Paul Kurtz wrote in the Fall 2000 issue of Free Inquiry:
A plutocracy is defined as
“government by the wealthy.” The critical question
that should concern us is whether the United States is
already a plutocracy, and what can be done to limit its
power. This question, unfortunately, will not be taken
seriously by most voters — but it damned well ought to be.
Ancient Greek democracy lasted only a century; the Roman republic survived for four, though it was increasingly weakened as time went on. As AmericaIf America is a plutocracy, it isn’t overtly one — no one has declared an end to the democratic process in favor of rule by the wealthy. (This has changed since the Republicans have held office for too many years, today the GOP is overtly telling us that the wealthy will be in charge -- i.e. Scott Walker, Wisconsin-- whether we like it or not.)
enters its third century we may well ask whether our
democratic institutions will survive and if so in what form.
I don’t think that this is necessary, however, to have a plutocracy. It’s arguable that a more effective plutocracy is one where the people continue to imagine that they are sovereign without having a significant impact on the governing process — or at least not a very significant one in comparison to the impact which the wealthy have.
The mere fact that the wealthy have more
influence, though, shouldn’t make a society a
plutocracy. Wealth is a form of power and this means that the
wealthy will always have a disproportionate amount of power,
no matter how perfectly democratic a society may otherwise
be. Perhaps the real test how easy it is for “the
people” to enact legislation over the objections of
“the wealthy” and various powerful corporate
If nothing can happen without the
support and assistance of powerful corporations and wealthy
individuals, then society is arguably a plutocracy — or
at least one where wealthy corporations are in control. If
the support and assistance of powerful corporate interests is
helpful, but not necessary, for the passage of new laws, then
it’s arguable that society remains reasonably
democratic. MORE HERE
What Conservatives Really WantSamples
George Lakoff | Saturday 19 February 2011
Dedicated to the peaceful protestors in Wisconsin, February 19, 2011.
The central issue in our political life is not being
discussed. At stake is the moral basis of American democracy.
The individual issues are all too real: assaults on unions,
public employees, women's rights, immigrants, the
environment, health care, voting rights, food safety,
pensions, prenatal care, science, public broadcasting and on
Budget deficits are a ruse, as we've seen in Wisconsin, where
the Governor turned a surplus into a deficit by providing
corporate tax breaks, and then used the deficit as a ploy to
break the unions, not just in Wisconsin, but seeking to be
the first domino in a nationwide conservative movement.
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Deficits can be addressed by raising revenue, plugging tax
loopholes, putting people to work and developing the economy
long-term in all the ways the president has discussed. But
deficits are not what really matter to conservatives.
Conservatives really want to change the basis of American
life, to make America run according to the conservative moral
worldview in all areas of life.
In the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama accurately described
the basis of American democracy: empathy — citizens
caring for each other, both social and personal
responsibility — acting on that care, and an ethic of
excellence. From these, our freedoms and our way of life
follow, as does the role of government: to protect and
empower everyone equally. Protection includes safety, health,
the environment, pensions. Empowerment starts with education
and infrastructure. No one can be free without these, and
without a commitment to care and act on that care by one's
The conservative worldview rejects all of that.
Conservatives believe in individual responsibility alone, not
social responsibility. They don't think government should
help its citizens. That is, they don't think citizens should
help each other. The part of government they want to cut is
not the military (we have 174 bases around the world), not
government subsidies to corporations, not the aspect of
government that fits their worldview. They want to cut the
part that helps people. Why? Because that violates individual
But where does that view of individual responsibility alone
The way to understand the conservative moral system is to
consider a strict father family. The father is The Decider,
the ultimate moral authority in the family. His authority
must not be challenged. His job is to protect the family, to
support the family (by winning competitions in the
marketplace), and to teach his kids right from wrong by
disciplining them physically when they do wrong. The use of
force is necessary and required. Only then will children
develop the internal discipline to become moral beings. And
only with such discipline will they be able to prosper. And
what of people who are not prosperous? They don't have
discipline, and without discipline they cannot be moral, so
they deserve their poverty. The good people are hence the
prosperous people. Helping others takes away their
discipline, and hence makes them both unable to prosper on
their own and function morally.
The market itself is seen in this way. The slogan, "Let
the market decide" assumes the market itself is The
Decider. The market is seen as both natural (since it is
assumed that people naturally seek their self-interest) and
moral (if everyone seeks their own profit, the profit of all
will be maximized by the invisible hand). As the ultimate
moral authority, there should be no power higher than the
market that might go against market values. Thus the
government can spend money to protect the market and promote
market values, but should not rule over it either through (1)
regulation, (2) taxation, (3) unions and worker rights, (4)
environmental protection or food safety laws, and (5) tort
cases. Moreover, government should not do public service. The
market has service industries for that.
Thus, it would be wrong for the government to provide health
care, education, public broadcasting, public parks and so on.
The very idea of these things is at odds with the
conservative moral system. No one should be paying for anyone
else. It is individual responsibility in all arenas. Taxation
is thus seen as taking money away from those who have earned
it and giving it to people who don't deserve it. Taxation
cannot be seen as providing the necessities of life for a
civilized society, and, as necessary, for business to
In conservative family life, the strict father rules. Fathers
and husbands should have control over reproduction; hence,
parental and spousal notification laws and opposition to
abortion. In conservative religion, God is seen as the strict
father, the Lord, who rewards and punishes according to
individual responsibility in following his Biblical word.
Above all, the authority of conservatism itself must be
maintained. The country should be ruled by conservative
values, and progressive values are seen as evil. Science
should have authority over the market, and so the science of
global warming and evolution must be denied. Facts that are
inconsistent with the authority of conservatism must be
ignored or denied or explained away. To protect and extend
conservative values themselves, the devil's own means can be
used against conservatism's immoral enemies, whether lies,
intimidation, torture or even death, say, for women's
Freedom is defined as being your own strict father - with
individual, not social, responsibility, and without any
government authority telling you what you can and cannot do.
To defend that freedom as an individual, you will, of course,
need a gun.
This is the America that conservatives really want. Budget
deficits are convenient ruses for destroying American
democracy and replacing it with conservative rule in all
areas of life.
What is saddest of all is to see Democrats helping them.
Democrats help radical conservatives by accepting the deficit
frame and arguing about what to cut. Even arguing against
specific "cuts" is working within the conservative
frame. What is the alternative? Pointing out what
conservatives really want. Point out that there is plenty of
money in America, and in Wisconsin. It is at the top. The
disparity in financial assets is un-American - the top one
percent has more financial assets than the bottom 95 percent.
Middle-class wages have been flat for 30 years, while the
wealth has floated to the top. This fits the conservative way
of life, but not the American way of life.
Democrats help conservatives by not shouting out loud, over
and over, that it was conservative values that caused the
global economic collapse: lack of regulation and a
Democrats also help conservatives by what a friend has called
"Democratic Communication Disorder." Republican
conservatives have constructed a vast and effective
communication system, with think tanks, framing experts,
training institutes, a system of trained speakers, vast
holdings of media and booking agents. Eighty percent of the
talking heads on TV are conservatives. Talk matters, because
language heard over and over changes brains. Democrats have
not built the communication system they need, and many are
relatively clueless about how to frame their deepest values
and complex truths.
And Democrats help conservatives when they function as policy
wonks — talking policy without communicating the moral
values behind the policies. They help conservatives when they
neglect to remind us that pensions are deferred payments for
work done. "Benefits" are pay for work, not a
handout. Pensions and benefits are arranged by contract. If
there is not enough money for them, it is because the
contracted funds have been taken by conservative officials
and given to wealthy people and corporations instead of to
the people who have earned them.
Democrats help conservatives when they use conservative words
like "entitlements" instead of "earnings"
and speak of government as providing "services"
instead of "necessities."
Is there hope?
I see it in Wisconsin, where tens of thousands citizens see
through the conservative frames and are willing to flood the
streets of their capital to stand up for their rights. They
understand that democracy is about citizens uniting to take
care of each other, about social responsibility as well as
individual responsibility, and about work - not just for your
own profit, but to help create a civilized society. They
appreciate their teachers, nurses, firemen, police and other
public servants. They are flooding the streets to demand real
democracy - the democracy of caring, of social responsibility
and of excellence, where prosperity is to be shared by those
who work and those who serve.
Source URL: http://www.truth-out.org/what-conservatives-really-want67907
"During the past twenty-five years the
corporate-conservative coalition has formed an uneasy
alliance within the Republican Party with what is sometimes
called the 'New Right' or 'New Christian Right,' which
consists for the most part of middle-level religious groups
concerned with a wide range of 'social issues,' such as
teenage sexual and drinking behavior, abortion, and prayer in
school. I describe the alliance as an 'uneasy' one because
the power elite and the New Right do not have quite the same
priorities, except for a general hostility to government and
liberalism, and because it is not completely certain that the
New Right is helping the corporate-conservative coalition as
much as its publicists and fund-raisers claim. Nevertheless,
ultraconservatives within the power elite help to finance
some of the single-issue organizations and publications of
the New Right . . . .
"Despite their preponderant power within the federal
government and the many useful policies it carries out for
them, members of the power elite are constantly critical of
government as an alleged enemy of freedom and economic
growth. Although their wariness toward governemnt is
expressed in terms of a dislike for taxes and government
regulations, I believe their underlying concern is that
government could change the power relations in the private
sphere by aiding average Americans through a number of
different avenues: (1) creating government jobs for the
unemployed; (2) making health, unemployment, and welfare
benefits more generous; (3) helping employees gain greater
workplace rights and protections; and (4) helping workers
organize unions. All of these initiatives are opposed by
members of the power elite because they would increase wages
and taxes, but the deepest opposition is toward any
government support for unions because unions are a potential
organizational base for advocating the whole range of issues
opposed by the corporate rich."
"Americans have always believed that anyone can rise
from rags to riches if they try hard enough, but in fact a
rise from the bottom to the top is very rare and often a
matter of luck—being at the right place at the right
time. . . . Since 1982 the Horatio Alger story line has been
taken up by Forbes, a business magazine that each year
publishes a list of the allegedly 400 richest Americans.
'Forget old money,' says the article that introduces the 1996
list. 'Forget silver spoons. Great fortunes are being created
almost monthly in the U.S. today by young entrepreneurs who
hadn't a dime when we created this list 14 years ago. . . .'
But the Horatio Alger story is no less rare today than it was
in the 1890s. A study of all those on the Forbes list for
1995 and 1996 showed that at least 56 percent came from
millionaire families and that another 14 percent came from
the top 10 percent of the income ladder. But even these
figures are probably an underestimate because it is so
difficult to obtain accurate information on family origins
from those who want to obscure their pasts. Even those in the
upwardly mobile 30 percent often had excellent educations or
other advantages. . . . .
"Contrary to Forbes . . . most upward social mobility in
the United States involves relatively small changes for those
who are above the lowest 20 percent and below the top 5
percent." MORE HERE
PS: This is real (although it seems like it should be just a badNOW VIEW: Rachel Maddow - BAKE SALES VS. BILLIONAIRES
dream) We-The-People are about to lose that status and become
We-The-Slaves to Corporate/Wealthy Interests. It is so
obvious but so many will deliberately refuse to see it just
to prove a point. It won't be the rich and powerful that
takes us down it will be the foolish. tb
"A fool contributes nothing worth hearing and takes offense at everything." Aristotle