promoting the unwanted, redheaded stepchild that is individual liberty

United States Elite vs. We The People

In liberty and rights, sovereignty on April 13, 2010 at 11:10 pm

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.

  1. Jessica,

    I know of no one that considers America as a pure democracy. It is a republic. Absolutely, the founders considered a pure democracy akin to anarchy yet tried to find a way for people to participate to an extent never before seen in any government.

    The Founders considered only “white men of property” as the segment to be allowed to even participate in government while no actually governing as well. We have “fixed” that over time.

    Are you now ready to call for a pure democracy, something never intended in our founding documents?


  2. Anson,

    I am not advocating for a “pure democracy” as you suggest. I am advocating for a democratic republic — which is what we are supposed to have.

    Democracy, in its very basic sense, is a system where the government serves and is controlled by the people. I do not believe we have such a system in America.

    And be careful when referring to “the founders” as if they were a single entity with unanimous opinion. They were individuals with radically different opinions on issues such as democracy. Thomas Jefferson, for example, feared the Constitution exactly for what it has become.

  3. Jessica,

    Go read you history. You claim America is supposed to be a “a system where the government serves and is controlled by the people.”

    While it may seem a small one there is a distinction between what you claim we should be and what we have been now for 225 years. Government is NOT controlled “by the people” it is controlled by the representatives ELECTED by the people.

    How in the world can the people control government? Do we have daily polls to pass laws? In fact control by the people directly of government is EXACTLY what the Founders (as a group I would argue) wanted to PREVENT. They wanted to voice of the people to be heard for sure but when the details of government were to be decided I see no evidence of their (or many since) wanting “the people” to make final decisions.

    As with your economic concerns you seem to be looking for “new” things that have NEVER existed in our country before. And per previous comments, I can’t figure out what those “new” thing might be and how they work specifically. Another D+


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