WISE men have warned us throughout human history about the danger of plutocracy. In Plato’s Republic, Socrates warned of the dangers of choosing captains of ships by their wealth. Despite these warnings, the United States of America has gone from a democracy towards becoming a plutocracy, for all practical purposes , moving away from a government of the people, by the people, and for the people to a government of the rich, the 1% of the people.
A plutocracy is a system of rule by people of wealth; the ruling class derive their power from their wealth. The rich are not satisfied, however, with having more wealth.
They are also seizing political wealth. President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for Treasury secretary is Janet L. Yellen, who over the past two years collected more than $7 million in speaking fees from major corporations, big tech and corporate interests, and Wall Street banks that have a keen interest in financial policies.
Joe Biden’s choice for secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, was paid nearly 1.2 million by a consulting firm he helped found, WestExec Advisors, where he advised a range of corporations including Facebook, Boeing, and Blackstone as well as Lazard (a private equity giant and an asset management firm, respectively). He is also a partner in a private equity firm Pine Island Capital Partners. Joe Biden picked Avril Haines for Director of National Intelligence; she was paid $180,000 to consult for Palantir, a data mining company. Yellen, Blinken, and Haines may have an ethical conflict of interest because the window between their involvement in these financial ventures and their government position would be less than a year.
Ronald Reagan remarked that government is not the solution; government is the problem. America’s government used to play a critical role in counter balancing market forces and ensuring a level playing field for all citizens.
Currently, however, the power of money in determining political outcomes in America was given a major boost by tech companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter in decisions of the 2020 elections in the United States. The power of the purse gave those with money the green light to spend unlimited sums on ads and other political tools to ensure the election of candidates sensitive to their interests.
No doubt the increasing inequality between rich and poor will cause an erosion of democracy. The Democratic party is all about identity politics. President-elect Joe Biden promises the single most diverse cabinet, based on race, gender, and sexual preference that has ever existed in the United States of America. America is the Promised Land where people come to America to be free from state imposed coercion, to have the opportunity to pursue their passions and exert their energies thereby advancing themselves and their families, or to draw a new trajectory for their lives.
In America, everyone has a good chance to prosper because each is truly free to pursue his or her own dreams. The rags-to-riches story informs the narrative of America. The seekers are free because they enjoy the protection of basic individual rights provided by the Constitution.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to avoid seeing this period as a uniquely humiliating moment for America. We recognize the sentiments of those who admire America, fear it, or hate it, but, unlike in the past, many no longer want to replicate it. Even though US embassies are full of immigration seekers, many do not see America as a utopian country. What makes the United States unique is it’s affording an equality of opportunity that allows every person to “make it,” given fair wind, a bit of ingenuity, and hard work—but not because of DNA, birthplace, bank account, or skin color.
By way of example, police may be Latino, Asian, or White as long as they protect the streets and civilians. In public service there is no room for “my tribe first” or identity politics. Instead, the soul of America is based on its true values. Risk taking in America is encouraged, along with fortuneseeking. Failure is acceptable because it signals a come back and another try. America is about judging people for what they do, not on how they were born. Deeds equalize the playing field.
Even a casual logician will see that no longer will this be true. Under Joe Biden’s Presidency we will have new rules, those based on tribe or birth status. According to President-elect Joe Biden, an individual’s place in society is determined by his or her birth. Certain marginalized groups get benefits while some now suddenly stigmatized groups get punishment. However, not all people who look alike are alike. Stereotyping is problematic. In the United States, people are more than their ethnicity because life in America is not determined by DNA.
Consequently, selecting people because they represent specific groups, based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender rather than on merit or qualifications fails to consider an individual’s determination, discipline, fortitude, and resourcefulness. All the great religions and moral philosophers teach humility, kindness, care for others and warn against pride and arrogance. Arrogance gained from being in the inner ring counters these faiths and philosophies.
As humans, we sometimes fail. We make mistakes. Hopefully we have the wisdom to recognize our mistakes and try to do better. America, like any other country, has made such mistakes as slavery and the treatment of Native Americans. But it also has had the wisdom to recognize its sins and errors and to show efforts not to repeat the same choices. Today slavery has been banned in America for over one and a half centuries, and legislation continues to thwart its effects.
Granted, some probably learn nothing from their mistakes, even when malfeasants are caught, embarrassed, and sometimes jailed. Democrat party elites, the corporate people who undergird the Democrat Party, continue arguing identity politics, standing on their own pedestal, not a mere soapbox. Like Nietzsche’s Übermensch or Superman, they perceive themselves as a superior human who transcends humans’ limits, religion, and morality; consequently, rules do not apply to them.
Recognizing that political tribalism has reached a new peak in America, shifting from inclusion to division, author Amy Chua argues that this new identity politics “leaves the United States in a perilous new situation: almost no one is standing up for an America without identity politics, for an American identity that transcends and unites all the country’s many subgroups.” While ideologies demand more from our intellect, tribal instincts demand that we divide everyone into “them” and “us” and foster arrogance about “our own kind.”
By selecting an entourage of the privileged, the wealthy, to rule under the new administration, Biden celebrates the power to be enjoyed by those at the top of the hierarchy— the plutocracy—relegating to the bottom those who regard values as sacred, instead of variables of race, gender, religious affiliation, sexual preference, or wealth.
Dr. Aland Mizell is President of the MCI and a regular contributor to Mindanao Times. You may email the author at:email@example.com