Oligarchy


* Ragtime^ sets mode: +m

<Ragtime^> Thank you for participating in this, our sixty-second presentation in the effort to resuscitate The Chicago Experiment.

<Ragtime^> We are discussing each of the 102 Great Ideas from The Syntopicon.

<Ragtime^> Every library in existence has a set of The Great Books of the Western World.

<Ragtime^> This is a 54 volume set. Volumes 2 and 3 are entitled The Syntopicon.

<Ragtime^> The Great Idea for tonight's presentation will be "Oligarchy."

<Ragtime^> The presentation will be divided into four parts.

<Ragtime^> In PART I we will clarify the difference between oligarchy and democracy. Is it the rule of the few as opposed to the rule of the many, or is it the rule of the rich as opposed to the rule of the poor? We will compare and contrast aristocracy with oligarchy. Sometimes oligarchy is considered a perversion of aristocracy in the same sense that tyranny is a perversion of monarchy.

<Ragtime^> In PART III we will consider two issues which have been around ever since oligarchies have been in existence. The first is how far the franchise should be extended. (Three classes of people who will never be represented are children, felons, and residents of Washington, D.C.) The second is the qualifications for political office. We will look at the debates between Edmund Burke and Charles James Fox about the political rights of the

<Ragtime^> In PART IV we will discuss whether or not the United States Constitution is an oligarchical document.

<Ragtime^> In the great books of political theory the word "oligarchy" is usually listed along with "monarchy" and "democracy" among the traditional names for the forms of government.

<Ragtime^> According to the meaning of their Greek roots, "oligarchy" signifies the rule of the few as "monarchy" signifies the rule of ond and "democracy" the rule fo the people--or the many.

<Ragtime^> These verbal meanings are somewhat altered, however, when we consider the actual conflict between oligarchy and democracy in Greek political life.

<Ragtime^> It involved an opposition, not simply between the few and the many, but between the wealthy and the working class.

<Ragtime^> The contest between these factions for political power dominated more than a century of Greek history around the Periclean age; and that fact justifies Aristotle's remark that oligarchy and democracy are the two principal conflicting forms of government.

<Ragtime^> We would not so describe the political struggle of our time.

<Ragtime^> We would not speak of oligarchy as one of the principal forms of government in the world today.

<Ragtime^> Instead we tend to think in terms of the conflict between democracy and dictatorship or despotism.

<Ragtime^> Even when we look to the background of present issues, it is the age-old struggle between absolute and constitutional government--or between monarchies and republics--which seems to supply the obvious historical parallels for the contemporary conflict between the principles of arbitrary and legal government.

<Ragtime^> The traditional terms of political theory, with the exception of oligarchy, thus appear to have a certain liveliness in the consideration of current problems.

<Ragtime^> But though it does not have such frequency in our speech or familiarity in our thought, oligarchy may be much more relevant to the real issues of our day than appears on the surface.

<Ragtime^> Certainly within the framework of constitutional government oligarchic and democratic principles are the opposed sources of policy and legislation.

<Ragtime^> In modern as in ancient republics the division of men into political parties tends to follow the lines of the division of men into economic factions.

<Ragtime^> The ancient meanings of oligarchy and democracy, especially for those observers like Thucydides and Aristotle who see the rich and the poor as the major rivals for constitutional power, indicate the fusion of political and economic issues.

<Ragtime^> The difference between oligarchy and democracy, says Aristotle, is not well-defined by reference to the few and the many, unless it is understood that the few are also the rich and the many the poor.

<Ragtime^> The issue is not whether the few are wiser than the many, or whether it is more efficient to have the government in the hands of the few rather than the many.

<Ragtime^> Such issues have been debated in the history of political thought, they are the more appropriate to the alternatives of aristocracy and democracy than to the conflict between oligarchy and democracy.

<Ragtime^> The historic struggle between oligarchs and democrats--whether described as a struggle between rich and poor, nobility and bourgeoisie, landed gentry and agrarian peons, owners and workers, classes and masses--is a struggle over the political privileges of wealth, the rights of property, the protection of special interests.

<Ragtime^> In the tradition fo the great books, Marx and Engels may be the first to call this struggle "the class war," but they are only the most recent in a long line of political and economic writers to recognize that the economic antagonism of rich and poor generates the basic political conflict in any state.

<Ragtime^> "Any city, however small," says Socrates, "is in fact divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich: these are at war with one another."

<Ragtime^> Oligarchy is not always defined as the rule of the wealthy, nor is it always conceived as the opponent of democracy on constitutional questions.

<Ragtime^> In the Statesman, for example, Plato first divides the forms of government into "monarchy, the rule of the few, and the rule of the many," and then divides "the rule of the few into aristocracy, which has an auspicious name, and oligarchy."

<Ragtime^> Here aristocracy and oligarchy seem to be regarded as opposites, the one a government in which the few rule according to the laws, the other lawless government by the few.

<Ragtime^> In both, the few are wealthy; hence wealth is no more characteristic of oligarchy than of aristocracy.

<Ragtime^> Some political theorists make no reference to wealth at all in the discussion of oligarchy.

<Ragtime^> Hobbes divides the forms of government according to whether the sovereign power is in the hands of one or more; and if in the hands of more than one, then whether it is held by some or all.

<Ragtime^> He calls the several forms of government monarchy (one), aristocracy (some), and democracy (all).

<Ragtime^> There are "other names of government in the histories and books of policy," he adds, such as tyranny and oligarchy. But they are not the names of other forms of government, but of the same forms misliked."

<Ragtime^> "For they that are discontented under monarchy call it tyranny, and they that are displeased with aristocracy call it oligarchy."

<Ragtime^> Like Hobbes, both Locke and Rousseau use no criterion except numbers to distinguish the forms of government, Locke calling government by the few "oligarchy" and Rousseau calling it "aristocracy."

<Ragtime^> Barely outlined in this way, the alternatives of monarchy, aristocracy or oligarchy, and democracy seem to raise issues only of expediency or efficiency rather than of justice.

<Ragtime^> Whether oligarchy is intrinsically a good or bad form of government tends to become a question only when other factors are considered; when, for example, the distinction between aristocracy and oligarchy is made to turn on whether the few are men of virtue or men of property, or when, in the comparison of oligarchy with democracy, the emphasis is not upon numbers but on the principles of wealth and liberty.

<Ragtime^> Nevertheless, the numerical criterion does not seem to be totally irrelevant to the comparison.

<Ragtime^> "Oligarchy and democracy," Aristotle writes, "are not sufficiently distinguished merely by these two characteristics of wealth and freedom."

<Ragtime^> Though the "real difference between democracy and oligarchy is poverty and wealth," and though "wherever men rule by reason of their wealth, whether they be few or many, that is an oligarchy," Aristotle does not seem to think we can neglect the political significance of what he calls the "accidental fact that the riche everywhere are few, and the poor are numerous."

<Ragtime^> With regard to aristocracy and oligarchy, the chief question does not seem to be on of principle, but of that.

<Ragtime^> Plato in the Republic and Aristotle in the Politics define aristocracy as government by the few best men, or the most virtuous.

<Ragtime^> They also place it next to what is for them the ideal government by the supremely wise man-the rule of the philosopher king, or what Aristotle calls "the divine sort of government."

<Ragtime^> In this context, oligarchy represents a perversion of aristocracy, as tyranny represents a corruption of monarchy.

<Ragtime^> Plato describes oligarchy as arising when "riches and rich men are honored in the State" and when the law "fixes a sum of money as the qualification for citizenship" and allows "no one whose property falls below the amount fixed to have any share in the government."

<Ragtime^> But according to Socrates, wealth does not qualify men to rule, as virtue and wisdom do.

<Ragtime^> "Just think what would happen," he says, "if pilots were to be chosen according to their property, and a poor man were refused permission to steer, even though he were a better pilot."

<Ragtime^> To which Adeimantus agrees that in government, as in navigation, the probable result would be shipwreck.

<Ragtime^> But though there may be no question of the superiority of aristocracy over oligarchy in principle, the critics of aristocracy question whether any historic state in which the few hold political power is not in fact an oligarchy.

<Ragtime^> It may not always be the case that the power of the few rests directly on wealth.

<Ragtime^> The privileged class may be a military clique or an hereditary nobility.

<Ragtime^> Yet these distinctions are seldom unaccompanied by the control of land or other forms of wealth, so that indirectly at least the oligarchical factor is thought to be operative.

* Ragtime^ sets mode: -m

<Ragtime^> The floor is now open for discussion.

<LvcisPveR> Ragtime: how would you call the power of the owners of the transnational that impose their wills to the world and get rich and richer from it?

<mikep> I liked that one: 'one cannot be both virtuous and rich' :)

<doug^b> Leninism, dictatorship by a party conceived as a small "vanguard of the proletariat", surely fits the bill of "oligarchy"

<Ragtime^> LP: oligarchy I suppose

<LvcisPveR> Ragtime: yeah, a legal one I think. cause if there's no law for it, then they create one.

<mikep> doug: mmm, yeah, but those are supposed to be the 'keepers' or the "guardians' rather than the rulers

<Ragtime^> doug^b: It can be unconvincing when a group of people who have never worked a day in their lives will preach the message "workers of the world unite."

<AlexSem> I don't know anyone who hasn't worked a day in their lives

<Ragtime^> AlexSem: have you ever heard of Marin County?

<AlexSem> no

<AlexSem> are you suggesting those so rich they don't have to work?

<Ragtime^> yes, the high school students there are an interesting breed

<mikep> ragtime: most able people perform some sort of 'work' ... just that work that does not pay off is unrecognized as such; ec. chatting in #phi... is not necessarily recognized as work

<katbert> I haven't really worked a day in my life, since I just get paid to do what I love.

<Ragtime^> there is a live specimen on a neighboring channel

<doug^b> In any case, it strikes me as a hypothesis in itself, to begin an inquiry into types of government by asking, "Which is intrinsically best?"

<Svengali> mikep, chatting here isn't work, it's self-destructive behavior.

<mikep> Svngali: mmm, you assume there's anything left to be destroyed :)

<AlexSem> sven perhaps for you =]

<Ragtime^> doug: That is a tough one. If the people themselves make that decision, they may opt for bread and circuses.

<Svengali> AlexSem, look around. I think it's quite safe for me to generalize.

<Svengali> Now, is this #politics or #philosophy?

<Ragtime^> In fact, I think a live specimen is with us now.

<mikep> artists, for ex., "work" when we like what they do, and "waste time" when we do not like/pay what they do; that's unfair

<doug^b> Any of several types of cars might be able to win the Indianapolis 500...the trick will be to know the right way to operate each different type

<Placidity> mikep: they still work

<mikep> back to the subject matter.... is there a connection between oligarchy and wealth necessarily?

<doug^b> the way to coax the best performance from each of the forms in question

<mikep> Placidity: I agree

<Ragtime^> mikep: Try going into politics without money and see how far you get.

<Placidity> They may make there own hours, but most artists work a lot; musicians, unless extremely lucky, have to go to countless gigs.

<mikep> ragtime: well, I meant worldwide not US

<Ragtime^> Presentation resumes in ten minutes.

<Placidity> Ragtime^: is Ralph Nader wealthy?

<AlexSem> mikep if you think art is just doodling and no work, you are very mistaken :)

<Ragtime^> Placidity; I don't know.

<mikep> Ralph is worth some $5Mill

<mikep> AlexSem: I never claimed that

<AlexSem> can someone define oligarchy please? I am still not clear

<Placidity> A government ruled by a few people.

<mikep> greek: oligo = few; archos= leader (above all)

<AlexSem> so the presentation is whether it's good to be ruled by few or by many?

<Placidity> sometimes its associated with corruption and selfishness

<Ragtime^> AlexSem: in a nutshell

<Placidity> many being democrasy?

<AlexSem> alrigh :) just making sure I am not drifting into some misunderstanding :)

<mikep> hence, oligophrenia - that fits some oligarchs as well - say, gb2 :)

<AlexSem> placi that's how I understood it from what was said above

<Scyther> Alexsem it's good( better) or more desirable( easier to cope with) than large rule.

<Ragtime^> Shakespeare was very hesitant about letting the mob rule. He demonstrated how Mark Anthony could easily manipulate a mob.

<katbert> Shakespeare had a bit of a vested interest in keeping the monarchy happy

<mikep> depends on the size of what has to be governed

<AlexSem> well I think if we have to choose between democracy and oligarchy, clearly oligarchy

<mikep> Alex: why so?

<AlexSem> most are not suited to rule

<AlexSem> and when we start asking "everyone" what they want

<AlexSem> it's just stupid

<AlexSem> few know what they want, and even fewer know how to get to that state

<doug^b> unfortunately, the fact of wielding power seems to turn any person into a person unsuited to rule, to some extent

<AlexSem> so I think it makes sense that only a few make the important decisions, since most are incapable of doing so

<Scyther> mikep right I agree, the size is the quintessential question in determining the best way to rule.

<mikep> AlexS: if everybody would be ruling, there would not  be anyone left to be ruled - that would be an easy job

<Ragtime^> A lot of people simply want to be left alone.

<Placidity> AlexSem: Having elections like we do in the state isn't "asking everyone what they want"

<AlexSem> placi what is it? :)

<Placidity> Its asking who they want to be asked instead of them.

<AlexSem> same idea

<Ragtime^> Maybe the electoral college is a good middle ground between democracy and oligarchy.

<AlexSem> what goes on there rag?

<Placidity> It doesn't take everyone; it takes the mass.

<mikep> point is that *power corrupts* and thus fewer having more power, the few will be more corrupted

<katbert> rule by the few is fine, so long as it is a natural aristocracy and not a heriditary aristocracy

<AlexSem> I think

<Ragtime^> AlexSem: The states choose the president.

<AlexSem> power doesn't corrupt

<Placidity> mikep: that is rediculous

<AlexSem> fear of losing power corrupts

<Placidity> Absolutism; the enlightened despots

<mikep> AlexS: yes, it makes one lose contact w/ reality

<mikep> ... Hitler, for ex.

<AlexSem> mikep don't get me started on hitler :P

<doug^b> a hereditary aristocracy has its virtues....they've already got it made, they're not on the make

<Scyther> Ragtime the electoral college enforces oligarchy on dmeocracy. In the selection of a choice meant for the multitudes by the few.

<AlexSem> see I think if we had someone in power

<Ragtime^> After Tip O'Neill retired from congress, they were repainting his office. One of the painters saw written on the wall of the bathroom, "Power corrupts. Absolute power is wonderful."

<AlexSem> who wants for the better

<AlexSem> while not afraid to lose power

<AlexSem> that would be best, and really a big plus to monarchy over other political systems imho

<Scyther> yes that is the truism ragtime

<Placidity> mikep: if everyone has a little power, the corruption wont reach them. If a few have all the power, they will be more prone to being corrupt.

<Ragtime^> AlexSem: I got that one from Robert Bork's book.

<Scyther> anyone seen bork's law

<Placidity> You don't see people abusing their voting privledges as one abuses their monarchal status.

<AlexSem> because there is no way of abusing it

<AlexSem> placi I think that's silly, to think the more power, the more corrupt

<Placidity> I didn't say that, I was just commenting on mikep's comment

<AlexSem> ok :)

<Placidity> <mikep> point is that *power corrupts* and thus fewer having more power, the few will be more corrupted

* Ragtime^ sets mode: +m

<Ragtime^> The criticism of aristocracies as masked oligarchies is discussed in the presentation on Aristocracy.

<Ragtime^> The critical point seems to be that nothing except superior virtue or talent justifies a political inequality between the few and the many.

<Ragtime^> The meaning of oligarchy is generalized in consequence to include any government in which the special privileges or powers held by the few cannot be justified, whether it is wealth or some other title to pre-eminence that is substituted for superiority in virtue or talent.

<Ragtime^> When it is so understood, the word "oligarchical" tends to become like "tyrannical," a term of reproach.

<Ragtime^> In describing different forms of democracy, Aristotle observes that their common principle is to give a share in the government to all who meet whatever minimum qualification is set by law.

<Ragtime^> "The absolute exclusion of any class," he says, "would be a step towards oligarchy."

<Ragtime^> To the same effect is Mill's comment on the steps away from oligarchy accomplished by English constitutional reforms in the 19th century.

<Ragtime^> "In times not long gone by," Mill writes, "the higher and richer classes were in complete possession of the government . . . A vote given in opposition to those influences . . . was almost sure to be a good vote, for it was a vote against the monster evil, the over-ruling influence of oligarchy."

<Ragtime^> But now that the higher classes are no longer masters of the country, now that the franchise has been extended to the middle classes, a diminished form of oligarchy still remains.

<Ragtime^> "The electors themselves are becoming the oligarchy"-in a population where many are still disfranchised.

<Ragtime^> "The present electors," Mill continues, "and the bulk of those whom any probable Reform Bill would add to the number, are the middle class; and have as much a class interest, distinct from the working classes, as landlords or great manufacturers."

<Ragtime^> "Were the suffrage extended to all skilled laborers, even those would, or might, still have a class interest distinct from the unskilled."

<Ragtime^> Oligarchy remains, according to Mill, so long as there is any unjustifiable discrimination among classes in the population.

<Ragtime^> It is not in his view limited to discrimination based on the extremes of wealth and poverty, as he plainly indicates by his remarks on the special interests of different parts of the working class, or their relation as a whole to the lower middle classes.

<Ragtime^> He makes this even plainer by what he has to say on political discrimination as between the sexes.

<Ragtime^> Suppose the suffrage to be extended to all men, he writes, "suppose that what was formerly called by the misapplied name of universal suffrage, and now by the silly title of manhood suffrage, became the law; the voters would still have a class interest, as distinguished from women."

<Ragtime^> The oligarchical defect in representative government which Mill is here criticizing seems to have little or no basis in economic class divisions.

-Skept- Sat Mar 06 21:33:17 2004

<Ragtime^> The exclusion of any class in the population from a voice in government renders that government oligarchical with respect to them.

<Ragtime^> The excluded class may even be a minority.

<Ragtime^> So conceived, oligarchy no longer means the rule of either the rich or the few.

<Ragtime^> When the meaning of oligarchy is generalized in this way, the discussion of oligarchy seems to presuppose the typically modern conception of democracy.

<Ragtime^> As indicated in the presentation on Democracy, the distinguishing feature of the modern democratic constitution is universal suffrage.

<Ragtime^> By this criterion, the conflict between the democrats and the oligarchs of the ancient world appears to be a conflict between two forms of oligarchical constitution-one in which the wealthier few and one in which the poorer many have political rights, but in neither of which membership in the political community includes all normal adult human beings in the population.

<Ragtime^> Where ancient political theory could conceive of a mixed constitution-somehow combining oligarchical and democratic principles-the modern conception of democracy seems to make any compromise with oligarchy impossible.

<Ragtime^> Certain modern writers, notably Mosca, Michels, and Pareto, seem to insist on the contrary, that oligarchy is present in all forms of government, and is especially prevalent in representative democracies where the actual conduct of government-the effective power-is in the hands of a bureaucracy or an elite, whether popularly chosen or self-appointed.

<Ragtime^> But the contradiction may be more verbal than real if on one side the word "oligarchy" means some degree of restriction in the franchise or citizenship, and, on the other, it applies to any situation in which the whole people are not directly active in all the affairs of government and, consequently, a small number of men administers the state.

<Ragtime^> Understood in the latter sense, the oligarchical principle does not seem to be incompatible with representative democracy.

<Ragtime^> Those who use the word in this sense merely call attention to an inevitable characteristic of representative government.

<Ragtime^> A representative democracy may also have an aristocratic aspect when it follows the principle that the men best qualified by virtue or talent for public office should be chosen by the suffrage of all their fellow-citizens.

<Ragtime^> Fuller discussion of these aspects of oligarchy is found in the presentations on Aristocracy and Democracy.

<Ragtime^> Here we are primarily concerned with political issues which have their source in the opposition of economic classes in the state, primarily that extreme division of men into those who live by their labor and those who live on their property and the labor of others.

<Ragtime^> It is in terms of this extreme division between men of leisure and working men that the conflict between oligarchy and democracy takes place in the ancient world.

<Ragtime^> At a time when citizenship meant a much more active and frequent participation in government than it does under the modern institutions of the ballot box and the representative assembly, the ancient defenders of oligarchy could argue that only men of wealth had the leisure requisite for citizenship.

<Ragtime^> Oligarchy could be further defended on the ground that, in many of the Greek city-states, public officials were either not compensated at all or at least not substantially.

<Ragtime^> Only men of sizeable property could afford to hold public office.

<Ragtime^> Aristotle weighs the arguments for and against oligarchy.

<Ragtime^> On the point of leisure, for example, he holds that "nothing is more absolutely necessary than to provide that the highest class, not only when in office, but when out of office should have leisure."

<Ragtime^> Yet "even if you must have regard to wealth in order to secure leisure," it is "surely a bad thing," he thinks, "that the greatest offices, such as those of kings and generals, should be bought."

<Ragtime^> "The law which allows this abuse makes wealth of more account than virtue."

<Ragtime^> Aristotle seems to regard democratic and oligarchical claims as complementary half-truths.

<Ragtime^> "Both parties to the argument," he says, "are speaking of a limited and partial justice, but imagine themselves to be speaking of absolute justice."

<Ragtime^> According to an adequate conception of political justice, it is as unjust to treat equals unequally as it is to treat unequals equally.

<Ragtime^> The oligarch violates the first of these principles, the democrat the second.

<Ragtime^> "Democracy arises out of the notion that those who are equal in any respect are equal in all respects; because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal."

<Ragtime^> "Oligarchy is based on the notion that those who are unequal in one respect are in the all respects unequal; being unequal, that is, in property, they suppose themselves to be unequal absolutely."

<Ragtime^> Whan can cure this situation in which perpetual revolution seems to be inevitable, as democracy succeeds oligarchy, or oligarchy democracy, in the government of the Greek cities?

<Ragtime^> Aristotle describes many forms of oligarchy and democracy, but none seems to remove the cause of revolution.

<Ragtime^> When, in an attempt to preserve their position, the wealthier families turn to the more extreme forms of oligarchical constitution, that tendency eventually leads to a kind of despotic government which Aristotle calls "dynasty," or the lawless rule of powerful families.

<Ragtime^> To establish a stable government which shall be less subject to revolution in favor of a contrary principle of government, and which shall resist the tendency toward lawless rule, by either the masses or the powerful few, Aristotle proposes the mixed constitution, which shall combine the elements of both democratic oligarchical justice.

<Ragtime^> But this will not work in actual practice, he thinks, unless the middle class "is large, and stronger if possible than both the other classes . . . Great then is the good fortune of a slate in which the citizens have a moderate and sufficient property; for where some possess much, and the others nothing, there may arise an extreme democracy, or a pure oligarchy; or a tyranny may grow out of either extreme . . . "

<Ragtime^> "These considerations will help us to understand why most governments are either democratical or oligarchical."

<Ragtime^> "The reason is that the middle class is seldom numerous in them, and whichever party, whether the rich or the common people, transgresses the mean and predominates, draws the constitution its own way, and thus arises either oligarchy or democracy."

<Ragtime^> From the point of view which sees no justice in granting any special privileges to property, Aristotle's position on oligarchy seems open to question.

<Ragtime^> For one thing, in admitting a partial justice in the principle that those who are unequal in wealth should be treated unequally in the distribution of political power, Aristotle appears to affirm that the possessors of wealth deserve a special political status.

<Ragtime^> For another thing, in his own formulation of an ideal polity, Aristotle advocates the exclusion of the working classes from citizenship.

<Ragtime^> "The citizens must not lead the life of mechanics or tradesmen, for such a life is ignoble and inimical to virtue."

<Ragtime^> "Neither must they be husbandmen, since leisure is necessary both for the development of virtue and the performance of political duties."

<Ragtime^> All these classes of men are necessary for the existence of the state, but they are to be no part of it in the sense of political membership.

<Ragtime^> "The best form of state will not admit them to citizenship," thought it will include as necessary "the slaves who minister to the wants of individuals, or mechanics and laborers who are the servants of the community."

<Ragtime^> Some of the great speeches in Thucydides' History, which deal with domestic issues as well as the issues of war and peace, eloquently argue the opposite side of the case.

<Ragtime^> Debating with Hermocrates before the Syracusan assembly, Athenagoras answers those who say that "democracy is neither wise nor equitable, but that the holders of property are the best fitted to rule."

<Ragtime^> "I say, on the contrary, first, that the word demos, or people, includes the whole state, oligarchy only a part; next, that if the best guardians of property are the rich, and the best counselors the wise, non can hear and decide so well as the many, and that all these talents, severally and collectively, have their just place in a democracy."

<Ragtime^> "But an oligarchy gives the many their share of the danger, and not content with the largest part, takes and keeps t he whole of the profit."

* Ragtime^ sets mode: -m

<Scyther> Placidity, the few in power, if of the right moral fiber, can be more effective than many camps pushing for seperate agendas. As Ragtime^ points out, the few in power, as a result of democratic systems making bureaucracies, are the oligarchy of democracy, intrinsic to it. Complimentary half-truths as Aristotle referred to the claims of democracy and oligarchy. Apparently, success of any government relies on a large sized middle

<Ragtime^> The floor is now open for discussion.

<Placidity> Scyther: I'm not sure I'm comprehending what you are trying to say.

<Scyther> Placidity I am arguing for oligarchy, you against.

<Placidity> Are you implying that democracy results in an oligarchy of some sort?

<Scyther> yes, as Aristotle said they are complementary

<Placidity> I think that much depends on how those few that are in power, gain there power.

<Ragtime^> The Kennedys often claimed there is something to be said for rich kids rising to political power. They cannot be bought.

<Placidity> And to find those of the "right moral fiber", as you put it, is unlikely.

<Scyther> Placidity: <Ragtime^> Certain modern writers, notably Mosca, Michels, and Pareto, seem to insist on the contrary, that oligarchy is present in all forms of government, and is especially prevalent in representative democracies where the actual conduct of government-the effective power-is in the hands of a bureaucracy or an elite, whether popularly chosen or self-appointed.

<Ragtime^> When an election is held, they say "may the best man win." That is a form of elitism.

<Placidity> I agree, however, the manner in which the oligarchy is formed is the true essence of that government, assuming that all governments have an oligarchy present.

<Ragtime^> presentation resumes in ten minutes

<Scyther> Placidity consider a small Amazonian tribe versus a large Afghanistani tribe. Which has an oligarchy in charge? Moreso the small tribe, but, as well, the decentralized bureaucracies in the large tribe act as mini-oligarchies.

<Placidity> When formed through a monarchy, such as Englands Parlament, the oligarchy is present, but has much different results when compared to say, our current government.

<Scyther> Is there an oligarchy of several hundred people in charge>

<Placidity> Scyther: I think I'm missing your point.

<Scyther> Placidity I refer to the elitist groups and cabals, the masons, illuminati, the moosphere.

<Scyther> Basically Placidity, it appears certain groups have formed oligarchies, what they control though is unknown to me.

<Placidity> There are oligarchies in almost every social structure.

<Ragtime^> let me resume the presentation now. Hopefully English will be the language on deck when the discussion resumes.

* Ragtime^ sets mode: +m

<Ragtime^> In PART III we will consider two issues which have been around ever since oligarchies have been in existence. The first is how far the franchise should be extended. (Three classes of people who will never be represented are children, felons, and residents of Washington, D.C.) The second is the qualifications for political office. We will look at the debates between Edmund Burke and Charles James Fox about the political rights of the

<Ragtime^> In modern political thought, the discussion of oligarchy seems to occur at two levels.

<Ragtime^> There is the controversy on the level of constitutional principles with regard to suffrage and representation and qualifications for public office.

<Ragtime^> Here the issues concern the justice of the fundamental laws of republican or popular government.

<Ragtime^> There is also a consideration of the way in which men of property or corporate concentrations of wealth are able to exert influence upon the actual course of government.

<Ragtime^> Here the problem becomes, not so much the justice of the constitution or of the laws, but the weight which wealth seems able to throw onto the scales of justice.

<Ragtime^> The great modern defense of the oligarchical constitution does not seem to be as plainly or forcefully made in any of the great books as in the speeches of Edmund Burke, especially those in opposition to the suffrage reform measures proposed by Charles James Fox, wherein Burke argues for the principle of virtual representation.

<Ragtime^> It is unnecessary, he claims, for the franchise to be extended to the working classes if their economic betters-who also happen to be their superiors in talent and education-deliberate on what is for the common good of all.

<Ragtime^> The Federalists seem to take an opposite view.

<Ragtime^> Reflecting on the system of British representation in their day, they observe that, for the eight millions of people in the kingdoms of England and Scotland, "the representatives . . . in the House of Commons amount to five hundred and fifty-eight."

<Ragtime^> But, they go on, "of this number one ninth are elected by three hundred and sixty-four persons and one half by five thousand seven hundred and twenty-three persons."

<Ragtime^> "It cannot be supposed," they argue, "that the half thus elected and who doe not even reside among the people at large, can add anything either to the security of the people against the government, or to the knowledge of their circumstances and interests in the legislative councils."

<Ragtime^> "On the contrary, it is notorious that they are more frequently the representatives and instruments of the executive magistrate than the guardians and advocates of the popular rights."

<Ragtime^> Nevertheless, they do not condemn such an oligarchical system of representation as entirely inimical to the virtues of parliamentary government.

<Ragtime^> "It is very certain," they declare, "not only that a valuable portion of freedom has been preserved under all these circumstances, but that the defects in the British code are chargeable, in a very small proportion, on the ignorance of the legislature concerning the circumstances of the people."

<Ragtime^> Some of the American constitutionalists may be influence by Burke's defense of oligarchy in terms of the virtues of an aristocracy, but they state their own position in terms which are more plainly oligarchical.

<Ragtime^> They argue for poll tax clauses and property qualifications for public office on the ground that the country should be run by the people who own it.

<Ragtime^> Furthermore, those who are not economically independent are not in a position to exercise political liberty.

<Ragtime^> "Power over a man's subsistence," Hamilton declares, "amounts to power over his will."

<Ragtime^> Facing the issue which had been raised on the floor of the constitutional convention, Madison remarks that "the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property."

<Ragtime^> "Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society."

<Ragtime^> He proposes a representative-or what he calls a "republican"-system of government to avoid the excessive factionalism of the pure or direct democracies of Greek city-states.

<Ragtime^> "Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government," Madison writes, "have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to perfect eq uality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions."

<Ragtime^> By a weighted system of representation, the power of sheer numbers may be counter-balanced by the power given to other factors, thus preventing the "accomplishment of the secret wishes of an unjust and interested majority."

<Ragtime^> " . . . A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it."

<Ragtime^> In another paper, the Federalists answer the charge that the constitution is oligarchical, because "the House of Representatives . . . will be taken from that class of citizens which will have least sympathy with the mass of the people and be most likely to aim at an ambitions sacrifice of the many to the aggrandizement of the few."

<Ragtime^> This objection, they say, while "leveled against a pretended oligarchy," in principle "strikes at the very root of republican government."

<Ragtime^> The method of election provided for by the Constitution aims "to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society . . . Who are to be the electors of the federal representatives?"

<Ragtime^> "Not the rich, more than the poor; not the learned, more than the ignorant; not the haughty heirs of distinguished names, more than the humble sons of obscurity and unpropitious fortune . . . Who are to be the objects of popular choice?"

<Ragtime^> "Every citizen whose merit may recommend him to the esteem and confidence of the country."

<Ragtime^> "No qualification of wealth, of birth, of religious faith, or of civil profession, is permitted

<Ragtime^> to fetter the judgment or disappoint the inclination of the people."

* Ragtime^ sets mode: -m

<Ragtime^> The floor is now open for discussion.

<Scyther> that's great Ragtime^

<Ragtime^> 10 Q

<Scyther> a form, used to evaluate personal merit, contains a list of questions. Have you ever been in trouble, have you ever done anything immoral. Have you been hated, have you hated others? Have you a work ethic, have you a family ethic. Most would fail, but many would pass. The next level is how smart you are.

<Placidity> Scyther: who is to say what is immoral?

<MyLord> <Ragtime^> The method of election provided for by the Constitution aims "to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society --> ragtime, but most of the time this paragraph doesn't correlate democracy, even Plato claimed that democracy wasn't the best system, even I doubt if any country has ever been realy democratic

<Scyther> Placidity it evidentially is a fluid definition. The Mormon state of Utah was denied admission tot he US for years until it was satisfied they would not espouse polygamy.

<Ragtime^> In The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton said that pure democracy cannot work in a land area larger than a county.

<MyLord> Ragtime: how can a federal system ensure democracy and cannot turn into a feudal system?

<Ragtime^> MyLord: I think a written constitution can do it.

<Scyther> to me an oligarchy should be installed int he world court as final authority over all world judicial events.

<Ragtime^> Scyther: then it might be like George Orwell's 1984. The oligarchy will keep a perpetual war going, just to keep the population occupied.

<MyLord> Ragtime: but a constitution for a state and a constitution for a country, laws for a state and laws for a country, that's bureaucracy

<Scyther> Ragtime ppl won\t like it, but, a brave new world might appear.

<Ragtime^> bureaucracy and a judiciary are not answerable to the people. A president and a legislature are answerable to the people.

<Scyther> Ragtime^ does not oligarchy imply democratic choice is gone, and the gew rule the many.

<Ragtime^> Scyther: Not completely. A republic is more oligarchic than a democracy.

<Scyther> edicts verus opinions may be all the difference between oligarchy and democratic judicial process.

<Ragtime^> Israel has a supreme court that has attained a state of absolute power. They pick their own successors, and they have veto power over anything that the knesset or the prime minister do.

<Scyther> Reasoning ism Ragtime^, is the few can better decide critical issues than a blundering committee of many.

<Ragtime^> Scyther: yes, but they tend to make the decisions in the best interests of the few

<Scyther> Is the point in eliminating the interests of the working class as motivating bureaucracy into action. Why listen to the lowly worker when rich people have agendas.

<Ragtime^> Scyther: If you want your economy to be productive you probably want to. The British class system was one reason that the British Empire fell.

<Scyther> I'm not sure, with the right population control any indignity can be ladled out to the bourgeoisies

<Ragtime^> Scyther: Do you favor social engineering?

<Scyther> oh yes

<Ragtime^> And who is most qualified to do the engineering?

<MyLord> Ragtime: the economic class is powerful because of the labor force not for there's a privilege class

<Scyther> an engineer has a code of ethics, to work for the improvement and benefit of mankind.

<Scyther> or for the oligarchical agenda

<Ragtime^> Scyther: Ever since the sixties, the liberals have applied social engineering to academia. They now have a stanglehold over free inquiry.

<MyLord> Scyther: yeah, it's a nice subject to collect credits which is manily at the end of your last year in the university :)

<Ragtime^> Presentation resumes in nine minutes.

<Scyther> Ragtime^ exactly the benefit of oligarchy it reduces introspection.

<Ragtime^> It can also lead the the Brazilianization of society.

<MyLord> Ragtime : what do you mean by Brazilianization?

<Scyther> Brazil is OK except for their horrible slums.

<Ragtime^> Where there is a small upper class living in locked compounds, no middle class, and a large underclass living outside the locked compounds.

<MyLord> Ragtime: the reality in Brazil is that instead of being a federal country, it's a feudal system where some people own the land and the federal states are a reality in the map only

<Ragtime^> so it sounds like an oligarchy

<MyLord> well, I don't know, it depends if they have agreed on what to do as a block, but it doesn't seem so, it's more the law of the jungle

<Ragtime^> Russia is the same way. It is run by lawless oligarchs.

<MyLord> yeah, the Russian mafia is out of control.

* Ragtime^ sets mode: +m

<Ragtime^> In PART IV we will discuss whether or not the United States Constitution is an oligarchical document.

<Ragtime^> Whether the American Constitution in its original formulation is an oligarchical document has long been a matter of dispute.

<Ragtime^> Whether the Federalists favor devices for protecting the rights of property or repudiate oligarchical restrictions in favor of the rights of man has also been the subject of controversy.

<Ragtime^> That this is so may indicate at least a certain ambiguity on their position.

<Ragtime^> But on the question of the oligarchical influences on government-the political pressures exerted by the propertied classes to serve their special interests-the opinion of the modern authors of the great books seems much clearer.

<Ragtime^> The most extreme statement of this opinion is, of course, to be found in the Communist Manifesto.

<Ragtime^> There government, in fact the state itself, is regarded as an instrument which the economic oppressors wield against the oppressed.

<Ragtime^> The final step in the bourgeois revolution, according to Marx and Engels, occurred when the bourgeoisie "conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive political sway."

<Ragtime^> In the bourgeois state, legislation is nothing but the will of this one class made into a law for all.

<Ragtime^> One aim of the communist revolution, beyond the temporary dictatorship of the proletariat, is the withering away of that historic formation of the state in which "political power . . . is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another."

<Ragtime^> Though much less radical in intention than Marx, Smith and Mill make statements which seem to be no less radical in their criticism of the oligarchical influences on modern parliamentary government.

<Ragtime^> It has been said, Smith observes, that "we rarely hear . . . of combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen."

<Ragtime^> "But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject."

<Ragtime^> "Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate . . . "

<Ragtime^> "Masters too sometimes enter into particular combinations to sink the wages of labor ever below this rate."

<Ragtime^> Furthermore, the parties to the conflict do not have equal access to legislative protection.

<Ragtime^> "Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen, its counselors are always the masters."

<Ragtime^> Almost a century later, Mill writes in a similar vein concerning "the persevering attempts so long made to keep down wages by law . . . "

<Ragtime^> "Does Parliament," he asks, "ever for an instant look at any question with the eyes of a working man? . . . "

<Ragtime^> "On the question of strikes, for instance, it is doubtful if there is so much as one among the leading members of either House who is not firmly convinced that the reason the the matter is unqualifiedly on the side of the masters, and that the men's view of it is simply absurd."

<Ragtime^> The remedy for this inequity, according to Mill, is not communism, but constitutional reforms in the directions of universal suffrage which will no longer leave the working classes "excluded from all direct participation on the government."

* Ragtime^ sets mode: -m

<Ragtime^> The floor is now open for discussion.

* Retrieving #philosophy modes...

<Scyther> emminnent domain is quizzical - it follows no morality I know of.

<Scyther> Usurping property simply enforces the absolute power fo government.

<Ragtime^> at least government takes part of it. Without a government, you may lose all of it.

<Scyther> right Ragtime^, one wonders why such equitable and favorable transactions are made when taking property. Perhaps to keep the natives quiet.

<Ragtime^> There is something to be said for keeping the natives quite. People get hurt in revolutions.

<Scyther> the voice of the worker - is it needed to run government beyond knowing their needs and fulfilling them, and knowing their wnats and not fulfilling them.

<LordBrain> if we had a justice system which learns from conflicts which it helps to resolve with an empathy based approach, and then modifies government in accordance with what it learns, we might eliminate the need for violent revolutions totally.

<Scyther> it's good to put that discussion forwards Ragtime^

<Ragtime^> LordBrain: do we have such a justice system now?

<LordBrain> we have a justice system based on judgment and sentencing

<LordBrain> with laws etc

<Ragtime^> and laws can be changed

<LordBrain> so

<{Thomash}> human judgments and interpretations of written laws mostly.

<Sol_Fenix> THe problem with universal suffrage is the ability of the government to efficiently move through proceedings , and would require a very adaptable organizational structure in order to keep the system afloat else it leads to a protracted process governed by mob rule.

<Sol_Fenix> perhaps...

<Scyther> ever consider mob rule is really an oligarchy.

<Scyther> in the sense of organized crime, otherwise it is anarchy.

<Ragtime^> oligarchy requires a monopoly of force, which organized crime sometimes has

<{Thomash}> That's a good point... mobs are very easily ruled by a few individuals who give off the right psychological inflections.

<LordBrain> you don't need laws and experts at judging them and interpreting them and sentencing, all you need is to resolve the conflicts. Instead of stepping in and dictating a solution, you could actually work toward the goal of actually resolving the conflict, getting it to a point where its plausible the two parties would actually agree to a common solution, a point where they don't see each other as enemies.

<LordBrain> all the time and effort that goes into the battle, could go into a healing process, which ultimately culminates in empathic connection and resolution with a consensus on the terms.

<Ragtime^> LordBrain: Is that anything like "I feel your pain?"

<Scyther> LordBrain so much human existence is a halting step forward.

<LordBrain> no, you'll have people on both sides needing empathy, and you'll have people who have made themselves expert in facilitating empathic connection. Not fake empathy, and not premature forgiveness.

<Sol_Fenix> Ragtime, the Russian mafia which has existed in small tattooed ritualized gangs since the first revolution and czarist conspiracies.

<Scyther> btw Ragtime^ you presentations are excellent. Well researched and amply supported .

<LordBrain> you can make use of interim "boundary" style solutions until the conflict is totally resolved.

<Ragtime^> Scyther: 10 Q

<LordBrain> you can keep case histories, so that we can review the cases, to understand what are the underlying common values which people connect to

<LordBrain> and we can develop a greater consensus vocabulary about those values.

<Scyther> Lordbrain are you saying the common people cannot know what is best for them and it requires the few, with better education and talent to decide?

<LordBrain> the resolved conflicts don't simply come up again and again, as happens in when we turn over convicts in the revolving door.

<LordBrain> no Scyther, i'm saying that humans, all humans have common values, and that we can identify them in the empathic resolution of conflicts. And then we can serve them consciously and intelligently, rather than using strategies which are non-strategic-thinking subconscious happens to have at hand.

<Ragtime^> I wish to thank everyone who participated in this presentation tonight.

<Ragtime^> The next presentation will be on April 3.

<Ragtime^> The topic will be One and Many.

<Sol_Fenix> Thanks for the presentation ragtime

<Ragtime^> Good night.




Back to Presentations Page