Welcome to the Oligarchy

By Sheila Kennedy

[Originally published at SheilaKennedy.net on April 18, 2014]

A study that will appear in the Fall 2014 issue of Perspectives on Politics, a very highly regarded academic journal, concludes that the U.S. is no longer a democracy. Instead, we have become an oligarchy, and a pretty corrupt one at that. 
“Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.” 
The study provides pretty conclusive evidence that the US government does not represent the interests of the majority of our country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by the rich and powerful. As the Telegraph reports
After sifting through nearly 1,800 US policies enacted in that period and comparing them to the expressed preferences of average Americans (50th percentile of income), affluent Americans (90th percentile) and large special interests groups, researchers concluded that the United States is dominated by its economic elite. 
That domination helps to explain another recent study, this one by French Economist Gabriel Zucman. Zucman looked at international data on what economists call investment positions (each country reports its assets abroad and foreign-owned assets at home). He found that the numbers don’t add up: globally, according to the reports, liabilities substantially outnumbered assets. But that’s mathematically impossible. 

Zucman investigated further; He eventually concluded that the only way to explain such a result is if a lot of money is run through offshore havens, and the ownership doesn’t show up in any country’s national statistics. 

Zucman estimates that the world’s wealthy are using tax havens, including Swiss banks, to hide at least $4.5 trillion but more likely $6 trillion from the tax collectors. That’s $6,000,000,000,000—close to six percent of the entire world’s gross economic output for one year. In other words, as one pundit noted, not chickenfeed. 

Not only are we being governed by wealthy oligarchs, for all intents and purposes–they aren’t even beneficent oligarchs. What’s ours is theirs, what’s theirs is theirs–and they aren’t sharing. 

Welcome to our brave new global economy. The American republic was nice while it lasted.

Sheila Kennedy is a former high school English teacher, former lawyer, former Republican, former Executive Director of Indiana's ACLU, former columnist for the Indianapolis Star, and former young person. She is currently an (increasingly cranky) old person, a Professor of Law and Public Policy at Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis, and Director of IUPUI's Center for Civic Literacy. She writes for the Indianapolis Business Journal, PA Times, and the Indiana Word, and blogs at www.sheilakennedy.net. For those who are interested in more detail, links to an abbreviated CV and academic publications can be found on her blog, along with links to her books..

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XKCD Nails It: Public Ignorance About Free Speech

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NOM's Newest Misleading Advertisement Against LGBT People

Just in time to kick off Easter weekend the National Organization (NOM) posted a misleading new advertisement to their social media late yesterday in an attempt to mislead the public about LGBT equality as it relates to public accommodation and the free market. In the graphic, they highlight three recent examples of public figures and their conflict(s) with laws and opinions that differ with their own views. The main problem with each example? Everything NOM says. Literally.

In the first example - a picture featuring former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich - the graphic claims he was "fired" (for his anti-gay Prop 8 donation and the backlash that subsequently ensued when he took over as CEO). He was not. In fact, he publicly stated he voluntarily stepped down for the good of the company after discussions with the company's board and employees. That is merely the free market at work - not a termination and not the fault of the LGBT advocacy community (which, incidentally, had no role in the entire incident). Now anti-gay conservatives on the other hand...

The second example features Frank Turek - an independent vendor/contractor who was literally not in the employ of the companies mentioned (as conservative media has stated). He contracted with various companies (such as Bank of America and Cisco) to provide seminars to employees - the very employees who originally lodged complaints with their respective companies about him. Jeremy Hooper at Good As You explained, "Frank Turek was an independent vendor with various companies, not an employee. And some of those companies (Cisco and Bank of America) chose not to renew his contract after employees complained about his anti-gay views (which go far beyond marriage). This was a perfectly fair choice for any company to make with one of its consultants, but since Turek was on contract specifically to provide seminars to employees, these employee complaints were even more valid."

Finally, the third person in the example - Aaron Klein of Sweet Cakes - should be highly recognizable to anyone who reads us regularly as we've covered this instance extensively. Klein and his wife refused service to a gay couple claiming it violated their religious beliefs. Their hypocrisy would later be exposed as they gladly violated their religious beliefs for other occasions such as divorces, unmarried parents, stem-cell research, non-kosher barbecues and pagan solstice parties. Prior to the court ruling against them for violating state public accommodation law, the couple actually voluntarily closed their doors due to declining sales. No one "forced" them to stop doing business; the free market worked just as its supposed to. Even staunch libertarians who dislike public accommodation laws typically argue that he free market will weed out businesses that face public backlash for unpopular practices; this is a perfect example of that ideal in practice.

It's truly sad that NOM must resort to blatant lies to keep their cause relevant. For now the graphic is still active throughout their social media accounts. Why not head over and leave a polite message letting them know misinformation and lies only helps the LGBT equality movement?