Sunday, February 18, 2007


A year or so ago in trying to come up with a term to use in a speech that would clearly describe the form of government into which I think the United States’ republic has evolved, I coined the word aristomocracy. When I used it in a blog, one reader pointed out that I could have used the term plutocracy.

Wikipedia will tell you that a plutocracy is a form of government where the state's power is centralized in an affluent social class. The degree of economic inequality is high while the level of social mobility is low.

Is that an accurate description of our present system of government or what?! Who was the last president who didn’t have to spend like Rockefeller to get the office? Who was the last president who didn’t either have tons of money from his family’s coffers or sell his soul to the corporate lobbyists in order to get into the office? How long since anyone not closely aligned with the Skull and Bones crowd sat in the oval office? How many presidents in the history of this country did not come from the upper class? How long has it been since the nation’s wealth wasn’t being disproportionately amassed by the upper ten percent and especially the upper one percent of the people? How many congressional representatives came out of your neighborhood?

If you’d like to hear an artist’s interpretation of our current societal situation, check out James McMurty’s website at and listen to his wonderfully written rant/song “We Can’t Make it Here”.

My reader was right on the money. Plutocracy is the classic term for this, but if I used it in a speech, who would understand me? I think that aristomocracy says it better for the average reader/listener. After all, everybody knows what an aristocrat is and everybody knows that U.S. politicians tend to rant on about what a wonderful democracy we have here. Why it’s so great – just like a fine fundamental religion – that it must be exported. And if it takes blowing a nation to smithereens first, well, the end justifies the means. So combining the two words works – at least for me.

Just think. In, oh maybe 15 to 25 years, a country we’ve blown back to pre-war conditions – pre WWI that is – might be basking in the glories of an American style aristomocracy. No more horrible dictator willing to murder his own people in order to hang onto power. Oh no. Instead they will benefit from the rise to power of their richest citizens and maybe even, just like the U.S., have an abundant underclass that’s willing to work for less money than it takes to live on, and if they are really lucky maybe they’ll have a neighboring country so poor that they can get them to come in and do the really tough scut work for them. And maybe they’ll have a loyal citizenry willing to let their government kill them by using the military to further their ambitions.

Hey, here’s an idea. Why don’t we bomb Iran back to the stone age. Then when the Iraqi upper crust gets its feet on the ground and its stock market rolling and needs some drybacks (you don’t get wet crossing the Iran-Iraq border) to work its oil fields, they’ll have a ready made source of starving folks willing to work for nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this country and have been able to scratch out an acceptable level of comfort, but in a very minor way I, too, am one of the privileged. I was born into a professional family during the height of America’s glory. I’m fairly bright. I was able to get a university degree. I’ve never made much money, but a couple of good investments enabled by our freewheeling economic system have allowed me to feel reasonably comfortable about my future. I’m not saying that the United States is all bad or even irreparably broken. But, I AM saying that it is seriously twisted and that all the #*!(#)@&** we hear from Washington about the Horatio Alger American dream and the benefits of democracy for the common man is no more than vote seeking tongue in cheek blather.

Unless we return to the more equitable distribution of wealth we experienced in the 50s and 60s, our nation has no future of value to the common man, and the gap between rich and poor will continue to grow until our society becomes democratically unrecognizable and the common man is reduced to slavish struggle just to keep a roof over his head.

But we can’t even think about addressing that until we pull away from the idea of constant war designed to maintain our global power position. That approach will keep us so deeply in debt that only the wealthiest can expect any kind of comfortable existence. We need to get out of Iraq. We need to drop the policies of war as diplomacy. We need to drop the insane idea that waging war somehow ensures peace. We need to make sure that every citizen has the true potential to live a productive and secure life. In short, we need to rationally assess what the policies of the past have brought us to, where we want to go, and how we can get there.

But first and foremost, we need to get out of the war in Iraq. Then maybe we can go to work on crawling out from under our aristomocracy.

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