From a Republic to Oligarchy

Are we there? Note some definitions of an oligarchy:

ol·i·gar·chy (ŏl’ĭ-gär’kē, ō’lĭ-) n. pl. ol·i·gar·chies
Government by a few, especially by a small faction of persons or families.
“oligarchy.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 27 Apr. 2009. <>.


Oligarchy (Greek Ὀλιγαρχία, Oligarkhía) is a form of government where political power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society distinguished by royalty, wealth, family, military powers or occult spiritual hegemony. …

There is a very interesting article in the May 2009 edition of “The Atlantic” which is introduced with the following premise

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises.

America was founded as a representative republic (not a pure democracy, although most people unfortunately blur this most important distinction). Citizens were to go to the seat of a limited government and, especially in the House of Representatives, serve a short while and return home. The notion was they were close to the people, would represent the people’s best interest, and return to their communities. Accountability was automatic.

Now we have professional politicians, people who not only have made governing their life’s occupation and many of whom have known no other calling for the majority of their adult life. They don’t return to their communities in any real sense of the word. Accountability is difficult, almost nonexistent if you think of the recent hue and cry of the people against bailouts and incurring debt to solve a problem created by excessive debt. “They” live by rules far different from those imposed upon the people they were sent to Washington to represent.

Read the article:  Simon Johnson, The Quiet Coup – The Atlantic (May 2009).

The author was economist (see bio snippet below) at the International Monetary Fund — the entity that makes loans to struggling third world countries and emerging markets. What does that have to do with the current conditions in the United States you ask? The author describes desperate debt-laden counties with political systems that increasingly allow the foolish and risk-taking components of the economy to push their problems onto the public section — the people, you and me — due to their political interconnectivity.

Sound familiar?

The argument can be made that while Congress has 535 members, it and the Executive, in concert with critical influences in our economy, have become a small governing group and America has become

a form of government where political power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society distinguished by royalty, wealth, family, …

In other words:  an oligarchy. Consider the following quote

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”
“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Benjamin Franklin (1706–90).

The response is attributed to BENJAMIN FRANKLIN—at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, when queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation—in the notes of Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention.

via 1593. Benjamin Franklin (1706-90). Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

Can we keep it? Or have we already lost it?

Simon Johnson, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, was the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund during 2007 and 2008. He blogs about the financial crisis at, along with James Kwak, who also contributed to this essay.


About Gil Jones

CPA/Attorney/Judge by training and trade. Hobby nut at heart with BMW m/c, computers, ham radio, kayak fishing, photography, hiking and, starting in 2010 some semi-serious running and bicycling (road and mountain bikes). Retired after 16 years on a Texas District Court bench and since 2013 have been mediating cases. I am a Credentialed Distinguished mediator (TMCA).
This entry was posted in serious and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s