Jeffrey Winters wrote an informative book entitled Oligarchy in which he explains the different types of oligarchies, and talks specifically about where American politics is in all this. One of his findings is something called a Civil Oligarchy, which he makes a claim that America is one. I’ll let the following excerpt explain this for you.
Contemporary America (along with other capitalist states) instead houses a kind of “civil oligarchy.” The big difference is that property rights are now guaranteed by the impersonal laws of an armed state. Even oligarchs, who can be disarmed for the first time in history and no longer need to rule directly, must submit to the rule of law for this modern “civil” arrangement to work. When oligarchs do enter government, it is more for vanity than to rule as or for oligarchs. Good examples are New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former presidential candidate Ross Perot and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Another feature of American oligarchy is that it allows oligarchs to hire skilled professionals, middle- and upper-class worker bees, to labor year-round as salaried, full-time political advocates and defenders of the oligarchy. Unlike those backing ordinary politicians, the oligarchs’ professional forces require no ideological invigoration to keep going. In other words, they function as a very well-paid mercenary army.
Whatever views and interests may divide the very rich, they are united in being materially focused and materially empowered. The social and political tensions associated with extreme wealth bond oligarchs together even if they never meet, and sets in motion the complex dynamics of wealth defense. Oligarchs do overlap with each other in certain social circles that theorists of the elite worked hard to map. But such networks are not vital to their power and effectiveness. Oligarchic theory requires no conspiracies or backroom deals. It is the minions oligarchs hire who provide structure and continuity to America’s civil oligarchy.
How has this affected America? Well as Jane Mayer explains so well in her book Dark Money, the richest of the 1%; in other words, the richest .01% of American society has put its money where its interests are. They have taken advantage of tax laws to create tax-free Trusts which in turn fund think tanks, and non-profits. That all sounds good, right? Aren’t non-profits usually do-gooders for society as a whole? Well, believe it or not, a non-profit does not have to actually benefit society as a whole. Crazy? Well, yes, until you realize that a non-profit is actually simply a tax term and a way to avoid paying any – taxes, I mean. These non-profits are then funded by the Trusts and/or the think tanks to push an agenda meant to specifically benefit the extremely wealthy. Just a note, when the extreme wealthy set up a Trust, and then donate the interest of the capital to non-profits for 20 years, no taxes need to be paid by the Trust – at all, ever. Of course, the owners of these trusts have set up their own non-profits to help push policies which in turn will benefit themselves.
So what, you say? Well if you think that this doesn’t impact your life, you are indeed mistaken. In the book Dark Money, Mayer has of course done her homework as an actual investigative journalist and shown us all exactly how this has impacted our lives. As an example, the Koch brothers decided that since they were being fined by the EPA (numerous times) for polluting the air and water, they would create a Trust, which in turn created “Think-Tanks” which would then write “papers” against the EPA. Please note, a “paper” put out by any think tank does not get “peer reviewed”, and can therefore state anything the writer (or the writer’s boss) wants it to say. These are not scientific papers, just opinion papers masquerading as scientific papers. These papers then get published and become used as a truth by politicians to push the .01% opinions. Have you ever wondered where certain politicians get their numbers from when they are pushing an idea? This is why some people believe that the earth is flat; that it is only 6,000 years old; and that there is no such thing as Global Warming. Think tank papers – not “peer reviewed” scientific papers, used to advance agendas that benefit no one but the extreme wealthy.
Now, how do the non-profits fit into this puzzle? They also can fund politicians, however, if you fund politicians from a non-profit, you can hide where the money funding the politician has come from. Pretty clever, no? That way the .01% of the rich, funding certain politicians can remain hidden. Unless of course, you’ve got an investigative reporter who’s been on your tail for many many years, collecting evidence and following the money. This process has come to be called “dark money”, since it’s extremely difficult to find out who exactly is providing the funding.
Some of the Trusts and Think Tanks and Non-profits that are exclusively funded by the .01% are as follows: American Legislative Exchange Council; Cato Institute; Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation; Heritage Foundation; Institute for Justice; Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment; Reason Foundation; Federalist Society for law and Public Policy Studies; Institute for Humane Studies; and the list goes on and on. I’m including the link where you can see some more.
Lest you think that I’m “picking” on the Koch family, other families involved in this business include the following: Charles Chase; John M. Olin (who by the way became involved after Olin Corporation was fined for creating “Love Canal” (please look this up); Lewis Powell; Richard Mellon Scaife; Lynn and Harry Bradley. These again, are just a few mentioned in Dark Money.
Do your own research, look everything up, and comment. If you so desire, you can find all the information that I write about here referenced in the back of the book Dark Money. I’d like to know what you think. Let me know if you found this easy to understand. I plan on publishing the next post in this series next Wednesday.