Princeton Study: The U.S. Is Not ‘Losing’ Its Democracy, It’s Already Long Gone

The notion that citizens of the United States don’t actually live in a democracy has been picking up steam for decades, with scars from economic, social and political decay inflicting themselves ever more deeply into our psyches as the years move on.

You would think that, with the rise of science and technology, we would have been able to build a far more prosperous nation. Instead, we have seen a vast reduction in our standard of living, and are being forced to work longer and harder in increasingly menial and unfulfilling jobs across the board. We are ever more being subjected to the control-hungry vicissitudes of mega-corporations that are swallowing up American entrepreneurship and prosperous self-employment.

The notion that we as individuals are failing ourselves as a nation, and somehow have earned the massive and growing national debt as a result of our own poor decisions and ineptitude, is only valid if you still believe that we are living in a democracy, where the majority of individuals directly make policy. If in fact the United States ever fully operated this way, the least we can say is that our democracy is currently broken.

Of course, if you are in the small coterie of economic elites at the top of the pyramid, you don’t feel that anything is broken. In fact, in the back rooms where all the important meetings take place, you likely spend part of the time congratulating each other because things are going exactly according to plan.

Princeton Study

A study by two political scientists at Princeton and Northwestern, Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, analyzed 1,779 recent policy outcomes found that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy,” while average citizens “have little or no independent influence.”

The research had two parts: First, they measured the amount of political influence various groups have in America. Then, they checked this against some technical definitions of democracy, oligarchy, and other forms of government.

In our latest episode of The Collective Evolution Show on CETV, Joe Martino and I discuss this study and the broader notion of whether the system itself is simply broken and can be fixed, or if we should start thinking about how we can move away from it altogether. The opening clip is below, and for the full episode and hundreds of other inspiring shows and interviews, you can start a free 7-day trial on CETV today.

The Wealthy Have More Influence

The chart below shows how much political influence different groups have in America today. Not only do the wealthy have the most influence, ordinary voters have basically none.


To have “political influence” in this case means that Congress responds to you by passing the laws and policies you like. Low influence means you’re ignored — Congress passes laws that have no relationship to what you want.

Special interest groups also have sway over public policy. The researchers divided them into two types. “Mass” interest groups, which represent large groups of organized citizens, have a small amount of power. Business groups, like trade associations, have a moderate amount, likely because they can afford to spend more on lobbying and political donations.

None of this means that ordinary people never get what they want from Congress. Sometimes public opinion data matched up with things Congress actually did. However the vast majority were also outcomes favored by the wealthy and business interests. Statistically speaking, the government doesn’t care what 90% of Americans think.

America Is an Oligarchy

The authors defined four possible systems we might have: (1) democracy, (2) oligarchy, or semi-democratic systems dominated by (3) interest groups generally or (4) business groups especially. You can look at the chart below and judge for yourself: America in 2014 matches mostly with the oligarchy model — an oligarchy of wealthy individuals. In fact, the general public has even less influence than it does in a typical oligarchy model.

The problem here isn’t the existence of wealth, or that wealthy Americans have political opinions. It’s that the government is representing only 10% of the American people. Everyone else is living with something less than democracy.

The authors make the following observations: Organized groups regularly lobby and fraternize with public officials; move through revolving doors between public and private employment; provide self-serving information to officials; draft legislation; and spend a great deal of money on election campaigns.

At its heart, this is a problem of corruption – caused by money in our political system. Such corruption is fundamentally opposed to the ideals of our republic because “the public is likely to be a more certain guardian of its own interests than any feasible alternative.”

The Takeaway

While some might argue that introducing new campaign finance laws as well as anti-corruption legislation is the answer, we have to remember that the foxes remain in charge of the hen house, and there is always resistance from lawmakers to introduce, implement, and enforce legislation that will reduce their power and ultimately find them guilty of having obtained their power through corrupt means. More than likely this problem will only get solved when we amass the collective will to walk away from this system, and create one that is more aligned with our values and aspirations.

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25 thoughts on “Princeton Study: The U.S. Is Not ‘Losing’ Its Democracy, It’s Already Long Gone”

  1. Pingback: The Supreme Court's new attack on the accurate to privacy was planned for 50 years - Popular Post
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  5. While the impeachment parade/charade/theater distraction has continued, BOTH SIDES have sneaked through a renewal of the infamous Patriot Act…

    Here’s an excerpt from a new ZH article:

    This, according to Washington Post reporter Robert O’Harrow, Jr., was a fantasy that “had been brewing in the law enforcement world for a long time.” And 9/11 provided the government with the perfect excuse for conducting far-reaching surveillance and collecting mountains of information on even the most law-abiding citizen.

    Federal agents and police officers are now authorized to conduct covert black bag “sneak-and-peak” searches of homes and offices while you are away and confiscate your personal property without first notifying you of their intent or their presence.

    The law also granted the FBI the right to come to your place of employment, demand your personal records and question your supervisors and fellow employees, all without notifying you; allowed the government access to your medical records, school records and practically every personal record about you; and allowed the government to secretly demand to see records of books or magazines you’ve checked out in any public library and Internet sites you’ve visited (at least 545 libraries received such demands in the first year following passage of the Patriot Act).

    In the name of fighting terrorism, government officials are now permitted to monitor religious and political institutions with no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing; prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they tell anyone that the government has subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation; monitor conversations between attorneys and clients; search and seize Americans’ papers and effects without showing probable cause; and jail Americans indefinitely without a trial, among other things.

    ((The only true terrorists I have seen is the US, INC.!))

  6. Pingback: Using the "protection of children" to censor the internet: YouTube + COPPA = GAME OVER - James Fetzer
      1. As always, thanks for what you do in the name of truth.
        And wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving to you and your family.

    1. I trust many watched the entire video. it’s beyond mind-blowing. 50,000,000,000,000 MISSING.
      Ever wonder what FIFTY trillion dollars would look like? The following is ONE trillion…notice the small human figure in the left hand corner…those are pallets of ONE million dollars. Now, multiply that image by 50 and you’ll have some idea of the money that is missing.


  7. Happy Thanksgiving ya’ll. I enjoy and appreciate your comments often as much as I enjoy the article. This week I am trying to focus on the positive. Trump with all his worts is still my President. And the walking dead and soul-less of Adam “Shaft”, Bellagosi Pelosi, Soiled Waters, Shumer the doomed are still tilting and windmills… they got nothing. I predict a landslide for the Republicans in 2020. The elections that are the easiest to rig are the close ones, my bet is there will be fewer of those. There’s a rising star in the Republican party. Ever heard of Nick Freitas? He won the Virginia House race as a write in candidate! When he made a speech against gun “control”, the Dim-O-Craps had to leave the room holding their ears shut because Nick eviscerates them like a fresh deer kill field dressing. The US desperately needs more real men like Nick, unabashed to defend the Bill of Rights against the onslaught of the collectivists

  8. Consider this: Why is it we are fined for all sorts of acts like jay walking, speeding, failing to pay taxes on time, parking cars on lawns, etc. but not fined for failing to vote? Why are all these other acts penalized with a fine providing easy money to government while the act of voting is voluntary? Here is the answer: Voting is a joke most of the time. Most elections result in minority rule not majority rule. Most of the time a majority of the registered voters does not even show up at the polls, let alone elect a candidate or pass a tax increase. Often incumbents are automatically re elected if they have no opposition. Most so called “elections” are plurality rule, not majority rule. If a single registered voter shows up and votes for a candidate or ballot issue or tax increase, and no one shows up to vote against, they “win” or the tax increase passes!
    This is a joke. Why no laws demanding that no candidate is elected or no tax increase or ballot issue passes unless and until a majority of the registered voters say so period? Wouldn’t this be honest democracy instead of the dishonest minority rule we have most of the time? How about a $10,000 fine every time you don’t vote? The point is they don’t want true majority rule because that would be too hard to run our minority governments then wouldn’t it? It is much easier to run government and allow people to be fooled into believing that is democracy when it is nothing but insidious tyrannical minority rule again. Let government fall apart until the voters get up off their rear ends and decide to vote! And this does not even count those opinions of the group of non registered voters at all.

    1. Winfield….Interesting post.
      I have no problem stating I de-registered quite a while back. Why? Because I have no way to know my vote is counted or is counted correctly. Do you?
      We need independently verified paper ballots where we each get a copy of our ballot/vote.
      Why this is never talked about and basically ignored seems to be because they DO NOT wish your real choices to be heard or to determine who wins.

    1. Ralph…Calling your fellow Americans (I assume you are American) ‘stupid’ is not exactly an endearing approach. It might be better to attempt to inform them as best you can as a more positive approach.
      If I understand that article correctly, Trump is at least trying to woo the American Jew for votes. Let us hope he succeeds. To the writer of that article, the Zionists have seen through that and want him out at all costs. This seems to be a good sign as it reveals that Trumps Zionism is only a convenience. At this point, I know of no one who knows his real strategy.
      It’s not over yet…keep the faith.
      Resignation is a death knell.

      1. Kindly accept my apologies for being insensitive toward my fellow Americans, and perhaps even outright wrong (again).

        But if there a better word than stupid to use for people that would vote for Hillary Clinton for dog catcher, I would like to hear it.

        (Recall that Hillary actually won the popular Presidential vote in 2016)

        And while I’m at it, allow me to also apologize for including the link for that somewhat obtuse article by Israel Shamir exploring Trumps relationship with Jews. There are better articles available to illustrate the point of the subject post.

        I’ll try to up my game (to the extent that may be possible) in order to avoid the withering (and perhaps deserved) criticism I’ve received here of late!

      2. Ralph….We all have off days and say things we wish we hadn’t. That seems to be the nature of self -expression. What’s important is to persist and continue to share ourselves and pray we can make the slightest difference in a world gone mad.

      3. Agreed. I have said similar things on various occasions. They are far more accurate even if equally more blunt than equivocations.

  9. Can any readers help out Dr. Fetzer by uploading The Raw Deal to Due to illness Gus Chambers has been unable to upload the show to for over 2 months. It is going on 3 months and it appears this situation may continue for who knows how long. If there are any tech wizards reading this site, please consider offering to upload The Raw Deal (and the Real Deal) to Dr. Fetzer misses a lot of listeners who are unable to catch his show live and are unable to afford paying for Archive access on Revolution Radio. Thanks.

  10. Any nation where a President can be practically decapitated in public in the presence of his wife on a sunny day and then the crime immediately covered up by several fictitious investigations is a failed nation.

    The same for that nation where several huge buildings in its largest city are destroyed by nuclear munitions and that crime covered up with bogus commission reports is a failed nation.

    There’s another nation on earth that’s an oligarchy….Russia. The USA and Russia are two peas in a pod….only small differences separate the two.

  11. There will be no rising up and there will be no walking away in the numbers needed to make a change or lasting difference. If it has not happened by now, where is the impetus to get it started? The creatures that rule this place wanted a NEW PEARL HARBOR. They got it…….. and so did we.
    It’s just not in the cards. Short of divine intervention, let’s face it…WE ARE STUCK!


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