The age old question has been asked over and over again, who controls the world? The answer is not as complex as many may think. From the times of the ancient empires of yesterday to the geopolitical world powers of today, there are powerful elements in our modern society who make every effort to ensure their family, friends, associates and networks of influence will always remain in control. Famous banker and oligarch, Mayer Amschel Rothschild has been quoted many times stating “Let us control the money of a nation, and we care not who makes its laws.” Up until now it was always speculation assessing those who were in control. However, with today’s scientific analysis it is easier to determine those countries that have fallen from democracy and or republics into tightly controlled oligarchies. In 2011, it was reported that out of 43,000 multi-national corporations, 40% of the wealth rests in the hands of only 147 of those entities who are able to exert their influence over the rest of the business world. These 147 corporations are further controlled by sovereign wealth funds of the elite which serve as vehicles hiding the true ownership as they participate on the geopolitical stage. The term oligarchy is fitting as it describes the type of government where all power is vested in a dominant class or group of individuals i.e. the top one-percent. The following list may surprise you as it appears as if most legitimate forms of government on this earth eventually succumb to oligarchical control.
India, which holds the title of the “world’s largest democracy,” has recently come into question about whether or not the country truly is a democracy as it boasts to be. Many believe due to India’s elections and the people’s right to vote, that they are indeed a democracy. However, according to International Business Times, an increase in awareness of the social issues such as great social inequality, high illiteracy rates and high poverty rates, it appears as if political leaders are not looking out for the people of India. Rather, many political leaders are tied up within corruption scandals that appear to be much larger than that of the political scandals that occur in the United States. Labeling India as an oligarchy has recently come up in the scandal where India’s income tax department tapped the phone calls of the popular lobbyist Niira Radia. According to NPR, the recorded telephone conversations revealed how the lobbyist was making deals with politicians, journalists and business tycoons. It provided the prime example of why India can and should be categorized as an oligarchy, due to a small circle of wealthy people being able to control the government.
Britain is another country that has taken on the label of becoming an oligarchy. Ferdinand Mount, writes in his book, The New Few: Or a Very British Oligarchy, how income and wages within Britain have become highly unequal and the gap continues to enlarge rather than attempt to close and while the poor have become poorer the rich have become richer. Mount believes that inequality has been able to continue in Britain due to oligarchs. He explains, that while Britain can still maintain its appearance of what he calls a “corroded type of liberal democracy,” oligarchs have been having free reign behind the scenes. The greed and power of the oligarchs has been able to provide them protection throughout the decades while at the same time has stripped the power away from the people of Britain and made them feel disconnected from society.
Russia’s current political system is characterized as a federal presidential republic. Although, it is one country that has a rich history in oligarchy, that many say is still alive and well. According to Business Insider, Russian oligarchs are a product of what was left after the fall of the Soviet Union. State companies had to turn to privatization where Russian banks lent the government money in exchange for temporary stakes in state-owned companies. However, when the government defaulted on their loans, the banks were able keep their stakes, which is where the rich became the elite. As The Fiscal Times reports, currently only 110 people control 35 percent of Russia’s household wealth and it has the highest level of wealth inequality in the world. President and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin works among the oligarchs , such as Igor Sechin, the head of the state oil company Rosneft and Gennady N. Timchenko, co-owner of Russia’s largest oil trading company, balancing them in order to maintain peace. Many of the present oligarchs have been able to expand their business empires due to their connections with Putin.
While China’s political system is widely known to be a Communist Party that has ruled over the country since 1949, the country’s Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party is made up of members that show China is more of an oligarchy when it comes to the country’s political stance. The Politburo meets once a week and makes decisions based on which way they would like to see the country move. However, the committee is made up of China’s elite in order to promote capitalism within the country. It includes China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, who according to Bloomberg has helped his extended family reach a fortune of $367 million which in part is from shares in a state-owned rare earth company. Li Keqiang also sits on the committee and has made his agenda known to want to increase global capital within the Chinese economy by privatizing the rest of the state enterprises. This type of leadership within the Politburo stands for reason on how China can be classified as an oligarchy.
1. The United States
The United States was built upon a foundation of republic that was given to it by the Founding Fathers. When Benjamin Franklin was asked what was produced behind the closed doors of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, he responded immediately with “A republic, if you can keep it.” A republic holds the definition of “a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law. However, this soon dwindled as the U.S. began to slide into a democracy through an evolution of changing policy, laws and eventually culture. The term democracy can be defined as “government by the people, rule of the majority.” Many Americans would like to believe that they still live within a democracy. However, recently the term oligarchy has begun to be used in order to describe who and how the U.S. is led. A recent study titled, Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens, supported this idea by concluding that elitist business groups have a greater impact on U.S. polices when compared to average citizens. To make matters worse, in 2010 the Supreme Court gave corporations and elitists free reign as they are now allowed to put as much of their money into federal campaigns as they wish. This leaves the United States to be controlled by small group of wealthy citizens while the average citizen’s voice remains unheard.