Is America truly a democracy? Professor, philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky doesn’t think so. He believes power resides in the hands of an elite few rather than in the people.
According to him, America “Is not a democratic society and it is not intended to be.” Instead, Chomsky describes America as a polyarchy, a word borrowed from Yale professor Robert Dahl who coined the term his 1956 book, A Preface to Democratic Theory.
Basically, a polyarchy is a system of government where power is vested in three or more persons. The masses are “fragmented and distracted” and allowed to participate in the political process on occasion. According to Chomsky, such a system has been established in America since the constitutional convention in 1787.
“The idea is old. It goes way back to James Madison and the foundation of the Constitution. A polyarchy is a system in which power resides in the hands of those who Madison called the wealth of the nation. The responsible class of men.”
Of course, we’re all familiar with Madison’s famous words, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” But such a mistrusting view of the governed still dominates the philosophies of both the left and right.
In fact, Chomsky contends the choice is not between Democrats and Republicans, or what he calls, “two factions of the same party.” Instead, he says the choice facing America is between democracy and polyarchy:
“That’s the alternative. It’s not a matter of naming one party or another but just changing the whole framework in which politics persist.”
Indeed, the whole framework must be changed.