively when they also served the richest 10% of the population.
This study comes in light of record-low approval ratings of the United States Congress, as well as the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court case that got rid of campaign-contribution limits.
h/t Business Insider