Princeton-Northwestern Research: United States a Crony Oligarchy

Two academic researchers have released a 42-page article — set for publication in the fall 2014 edition of Perspectives on Politics — that dismisses the notion that US federal policies reflect either a constitutional republic or a democracy. Members of the Princeton and Northwestern faculties, Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page contend that the policies fit most closely with the interests of “economic elites” (an oligarchy) and “organized groups representing business interests” (otherwise known as cronies or mercantilists).

The paper of the American Political Science Association, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” examines 1,779 policies between 1981 and 2002 and considers whether their changes matched popular will or particular interest groups. Contrary to the widespread view, they found, the majority of individuals do not rule the day in the United States:

“Average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.”


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