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The term plutocracy indicates a form of government where all the state's decisions are centralized in an affluent wealthy class of citizenry and the degree of economic inequality is high while the level of social mobility is low. When these factors are met a government can be classified as such. This can apply to a multitude of government systems as these concepts transcend and often occur concomitantly with them. The word itself is derived from the ancient Greek root pluotos meaning wealth.
It is generally used to describe two unrelated phenomena. In writings about history, plutocracy is the political control of the state by an oligarchy of the wealthy. Examples of such plutocracy include some city-states in Ancient Greece and the Italian merchant republics of Venice, Florence, and Genoa.
Plutocracies typically emerge as one of the first governing systems within a territory after a period of anomie. Plutocracy is closely related to aristocracy as a form of government, as generally wealth and high social status have been closely associated throughout history.
The second usage is a pejorative reference to the great and undue influence the wealthy have on the political process in contemporary society. This influence can be exerted positively (by financial "contributions" or in some cases, bribes) or negatively by refusing to financially support the government (refusing to pay taxes, threatening to move profitable industries elsewhere, etc). It can also be exerted by the owners and ad buyers of media properties which can shape public perception of political issues (e.g. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp's publications alleged political agendas in Australia, the UK and the United States).
Recently, there have been numerous cases of wealthy individuals exerting financial pressure on governments to pass favorable legislation. (see: Lobbying) Most western partisan democracies permit the raising of funds by the partisan organisations, and it is well-known that political parties frequently accept significant donations from various individuals (either directly or through corporate institutions). Ostensibly this should have no effect on the legislative decisions of elected representatives; however it would be unlikely that no politicians are influenced by these "contributions". The more cynical might describe these donations as "bribes", although legally they are not. In the United States, campaign finance reform efforts seek to ameliorate this situation. However campaign finance reform has to successfully surmount challenge by officials who are beneficiaries of the system in place which allows this dynamic in the first place.
- Corporate abuse
- Corporate police state
- Crony capitalism
- Pareto principle (on unequal distribution of wealth)
- Special interest
- Beyond Plutocracy (http://www.beyondplutocracy.com) -- free online book, "Beyond Plutocracy: True Democracy for America" by Roger Rothenbergerde:Plutokratie