American democracy is heading for ‘Plutocracy’
Published: Dec 09, 2021 05:40 PM
The US-styled democracy fraught with deep-seated problems Graphics: Deng Zijun/GT

The US-styled democracy fraught with deep-seated problems Graphics: Deng Zijun/GT

The US, which will host the so-called Democracy Summit on December 9 and 10, is in the midst of a recession and deep internal conflicts: a failed response to COVID-19, a stagnant economy, excessive police brutality and visible discrimination against Asians. So it is hard to see how the US, once a model of democracy for many countries, could play such a leading role in holding such a conference today. Frankly, the US can no longer lead in the way it used to.

First, the development of American society is abnormal. The bottom half of Americans are at risk of losing their personal freedom and ending up in prison, especially the bottom 10 percent of the black population. In the Social Progress Index released in September 2020, we were surprised to see that, out of 163 countries around the world, the US was one of only three that experienced social decline.

As for the state of Chinese society, Jean Fan of Stanford University observed during a visit to China in 2019, "China is undergoing profound changes that are hard to understand if you don't come and see for yourself. This is in stark contrast to the United States, which is in a state of stagnation. The cultural change, self-awareness and spiritual outlook of the Chinese people are progressing rapidly."

Second, the US social environment is extremely inequitable. Americans believe that their social system creates a level playing field for the disadvantaged. But is there really a level playing field for the rich and the poor? The answer is no. In June 2019, Edward Luce wrote an article in the Financial Times that exposes the inequities in American society. Nobel laureates and renowned American scholars Joseph Stiglitz and Robert Reich developed the theory "Of the 1%, By the 1%, For the 1%." Stiglitz notes that the top 1 percent of Americans earn almost a quarter of the country's annual income. If you look at it in terms of wealth, the top 1 percent control 40 percent of the wealth. China, on the other hand, is a different story, writes Danny Quah, a professor at the National University of Singapore: "The 40 years of social and economic development that the Chinese people have experienced are the best 40 years in China's 4,000-year history."

It is fair to say that the American political system is undergoing a decline from democracy to to "plutocracy." Business interests have a great deal of influence over US government policy, while ordinary citizens have little influence. Today, voters can no longer decide the makeup of the US Congress. The real decider is the money behind elections. As a result, the US politics is deeply undemocratic and seems to be moving ever more towards a "Plutocracy," in which a few wealthy people have power disproportionate to their numbers. 

It is an irrefutable fact that "money is the nanny of politics" for Western democracy and electoral systems. Elections in the West are indeed controlled by money, and the American political establishment is known as the rich man's club. As for the American political system, there is no doubt that it has moved from the role of democracy (of the people, from the people, for the people) to "plutocracy" (government of the 1% of the population, by the 1% of the population, for the 1% of the population). Therefore, the so-called "democracy summit" hosted by the US is actually a farce.

The author is vice president of Klangpanya Institute for National Strategy, (Non-Government Think Tank), Thailand. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn