Friday, November 26, 2010

The best democracy money can buy

After JFK made elections more about style than substance, the need for aspiring US politicians to be wealthy to afford to run for office has been increasing. According to this report, 261 of the members of US Congress are millionaires. That's almost 50%, whereas millionaires are less than 1% of the US population. The effects of big money on the democratic process are generally not healthy.

I don't wish to particularly pick on the USA, since the distorting effects on democracy of hyper-capitalism's concentration of wealth in the hands of a few is not confined to politics of the land of the free very expensive. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. One of the kinds of evil that grows from the way we have set up our society is plutocracy.


Mike W said...

Honestly, I'm surprised that it is only 50%. Has it ever been any different though? Was democracy ever run by anyone but the rich?

Ireland is looking pretty cheap at the moment too. There is more than one way to buy a country

byron smith said...

I wonder how many more would be included if the band was expanded to include those in the top 2% of wealth? And how many would be in the bottom half?

Was it ever different? Yes, it was, at least in the amount of wealth required to run for office. Prior to JFK, high cost professionally managed advertising campaigns selling politicians like soap flakes were not nearly as ubiquitous as they have been since. Still, it would be interesting to see stats on the overrepresentation of wealth throughout the history of democracy. Prior to 19thC voting reforms, only landowners could vote (or run for office), which obviously meant that democracy was run by and for the wealthy.