I haven’t done a Words Unveiled post in at least a week. I guess I was at a loss for words to unveil that would be worth reading about.
Luckily, I came across one today in the most unlikely place. I was at the gym, lifting weights, transferring my attention between two TVs: one was broadcasting the Texans-Ravens game and the other was showing a generic news program with the generic ‘talking political heads’ discussing the economy. The footer on the screen indicated that the ‘talking head’ on the screen at that time was a woman who had recently written a book about plutocracy.
That got my attention away from the football game (easy at that point because the Texans were blitzing the Ravens). I didn’t really have to worry too much about missing anything; it was late in the 3rd quarter, with a 30-point spread. Texans were guaranteed a win no matter what the Ravens brought on.
So, like it or not, today’s word is plutocracy.
What is plutocracy? The mini-blurb on the footer of the news program show defined it this way: when the super-rich edge everybody else out of the economy. The middle class becomes marginalized financially. Or something like that.
That definition screamed at me for more research at the same time that it reminded me, painfully, of how few basics from college history and political science that I actually remember.
Ouch! So, I hit up Google.
Wikipedia confirmed the basic definition, and in a more concise manner:
Plutocracy is “rule by the wealthy.”
Basically, if you have money…a lot of it…you can sway politics.
Here are some facts to think about:
- It is not rooted in a political philosophy. This means that it can happen in any political system or environment. Democrat, Republican, Socialist, Communist, Independent…everyone is welcome. Just bring your checkbook.
- It is usually referred to in a pejorative sense. This means that it is not a compliment when someone refers to you or your political leanings as ‘plutocratic’.
- Endorsing it, or even tolerating it, can lead to class conflict, ignoring social responsibilities, and corruption by greed.
- Examples of historical plutocracies include the Roman Empire, certain city-states of Ancient Greece, and pre-World War II Japan.
- Modern plutocracy is alive and growing. Whether through PACs, corporations, or wealthy private investors, any money can sway decisions and influence policy.
I guarantee I will be reading Chrystia Freeland’s book Plutocracy: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else. It won’t happen for awhile, because there are a few good reads ahead of hers. But, who knows, I might juggle the list if only to find out how far I have really fallen in the political sphere of influence and how much my one vote truly does NOT count in the current state of democracy in America.
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