America is not a democracy but a plutocracy.
Plutocracy is governance by the wealthy. Most of America's many political, economic and social ills are caused or aggravated by its most fundamental problem: America is not really a democracy but a plutocracy dominated and governed by a wealthy few. The wealthy hold a perpetual hegemony of power in our government through the generations, much to the detriment of the rest of the populace. Elections and our government's offices, laws, actions and favors are bought and sold just like any other commodity. America has the best government that money can buy.
While the major political parties and the elites that occupy office embrace some differing secondary issues that attract each of us to one over the other, all parties are bought by, serve and never fundamentally alter the ever present plutocracy. The fundamental injustices and the many economic and social problems caused by the plutocracy are never repaired.
The problem is not which party or elites currently populate our government. And superficial reform and tinkering will never fix the problem. The problem lies in the design of our government, its basic structure, a distribution of power that overwhelmingly and perpetually favors the wealthy.
A political cartoon illustrates our true situation: A giant, wealthy fat cat complete with a top hat, a big cigar and a cynical smile is standing legs apart and arms spread outward above the many tiny people below, the electorate. He laughingly exclaims, "You may take my Right hand or my Left hand, but you always get me!"
America has always been a plutocracy.
Our current plutocracy is not the result of irresponsible wealthy corporations and individuals corrupting in recent decades our once-sacred democracy. The creators of America's constitution and government were among the wealthy aristocrats of their day. When they created their new government, the founders excluded democracy to the extent politically possible at the time. They embraced instead the republican form of government, so-called "representative" democracy.
The great failure of our "representative' democracy is that our supposed representatives do not fairly represent the entire populace but themselves and their wealthy clients first and best. Its greatest service for the wealthy is that while excluding democracy it appears to be one. People dutifully vote in elections and believe the myth that America is a democracy, albeit a strangely unresponsive one that they repeatedly try and fail to make work for them. Thus, unrecognized for what it is by most people, the continued existence of the American plutocracy is assured.
Just, equitable governance can be achieved by adding to our government just the right kind and amount of direct democracy
Precisely because our government lies at the heart of the problem it also lies at the heart of the solution. If we alter our government in a way that makes it honestly include and serve the entire electorate, then we can easily and permanently correct the profound unfairness and inequity inherent in our current political-economic system.
Direct democracy--in which the electorate votes directly on issues--is the most commonly prescribed solution for the problem of plutocracy. But as the phrases "the tyranny of democracy" and "the rule of the mob" suggest, democracy also has some profound problems. Referendum-style, majority-rule, direct democracy with an unending stream of issues, if it were ever really tried, would only result in another form of tyranny: the political, economic, religious and behavioral tyranny of the simple majority over the rest of the populace. It would lead to conformity, mediocrity and a decline of freedom and excellence. It is only because majority-rule direct democracy has never really existed in the governments of nations that most people fail to see its shortcomings.
Further, direct democracy has rather severe natural limitations. A busy electorate whose members have varying capability is simply not capable of handling the myriad complex details of the modern state. And few people would want handling a never-ending avalanche of complex political issues to be the centerpiece of their lives. Therefore, of necessity, even with a measure of direct democracy, we still need representative branches in our government with elected and appointed officials to handle the myriad details of governance.
Direct democracy is indeed the answer to the problem of plutocracy. But given its pitfalls and limitations, we must design it carefully and choose very wisely what to include in it. Understand that it is by the inclusion in our government (or in any government) of just the right kind and amount of direct democracy that its representative branches are rendered truly representative, the tyranny of plutocracy is overcome, the democracy itself does not become a tyranny and the freedom of the individual is maximized.
How to really fix what's really wrong with our government
In my book Beyond Plutocracy - True Democracy for America, hereafter simply Beyond, available free at http://www.beyondplutocracy.com, I offer for your consideration a partial redesign of our government that, I believe, really fixes in just the right way what is really wrong with it. Unlike our current government, the consensus government, as I call it, that is presented in Beyond is an honest broker that fairly includes and represents everyone in our political-economic system.
Limited direct democracy and limited representative democracy are joined together and judiciously balanced resulting in a wise amount and just distribution of governmental powers that does not unduly favor any particular group. The limited direct democracy is added to our government as a new fourth branch I call the demos, pronounced as in democrat. The demos is a nationwide electronic network in which the entire electorate practices not majority-rule democracy but a new kind of democracy of my own design I call consensus democracy by deliberating, voting and achieving consensus on a fixed set of our nation's key electoral and economic issues.