Talk:Plutocracy

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Missing quote[edit]

Note 33 refers to a missing quote. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 211.31.17.153 (talk) 03:17, 23 September 2014 (UTC)

Positive influence of bribes!?!?![edit]

What exactly does this sentence mean? "Positive influence [of plutocrats] includes campaign contributions and bribes;" I don't think most people would consider bribes a positive influence on government.

Are UK honours plutocratic ?[edit]

I'm questioning the assertion in the article that "Some systems even specifically provide for such patronage. The UK, for example, uses a variety of means to reward individuals that hold the same values or interests. These include honours such as medals and honorary titles dating back to the nation's feudal era". Perhaps, more correctly I'm questioning that UK Honours are plutocratic .... firstly, money - of itself - does not buy you an honour .... secondly most honours confer no power or privilege beyond the kudos of being Sir Paul (or whatever) .... thirdly, honours are awarded across a fairly broad spectrum of political and opinion 'camps'.

Therefore, it seems to me that the UK Honours system fails all three criteria for plutocracy, firstly, you can't buy your way 'in', secondly, being 'in' confers no position or political power and thirdly the 'honoured' do NOT act as a homogenous self-rewarding group.

In theory the honours system acts as a counter-balance to any plutocratic tendencies in that people are being honoured for making unrewarded contributions to public life ... a big "thankyou".

Of course there have occasionally been notorious exceptions to this principle, but that of itself does not make the honours system plutocratic in character. Of course also, powerful financial interests in the UK probably don't find it hard to attract the 'ear of government', but it is not the honours system which exemplifies or upholds this tendency, rather the opposite.

BTW, I agree that the Local Government of the (old) City of London (mentioned elsewhere in the article) is anomalous and possibly plutocratic in character. The only possible justification for the system being that the local government of The City has barely any powers worth mentioning! So, "if they want to play, let them", would be most people's reaction in the UK.

Unless somebody comes up with a sound reason or mainstream justification, I will remove the reference to the UK honours system, I'm happy for anybody to criticise the system, which is perhaps anachronistic, inconsistent and - at times - plain daft, it is not I contend generally thought to be inherently plutocratic.Pincrete (talk) 16:31, 23 November 2013 (UTC)

I've removed the reference to the UK honours system, for the reasons given above and because I doubt if most mainstream sources would support the assertion.

Whoever wrote this MAY be getting 'Honours'(in general) mixed up with Peerages, which are the top layer of 'Honours' and which anyway confer little political power on the holder(and specifically NO POWER over finance matters).

That traditionally Britain was a hereditary aristocracy (which might be thought of as a form of plutocracy) is a matter of historical fact, interpolating that the modern system works in the same way, is fairly ill-informed.Pincrete (talk) 14:40, 2 December 2013 (UTC)


City of London reference: I have just amended the 'London' reference, in order to make it clear that this is the opinion of 'some commentators' rather than an acknowledged truth. If anyone can rephrase this making it clear that - 1) this is very local 2) it is formal (open, written into law, result of a democratically arrived at decision) 3) it is the opinion of 'some' that it is plutocratic - they are welcome to rephrase it. Thanks to those who didn't fully understand the previous re-writing (by me), for nudging me into action!Pincrete (talk) 22:23, 12 May 2014 (UTC)

RFC on US material[edit]

See box. Formerip (talk) 18:11, 26 June 2014 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Result: There is consensus that the edit cited by the OP was not appropriate.

7½ editors opposed the cited edit (including one "leaning oppose" vote) and 4 supported it. One support was made on the basis that the categorisation of the US as a "plutocracy" is supported by sources. However, a contrary view, which I think is more persuasive, was expressed that, although the US may be analysed as a plutocracy, this is not a very clearly defined term (more to the point, this view of the US seems so unlikely to be one that enjoys academic consensus that we hardly need to look). To put it another way, this is a matter of opinion and should not be stated in Wikipedia's voice. Another support makes an argument that the US is indeed a plutocracy. Even if this argument is correct, it is not a strong argument until it can be shown that sources by and large agree. A third support questioned the merits of the question. However, the OP and a number of other editors have given reasons for their opposition which are, at the very least, cogent and worthy of consideration. The forth support suggests that a brief discussion of relevant academic material would be appropriate for the article. This is a valid view, but it answers a slightly different question to the one posed by the OP.

On balance, the arguments made in support of the edit are not strong enough to overcome the numerical weight of opposition to the edit.

A number of editors, including editors opposed to this particular edit, have indicated a view that appropriate wording based on the same material (perhaps wording that includes attribution, or refers to the position being one held by some academics and not others) would be suitable for the article. Some opposes are also worded so as to suggest opposition only on a "not in Wikipedia's voice" basis. So, this close should not be misread as finding a consensus against any inclusion of material in the article connecting the United States and the concept of plutocracy.

Is this edit [1], which contains substantial material about the United States being a Plutocracy, proper in this article? Collect (talk) 13:10, 1 May 2014 (UTC)


Discussion[edit]

Absent a clear WP:CONSENSUS for inclusion of this interesting but very recent set of claims, not widely accepted in the field, I suggest this edit is improper and will not achieve a consensus for inclusion. I note that "plutocracy" is not the same as "wealth inequality" nor do the sources support a claim that those who have wealth "govern" the United States to any degree more than all democratic countries in recorded history have had. I note also that the term is primarily used as a pejorative, thus claims must be very carefully valued. Attaching a pejorative to any topic is clearly an area where WP:NPOV must be strictly applied, as the pejorative itself has substantial negative weight by its single application. Collect (talk) 13:10, 1 May 2014 (UTC)

I think this section is excessively detailed, not presented in a coherent fashion and is of disproportionate size. If pruned VERY VERY substantially however, I think it not wrong that it should be here. There is a huge distinction between Wikipedia appearing to say that US is a plutocracy or that MOST sources say that it is (on the one hand) and that some serious commentators / academics have made this assertion (on the other), even though this particular study is recent, the argument is not and I think it legitimate that Wikipedia should record that this argument exists. I agree with Collect that income inequality in itself does not prove plutocracy, however I think that when laws are being passed which benefit the very wealthy / big corporations, it's very dificult to not see a link between the two. Whether any of us sees such a link is of course central to us making the judgement as to whether a system is or is not plutocratic. I think wording could be used which raised the discussion without implying Wikipedia or Academia knew the answer.Pincrete (talk) 23:16, 1 May 2014 (UTC)

  • Question: what support is there for the contention that the peer reviewed literature reviews do not agree with the edit? EllenCT (talk) 08:40, 2 May 2014 (UTC)
    • That is not the question posed, and seems to be argumentative rather than aimed at reaching any WP:CONSENSUS here. Cheers. Collect (talk) 11:49, 2 May 2014 (UTC)
      • I agree it's not the question for the RfC, but, as it might be relevant for discussing what should be in this article: Is there any support for the contention that the peer reviewed literature does agree with the edit? There are examples of peer-reviewed literature which have been interpreted as stating that the US could be considered a plutocracy. There are few listed which actually support the statement that the US is a plutocracy. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 15:34, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
  • Second the Question Unless there is some argument that "the peer reviewed literature reviews do not agree with the edit" because of WP:SYNTH, this seems like an RFC based on WP:IDONTLIKEIT. The sources, including academic, appear to support the claim, and in light of recent events such as the Supreme Courts removing restrictions on politicl spending by corporations, the topic would certainly appear to merit the increasing amount of attention that is being paid to it. If the section needs "pruning", then why an RFC instead of examining the statements in relation to their corresponding sources, etc. I'm not even sure what the objective of the RFC is.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 16:18, 6 May 2014; 20:00, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

Survey[edit]

Improper The term is perforce pejorative, thus sources must be reliable, widely cited, and make specific claims that the United States is actually a "plutocracy. The added sources and claims fail, though earlier sources are not being considered in this RfC. Collect (talk) 11:52, 2 May 2014 (UTC)

Improper. Agree with Collect; few, if any, sources state that the US is actually a "plutocracy". — Arthur Rubin (talk) 15:34, 3 May 2014 (UTC)

Proper. The first source I posted clearly stated that political power in the US is controlled by those with more money. Nothing else on the example list has a reference, and I find it silly that these other un-referenced claims are not being questioned. I don't understand why Collect is so outspoken on the topic as it seems he doesn't even live in the country. I certainly do not claim to be an expert on the British political system. How can a country that has unlimited campaign contributions, corporate person-hood, and lobbying in congress not be considered a plutocracy? I notice the Roman Empire is on the list. Did Rome not have a representative democracy? What has the United States done to fix these corruption-based issues that put Rome on this list besides making businesses bigger and more powerful?2605:A000:F2C0:A400:2CA3:F78C:FC4E:DE13 (talk) 22:08, 4 May 2014 (UTC) This account has few edits on Wikipedia, and may be a Single Purpose Account Collect (talk) 06:39, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Improper. While the wealthy have a lot of influence, this does not mean they "dominate" the government or society, especially in the pejorative sense. They seek votes for office holders and candidates, and have greater or less success depending upon a variety of factors. Seeking to add this term because corporate personhood, campaign contributions, lobbying, etc. smacks of soapboxing. Also, the fact that an editor lives in one country or another does not impact the editing question. (How many WP editors lived under the Roman Empire?) – S. Rich (talk) 04:40, 5 May 2014 (UTC) (Added comment): Also, the Princeton paper does not use the term "Plutocracy". Unless material directly supports an assertion in the article (e.g., that the US is a plutocracy), then adding Princeton (etc.) is SYNTH. – S. Rich (talk) 17:07, 7 May 2014 (UTC)

OK, thanks for adding that opinion, but it is not the policy-based rationale of the RFC(is there one)--it is a rationale I suggested that is open to discussion. I don't think it takes precedence over the RS material related to oligarchy in this case, but I'm ope to being convinced otherwise. The RFC has no right of premise of exclusion of the material, as far as I can tell. Prove me otherwise, if possible.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 17:21, 7 May 2014 (UTC)

Proper the sources and corroborating earlier research are clear and speak for themselves. The problem has been getting much worse, not better.[2] EllenCT (talk) 05:47, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Improper Plutocracy is an analytic concept and the U.S. and other countries may be compared with this paradigm. But it is not a clearly defined term like constitutional monarchy or republic. TFD (talk) 06:51, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

ImproperThe US is a democracy. Lately people have been focusing on income inequality, so terms like plutocracy and oligarchy are bandied about to score political points. In the 1960s people were calling the US government "Fascist". Wikipedia is an encyclopedia - not an opinion piece.Mattnad (talk) 10:36, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Proper I don't really see the merits of the objection or the filing of this RFC. Perhaps some clarification is in order.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 16:20, 6 May 2014 (UTC)

Ubikwit, several editors have provided responses. In this regard, they see the merits of the RFC. You need support for the view that the RFC is fatally flawed. Moreover, you are lacking support for addition (and re-addition) of the material to the article while the RFC is running. – S. Rich (talk) 17:23, 7 May 2014 (UTC)
@Srich32977: I appreciate your reply but will have to ask for specifics.
In light of statements such as " I agree with Collect that income inequality in itself does not prove plutocracy, however I think that when laws are being passed which benefit the very wealthy / big corporations, it's very dificult to not see a link between the two. Whether any of us sees such a link is of course central to us making the judgement as to whether a system is or is not plutocratic. I think wording could be used which raised the discussion without implying Wikipedia or Academia knew the answer." I'm left wondering if there is anything in this RFC that calls the sources (attributed) into question on a valid basis. Synth may be question, but would appear to be a separate one from that posed in this vague and unspecific RFC.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 17:51, 7 May 2014 (UTC)
My initial survey response was general and phrased as such in an effort to avoid the problems created when the RFC was drafted. You will note that I've been removing some "off-topic" material from the article. If the material does not directly support the topic of Plutocracy, it does not belong in the article. Also, we have WP:SYNTH problems with much of the material (not just the Princeton stuff). Much of the material says "A: There are a lot of rich people in America.[x] B: Plutocracies are typically composed of rich people.[y] Therefore, C: Because America has a lot of rich people it is a plutocracy." – S. Rich (talk) 18:19, 7 May 2014 (UTC)

Improper Per TFD. An elastic term not of great utility here. Capitalismojo (talk) 16:56, 6 May 2014 (UTC)

Comment I'm not an experienced editor and so I might be wrong. However, I would propose that we could rephrase it to "and according to a number of [academic] publications, United States." Alternatively: "and according to a number of [academic] publications (that may not reflect the mainstream view), United States."Dmatteng (talk) 13:48, 7 May 2014 (UTC)

(edit conflict)The statements are already attributed. A hypothetical question for you though, as you are relatively new to editing, is how would you define "mainstream views"? It'smore of a rhetorical question, I suppose, so i'll answer it, "you don't", because that is not an evaluation in which Wikipedia editors engage. We just edit articles based on WP:RS with respect to WP:NPOV and WP:DUE.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 15:32, 7 May 2014 (UTC)
Just added my 2 cents. Regarding mainstream views I think I saw it written this way in one of the articles. On some topics the mainstream views can be easily defined. Dmatteng (talk) 16:20, 7 May 2014 (UTC)

Improper. This is just someone who searched for examples of the words "plutocracy" and "United States" appearing in the same article. Most of the cited articles don't support the claim being made at all. I doubt that the editor even read them. The cheerful dwarf (talk) 13:05, 8 May 2014 (UTC)

This argument can be disregarded as ad hominem. In addition, because the paper has received a good deal of press, I suspect most of us have read it with interest. Jojalozzo 00:31, 17 May 2014 (UTC)
The comment about the editor reading or not reading the articles may be ad hominem, but the argument overall by cheerful dwarf is valid. If the the examples (cited or searched for) do not support the claim, then including them, as cheerful dwarf says, is improper. – S. Rich (talk) 03:02, 17 May 2014 (UTC)
Yes, if the cited articles don't support the claim being made, but by my reading they do support the article content (tho more about oligarchy in general than plutarchy specifically). If there are claims that are not supported, say what they are (in the discussion section below) so we can check them out. Jojalozzo 00:43, 18 May 2014 (UTC)

Leaning against As I understand it the study concludes the US system is an oligarchy, not necessarily a plutocracy. I think it requires some synthesis to narrow the results to fit this article.

BTW: a properly framed RFC question should be neutral and would not contain the phrase "which contains substantial material about the United States being a Plutocracy." Jojalozzo 00:31, 17 May 2014 (UTC)

Include but briefly. Since some sources use the word 'plutocracy' when discussing the study ([3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9]), a brief discussion of the study is proper. Also, people in the 'we are the 99%' movement and other social critics have been using the term plutocracy about the US for years (e.g. [10]). Darx9url (talk) 04:37, 27 May 2014 (UTC)

Discussion section[edit]

Most if not all of the secondary sources that reviewed the Princeton study state that the study shows USA has become an oligarchy. This is not the same as saying the USA has become a plutarchy but the article content supported by the sources doesn't make that claim. In my view the article content is properly sourced but belongs in the Oligarchy article, with minor mention of it here. Jojalozzo 00:52, 18 May 2014 (UTC)

I agree. The Princeton study should be added as a further reading item, nothing more. Leaving it in as a reference only invites WP:SYNTH, as we have already seen. – S. Rich (talk) 01:06, 18 May 2014 (UTC)
I disagree. The lead of the Oligarchy article states, " Aristotle pioneered the use of the term as a synonym for rule by the rich,[4] for which the exact term is plutocracy ", which is cited from Winters. The quote used from the Princeton study also cites Winters, and directly with respect to government policy related to protecting wealth.
Moreover, the lead of this article states, "The concept of plutocracy may be advocated by the wealthy classes of a society in an indirect or surreptitious fashion". What Winters and Gilens/Page describe are the exercise of influence in an oligarchic manner by the wealthy or through means of wealth.
A quick google search turned up a couple of uses of plutarchy, etc., in reviews of the study, which was only recently made available online, if I'm not mistaken
  1. The plutocratic power of America’s “economic elite” is strongly implied by the macro-snapshot of the Gilens-Page study. But it is wholly evident in an actual outcome of an actual policy with huge implications for actual plutocrats — the so-called Dodd-Frank financial reform.
  2. Don’t call America a democracy, call it a plutocracy "Gilens and Page refer to the ruling class as “economic elites,” which means a more correct term to characterize the current U.S. government is plutocracy."
  3. Even though our Constitution laid the plans for a democracy, by fiat we now have a plutarchy (plutocratic oligarchy).

--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 01:27, 18 May 2014 (UTC)

I just noticed this brief discussion by Krugman Class, Oligarchy, and the Limits of Cynicism, in which he notes

"So it’s worth pointing out it does make a difference. Yes, Democrats pay a lot of attention to plutocrats..."

--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 15:44, 18 May 2014 (UTC)
Have you got the right link? – S. Rich (talk) 17:34, 18 May 2014 (UTC)
I just replaced it.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 17:53, 18 May 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for the link. But what is the point? I think a Democrat is in the White House, so is he a plutocrat and does that make the US a plutocracy? Or, from an editing standpoint, how does or can Krugman's comment help the article? – S. Rich (talk) 18:18, 18 May 2014 (UTC)
Well, the first point is that the Gilens/Page article is being reviewed in RS with respect to "plutocrats" (supporting its inclusion). I think that the reference to democrats paying attention to plutocrats does not mean that Obama is a plutocrat, because his administration has fought the campaign finance cases, etc. Krugman is being cautious about calling the US an outright "oligarchy" because the electoral process still works, thus he is cautioning against being overly cynical.

"But there is a danger here of going too far, and imagining that electoral politics is irrelevant. Why bother getting involved in campaigns, when the oligarchy rules whichever party is in power?"

He states that the paper deserves all the attention it is getting, too.
It has to be recalled that the term plutocracy wasn't invented until the 17th century, and is almost always used in a critical manner in public discourse as opposed to an affirmative name.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 18:54, 18 May 2014 (UTC)
We are still stuck with how to use Krugman in the article. Since he does not say "the US is a plutocracy", he does not help much. And it is SYN to say "A: Gilens & Page wrote about oligarchy." "B: Krugman used the word 'plutocrats' when talking about how the White House wanted billionaires to be more charitable with their money, and Krugman was thinking about Gilens & Page." therefore, "C we can combine the two RS to imply that the US is a plutocracy." – S. Rich (talk) 19:12, 18 May 2014 (UTC)
I was asked to comment by the bot. The USA has unequivocally become an oligarchy. Saez et. al. made an adequate case for that already. Plutocracy is more difficult to justify (even though I personally believe it is true). At a minimum, I concur with Joja's suggestion. Krugman and others seem willing to label the USA as an oligarchy, and there are sufficient NPOV sources to support the claim that the electoral process no longer works, i.e. that the laws and policy in the USA do NOT represent the will of 80 to 90% of the citizens. Corporate personhood is a separate issue; I'd be careful about that, as corporate personhood is not antithetical to democracy (in contrast to what we have now). An oligarchy isn't quite the same as a plutocracy. Both words have pejorative connotations in the U.S.A., given our electoral process, and the stare decisis evolution of Constitutional law in the 20th century. Last thought: S. Rich said, " I think a Democrat is in the White House, so is he a plutocrat and does that make the US a plutocracy? Or, from an editing standpoint, how does or can Krugman's comment help the article?" Agreed, regarding Krugman's comment being an awkward fit in the article; however, Obama's political party, as a Democrat, is not mutually exclusive with being a plutocrat. --FeralOink (talk) 08:27, 25 May 2014 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.


Off-topic section: oligarchy ≠ plutocracy[edit]

Perhaps we can refocus the discussion. 1. The particular section was tagged off-topic. E.g., none of the resources cited used the term "plutocracy". Per the Manual of Style WP:TOPIC, we've got to focus on plutocracy and not diverge into material such as oligarchy, etc. Those topics have their own articles. Moreover, WP Policy WP:PRECISION requires us "to unambiguously define the topical scope of the article...." Once we have done so with the word "plutocracy", we've got to stick to the topic. We can't use references that discuss oligarchies even if the references have rich people as their focus. If the references don't directly use the term, then they do not meet RS standards for context. 2. The section was recently shortened, but it still remains outside of the topic (plutocracy) of the article. – S. Rich (talk) 00:03, 8 May 2014 (UTC)

I would agree--it was me that raised the issue above--that there may be some concern of SYNTH, but I don't understand with certainty whether it goes against policy to include statements relating to the growing influence of wealth on the democratic political process, which would lead to plutocracy if "formalized", as with the reference to London.
The crux of the matter is the drift toward plutocracy, not simply income inequality in a vacuum.
It would seem that there should be a manner by which to provide sufficient context to such statements that facilitates their inclusion.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 04:27, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
The crux of the matter is NOT the drift towards anything. The crux of the matter, for us as Wikipedians, is how to edit Wikipedia within the guidelines and policies established for us and by us. As the material does not directly support the topic of the article, we must keep it out. – S. Rich (talk) 04:41, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
The following are two passages quoted directly from the current section on the USA (emphasis added)

Chrystia Freeland, author of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else,[19] says that the present trend towards plutocracy occurs and is self-justified because the rich feel "[their] own personal self-interest is in the interests of everybody else."

Some researchers have said the US may be drifting towards a form of oligarchy

I don't see where provided RS statements elaborating on those statement is in violation of policy, but perhaps you'd be willing to quote (directly) the policy to which you refer. --Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 06:48, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
The Freeland quote was above the off-topic template – the template has been removed and the remaining sentence is tagged with an in-line relevance template. I have no problem with keeping Freeland because she is talking about plutocracy. When the cited material does not talk about plutocracy directly, it does not belong. "A form of oligarchy" does not say or necessarily mean plutocracy. If they mean plutocracy, then they should say so. Since they do not, we cannot use it. – S. Rich (talk) 07:07, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
Again "form of oligarchy" is not proper summary style paraphrasing of G&P. If they are not saying the US is moving towards plutocracy, then we cannot use it. Relevance tag is restored & vague tag is added. – S. Rich (talk) 04:59, 12 May 2014 (UTC)
The lead of the article states

a society or a system ruled and dominated by the small minority of the wealthiest citizens

while the Gilens paper focuses on the ability of "economic elites" to exert undue influence on policy decisions in a democracy. When the paper mentions a form of oligarchy, it is apparent that there are plutocractic dimensions to that form of oligarchy.
Elswhere in the article there are statements to the effect that the concept is employed as a warning in political discourse, which is something that the Gilens paper does.
I'm going to go through the paper with a fine tooth comb when I have the time and put some more quotes up here.
Note that paper on hiring law professors is also relevant to this article and the material needs to be restored once the proper context is framed. That addresses the problem of nepotistic practices (as opposed to meritocracy) in dominating quasi-public institutions such as law schools as well as public institutions in the judiciary, i.e., the Supreme Court. I will have to read the entire paper, though...
Incidentally, I have looked up WP:TOPIC (part of an essay on writing better articles) and WP:PRECISE (part of a policy applicable to the naming of articles), and I see no basis for the recourse to either here. The rationale that because the paper doesn't specifically mention "plutocracy" does not mean it doesn't describe it as defined in this article. Once again, this is a question related to descriptive and prescriptive linguistics. I see no Wikipedia policy that would proscribe inclusion of the Gilens paper, and it is POV to claim that the statements from the paper (or multiple RS media analysis thereof) are "irrelevant (nor only loosely relevant) information"
I've added the Gilens quote citing Winters here, as that covers the "vague" tag. The newly articulated concept of "civil oligarchy" straddles both the oligarchy and plutocracy articles. I don't think there is any doubt as to the relevance of the material, but maybe there will be some further discussion by additional editors. --Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 09:13, 12 May 2014; 11:07, 12 May 2014 (UTC)
I wish the edits resolved the problem, but they don't. Since the sources do not explicitly state that the US is a plutocracy, they cannot be used. Adding them as has been done, to support the idea that the US is (or is drifting towards) a plutocracy violates WP:SYNTHESIS. There are enough sources (4 paragraphs), supported by proper editing, in the section about the US as an example of plutocracy. Since Winters does not directly support the idea, we cannot use him. Doing so is adding our own spin about wealth in the US. – S. Rich (talk) 15:45, 12 May 2014 (UTC)
Unless you can show me a specific policy that supports the assertion, I disagree, for the following reasons.
WP:CONTEXTMATTERS states, "Sources should directly support the information as it is presented in the Wikipedia article.". I do't see where the text strays from that. Hopefully we can get some others to join this discussion. If necessary, we can go to the WP:SYNTH notice board for input.
Incidentally, you seem to be evaluating Winters/Gilens strictly on the use of the word "plutocracy", while neglecting the fact that Winters has introduced a new and novel theory into academic discourse that includes the concept of "civil oligarchy", which relates directly to the ability of the wealthy to exert undue influence over government policy. Gilens and Page make reference to that concept, and make similar arguments with respect to "economic elites" through a somewhat more empirical study.
The other citations are also good, but this is the most current scholarship on the subject, and the Gilens paper is highly cited, while Winters' book was granted a notable award.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 16:43, 12 May 2014 (UTC)
If Winters says "'civil oligarchy' = plutocracy = 'civil oligarchy'", then he could be used in this article. But he doesn't. (At page 27 he says "For Aristotle, plutocracy is a redundant term." Google books does not show any other usage of plutocracy in Winter's book.) The WP policy is there: the source must explicitly state such-and-such. It does not allow for straddling. The concept of "civil oligarchy" belongs in oligarchy as a subsection, perhaps best in manifestations. Winters talks about a sultanistic oligarchy, and refers to Singapore, Suharto & Indonesia when talking about the civil oligarchy. He also says "A preliminary point is that civil oligarchy has very little in common with the elite theory as it evolved in the U.S. context." (page 221). All of this serves to show that Winters does not explicitly, clearly, or directly support the idea that the US is a plutocracy. – S. Rich (talk) 17:18, 12 May 2014 (UTC)

I'm not sure how useful my observations might be to this discussion, but I will go ahead anyway. Firstly, is it not the case that Plutocracy is a 'genus' of Oligarchy, in which membership of the 'oligos' is achieved through wealth. Therefore it seems excessively prescriptivist to insist that the RS MUST use the precise word 'plutocracy' ... if the RS refers to 'an oligarchy of the wealthiest N percent' (or some-such unambiguous formulation), it seems impossible to exclude the RS from this page, because of their choice of words (there may of course be other reasons for exclusion). I am NOT of course suggesting we mis-quote the RS, but excluding them from the page seems pedantic.

Further, some editors have suggested that the source MUST say 'the US is a plutocracy', others that this must be the 'mainstream' view. I would point out that the 'Usage" paragraph of the article states that the term is often used to describe or warn against an undesirable condition, that rider combined with the 'Some commentators have suggested ……' formulation. Seem to me to be both sufficiently fair and accurate. We are entitled to assume that the reader is able to understand that Some commentators have said the US is … means something very different from The US is . Especially when the RSs frequently use 'drifting towards'/ 'essentially' or some other form of words that qualify the 'core statement'. I am exaggerating only slightly when I say that this is the difference between Some doctors warned the patient that if he didn't … he would be putting his life in jeopardy and The doctors said the patient is dead/dying!.

I followed Ubikwit's link above, CONTEXTMATTERS, rather expecting to find something different. The 'something different' which I expected to find was another sense in which context matters which I will propose - although I have no idea whether my argument is supported by guidelines. To choose two extreme examples to make my point, if this page were about 'The Political System of the US', I think it would be appropriate to first and principally represent the 'Official view', that the US is a Representative Democracy and to describe the history, operation etc of that democracy. Any mention of criticisms/failures/flaws would tend to be expressed succinctly, linking to more detailed pages and quite a long way down that particular page. At the other extreme a page about 'Sex scandals in the UK government' wouldn't feel obliged to say ANYTHING about the fact that most UK politicians are/aren't model husbands and wives, context itself (that the page is about scandals), would provide the necessary balance.

The relevance of this to the plutocracy discussion seems to be that the page is about plutocracy, and is looking for examples that SOME RSs have characterised as plutocratic, I think it is implicit in the use of 'some' that other RSs disagree (or hold no opinion). It might be appropriate for there to be a page in which both sides of the discussion were given proportionate weight, but I don't see the need for equal weight HERE. This is me adopting a 'common-sensical' approach that may be anathema to some, and may or may not be supported by guidelines.

There IS a form of balance that concerns me more. As a non-American, it concerns me that if too much US material is included, the balance of the page as a whole becomes an excessively detailed debate as to whether/to what extent the US is/ is not/ is becoming a plutocracy. This is not the case at present, but I register it as a consideration.Pincrete (talk) 19:48, 18 May 2014 (UTC)

@Pincrete: I just noticed that the Winters book--at least some pages--is up on googlbooks now, so here is a link to the start of the substantial chapter on "civil oligarchy", much of which appears to be specifically about the USA [11].--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 15:31, 23 June 2014 (UTC)

Labor unions as contributing to oligarchy??? Not according to Gilens and Page[edit]

The following paragraph is from p. 22 of the Gilens and Page paper.

Nor do organized interest groups substitute for direct citizen influence, by embodying citizens’ will and ensuring that their wishes prevail in the fashion postulated by theories of Majoritarian Pluralism. Interest groups do have substantial independent impacts on policy, and a few groups (particularly labor unions) represent average citizens’ views reasonably well. But the interest group system as a whole does not. Over-all, net interest group alignments are not significantly related to the preferences of average citizens. The net alignments of the most influential, business oriented groups are negatively related to the average citizen’s wishes. So existing interest groups do not serve effectively as transmission belts for the wishes of the populace as a whole. “Potential groups” do not take up the slack, either, since average citizens’ preferences have little or no independent impact on policy after existing groups’ stands are controlled for.

And the first paragraph from the paper that refers to unions (there are only two such paragraphs) reads

Some particular U.S. membership organizations – especially the AARP and labor unions – do tend to favor the same policies as average citizens. But other membership groups take stands that are unrelated (pro-life and pro-choice groups) or negatively related (gun owners) to what the average American wants.40 Some membership groups may reflect the views of corporate backers or their most affluent constituents. Others focus on issues on which the public is fairly evenly divided. Whatever the reasons, all mass-based groups taken together simply do not add up, in aggregate, to good representatives of the citizenry as a whole. Business-oriented groups do even worse, with a modest negative over-all correlation of -.10.

There is nothing in there that would justify the conflation of labor unions with the types of interest groups that do not represent the views of the average citizen.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 19:43, 9 May 2014 (UTC)


The edit in question is

Some researchers have said the US may be drifting towards a form of oligarchy, through the influence of corporations, the wealthy, unions and other special interest groups

And the source specifically includes unions as one of the special interest groups.

Some particular U.S. membership organizations – especially the AARP and labor unions – do tend to favor the same policies as average citizens. But other membership groups take stands that are unrelated (pro-life and pro-choice groups) or negatively related (gun owners) to what the average American wants.40 Some membership groups may reflect the views of corporate backers or their most affluent constituents. Others focus on issues on which the public is fairly evenly divided. Whatever the reasons, all mass-based groups taken together simply do not add up, in aggregate, to good representatives of the citizenry as a whole. (emphasis added)

Noting that unions are part of the class of "all mass-based groups."

Thus it is proper to mention that the study does refer to unions as one of the special interest groups. Cheers. Collect (talk) 21:08, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

The sentence still misrepresents the source by establishing a false equivalence between individual groups, which is clearly contradicted by the paper.
You neglect to add "taken together" to "all mass base groups", as in the text,
"all mass-based groups taken together",
which is a direct parallel to the statement in the other paragraph of
the interest group system as a whole.
--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 21:17, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
I.e. you aver that unions and other special interest groups do have an influence on public policy, and that such "mass based groups" have an "influence"? Right? Collect (talk) 21:36, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

*Just an unobtrusive note to say that I am watching this and will be happy to help out if needed. --John (talk) 21:58, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

Knowing NOTHING about the subject, nor about Witers & Page, nonetheless, I have to say that the quotes here (and on other pages where you discuss this) do NOT support the assertion that Labor Unions CONTRIBUTE to the development of Oligarchy, (which seems to be the core of the disagreement and which is clearly implied in :-"the US may be drifting towards a form of oligarchy, through the influence of corporations, the wealthy, unions and other special interest groups"), not unless one makes an unjustified extrapolation that the failure to fully represent/reflect (which you appear to NOT disagree about) is ITSELF contributory, or that ANY influence is necessarily contributory to the drift. Neither of these lines of logic are in any of the source quotes here.Pincrete (talk) 13:38, 11 May 2014 (UTC)

The Gilens and Page paper is fairly short, and available as a pdf here.
Here is another brief quote from p. 3

The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.

--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 15:45, 11 May 2014 (UTC)
While I'm here, I have two thoughts.
  • Collect does make a good point, insofar as making a strictly logical interpretation of the cited passage. I refer to this, "Whatever the reasons, all mass-based groups taken together simply do not add up, in aggregate, to good representatives of the citizenry as a whole."
  • I would tend to agree with Ubikwit and Pincrete, that it is silly to claim that the existence of labor unions is causally linked to oligarchy, or plutocracy! This is based on the assumption that a significant portion of the population has union representation, though. I don't recall exactly, but I do know that the numbers are way down, into the single digits on a percentage basis (5% maybe). In the 1950's - 1980's, approx 20% of the U.S. workforce was "unionized". So unions, while intended to strengthen and give voice/political influence to those who would have none otherwise, still have power but no longer represent, um, the proletariat masses, as they once did. (I wish they'd stop claiming that gun rights groups are not representative of the will of the people! I'd love to see a poll of union membership and gun ownership views. My relatives and friends in the Teamsters, electrical workers unions, etc. are all firearms rights advocates.) If anything, I'd expect plutocrats to benefit from weakened unions. This might belong in the oligarchy article, more than plutocracy though.--FeralOink (talk) 13:57, 28 May 2014 (UTC)
FeralOink, sorry to be priggish and 'editorial', but I didn't say that the claims about Unions contributing to oligarchy were 'silly', merely that the claims weren't supported by the passages being quoted.Pincrete (talk) 21:34, 28 May 2014 (UTC)

Tidy/clarify needed?[edit]

Firstly, I wonder whether the reference to Roosevelt era is in the right place, firstly it isn't in historic order as the rest of the section is (following Nixon) but it also largely duplicates the content in the "Use as propaganda section". The relevant text is: A similar position was taken by the Fourth International in January 1941, which stated "Roosevelt’s administration, which claims to be democratic, is really the representative of these piratic plutocrats" and that "the twin capitalist parties control all the main avenues for reaching the masses (the press, radio, halls, etc) ...they collect millions from their wealthy masters and spend them to bamboozle the public and buy elections. Secondly, the term 'civil oligarchy' is later introduced, but little clarification given as to what it means .... Is this 'civil' as in civilian (not military or aristocracy)? I think a brief clarification is in order, the precise meaning isn't obvious to me at least.Pincrete (talk) 16:41, 27 May 2014 (UTC)

I just deleted the Roosevelt quote, as it seems to have been used out of context and was definitely somewhat forced, as you point out, in the article. Here is the paragraph in which is appears in the source, which also seems somewhat questionable.

This is a pernicious lie, say the Marxists. There cannot be any full realization or further development of democratic freedom under capitalism. Bourgeois democracy is a screen behind which a small group of bankers and big business men dictate national policies. Roosevelt’s administration, which claims to be democratic, is really the representative of these piratic plutocrats who exploit and tyranize the working masses. Capitalist democracy rests upon fraud and force. The fable that the regime at Washington consults and fulfills the wishes of the American people is in itself an essential part of this elaborate mechanism of deceit.

The "civil democracyoligarchy" term seems to be a newly developed neologism of a sort, and though I haven't read the book, Winters appears to be referring to a defacto oligarchy in which there is a democratically representative government. As mentioned above, his book won what seems like a fairly prestigious award, and the reference in the text represents a direct quote from the Princeton paper, so they mutually support each other as representing the leading-edge of scholarship.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 17:51, 27 May 2014 (UTC)
Thanks, I kind of guessed that 'Civil Oligarchy' might have some-such meaning. 'Civil' is one of those malleable words that changes meaning (civil war, civil disobedience, civil authorities, civil behaviour) ... I wasn't questioning its use HERE or in the original, merely thinking that some clarification of Winters meaning would help (if available).
The US section reads much better without 'Roosevelt' ... it is now in sequence and covers fairly 'serious' analysis rather than mere 'name-calling'. Pincrete (talk) 22:23, 27 May 2014 (UTC)

Thank you, Ubikwit, so very much, for removing that section! This, in particular,

"Roosevelt’s administration, which claims to be democratic, is really the representative of these piratic plutocrats who exploit and tyranize the working masses."

For purposes of Wikipedia, that is misleading. It makes sense, within a certain context of time and place, i.e. the Fourth International in January 1941, but without a complete understanding of such, it will just cause confusion. It almost reminds me of the discussions that I get into with the more politicized Rothbard/ von Mises/ Austrian economics crowd, who insist that FDR and the Federal Reserve are the very Devil's work, to oppress small business and meritorious endeavor. Except they wouldn't say, "oppress", nor Devil's work ;o) I'm sorry for not indenting properly. I wanted ro use one of those long arrow outdents, but couldn't figure out how.--FeralOink (talk) 13:16, 28 May 2014 (UTC)

Yes, and considering the FDR was the architect of the New Deal, which helped pull people through the Great Depression,which in turn was caused by the plutocracy, it was a terribly misrepresentative example. Almost makes you think that the person(s) responsible for it were not communists at all but agents of the plutocrats. The president generally held responsible for the Great Depression Herbert Hoover, for example, would seem to have been a more appropriate target for their critique.
In fact, I am working on putting put something related to Theodore Roosevelt, the president that introduced so-called Anti-Trust laws. He made reference to plutocracy in a speech he gave in 1931. Here is a link to a quote on Wikiquotes from that speech.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 13:52, 28 May 2014 (UTC)
Yay! Sherman Act!--FeralOink (talk) 17:58, 28 May 2014 (UTC)
The the plutocracy was responsible for the great depression is an opinion, which I don't think is clearly established. One might say that the wealthy were opposed to policies which might have reduced the depth (but probably increased the length) of the great depression, but going beyond that would be an opinion. This has little to do with the article, but only Ubikwit's dictum (to be precise, simplex dictum) above. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 21:14, 17 June 2014 (UTC)
@Authur Rubin: What are you talking about, my "dictum"? The statements are well sourced to the work of established historians--a total of six of them, number 9-14 on the list.
Am I missing something in your comment focus wise? --Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 15:35, 23 June 2014 (UTC)
It is a dictum, and you misspelled my name, so I didn't receive notice. "Plutocracy" being responsible for the great depression is not mentioned in the article, and none of the six sources used for the statement "Some modern historians, politicians and economists state that the United States was effectively plutocratic for at least part of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era periods between the end of the Civil War until the beginning of the Great Depression" are available online. so I don't know if they support even that statement. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 03:48, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
@Arthur Rubin: Well, I didn't even add those sources and the material predates my contributing to this article, so I hardly see how that makes its inclusion something characterizable as my "dictum".
Just because you don't have the time to go to the library and verify the content doesn't mean it isn't there.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 05:06, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
Actually it does qualify as your dictum, because it cannot rationally be viewed as even related to the statement in the article, although it would seem plausible that some of the sources that made the statement reported in the article might have made the statement you made.
As for the accuracy of source interpretation: It's not conclusive, but many of the sources in oligarchy (where many of the statements and sources in this article belong) do not support the statements made. And both articles have been used to host the spammed source and unrelated statement the source is used to support, that should only be used in the article wealth inequality in the United States. As that spammer (not you) is still active, yhat seems sufficient for me to have a "reasonable doubt" that the sources here have the same problems. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 15:31, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
OK, Arthur, there were a number of statements being discussed, including more than one by TR, but the one that I based my explanation on regarding the text related to FDR was the first sentence of the paragraph in the USA section

Some modern historians, politicians and economists state that the United States was effectively plutocratic for at least part of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era periods between the end of the Civil War until the beginning of the Great Depression.

Let's not belabor the point any further.
If you have any concrete comments on specific sources and statements, let's move onto those. --Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 16:58, 25 June 2014 (UTC)

Relevance tag[edit]

Almost all of the comments in the United States section, including the one where I placed the "relevance" tag, were about oligarchy, with little evidence that it was associated with wealth. The tyranny of the majority rule by the "upper class" is not necessarily plutocracy ("rule by the wealthy", although defined here as "rule ... by the small minority of the wealthiest citizens.") Those sources which do not specifically refer to the wealthy are not relevant to this article. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 21:06, 17 June 2014 (UTC)

Indeed. – S. Rich (talk) 21:23, 17 June 2014 (UTC)

Civil oligarchy according to Winters[edit]

I'm putting this as a new section because the info may be of interest to other editors. It was me that raised the question as to what 'civil' oligarchy IS (according to Winters). The answer is not a wholly simple one, Winters contrasts 4 major types of oligarchy, with 'warring' being the most primitive and 'civil' the most developed. In a civil oligarchy, the oligarchs leave the implementation of law and defence of property/interests to the State, concentrating on defence of their own income and on tax avoidance, civil oligarchies are often, but not necessarily democracies. It is difficult to see a directly quotable/concise definition to clarify the term, but I will 'chew on it'. Anyone wanting to check this out, the definition is on p36 of the preface. Pincrete (talk) 19:03, 24 June 2014 (UTC)

Tribune magazine source[edit]

Ehrenkater This is not a dead link, so don't make a false claim in order to delete RS material because you don't like it.
If you want to dispute the source, follow WP:BRD and discuss that here.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 16:24, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

If you follow the link, you get a page headed "Not Found" which gives articles from July and August 2014. The article to which the link is intended to refer is from 2009. Hence it is a dead link. ----Ehrenkater (talk) 16:31, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

Well, your right that when you clik on that link from here a blank page shows up, but when you google the article title, the article appears under that link. Moreover, if you copy the link into the browser, it works. I've experimentally tried posting another link and clicking on that link, and it worked for me. Does it not work for you? --Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 16:49, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
You haven't actually posted any new link in the article.----Ehrenkater (talk) 17:00, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
Click on the highlight text that says "another link".--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 17:22, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

Quote by Noam Chomsky on United States[edit]

There is one here (both in the video and in text): http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2014/8/8/noam_chomsky_what_israel_is_doing. Van der Hoorn (talkcontribs) 21:32, 23 August 2014 (UTC)