10 September 2009

Plutocracy or Kleptocracy?

The consequences of our pay to play politics.

Rich List: Kerry, Issa, Harman most wealthy; new kids of ’09 are rich kids, too

The new kids walking the halls of Congress this year are also some of Capitol Hill’s richest lawmakers.

About a tenth of the 50 wealthiest lawmakers were either voted in during the election last November or appointed during early 2009. Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), as well as appointed Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), are among the newcomers with pockets deep enough to make it on to The Hill’s Rich List.

The average member of Congress is worth at least $2.9 million, according to their reports, although several have also reported debts that exceed their assets.

The list is a bipartisan one. Of the 50 lawmakers on the The Hill’s Rich List, 26 are Democrats and 24 are Republicans. For comparison, there are 256 Democrats in the House and 178 Republicans; in the Senate there are 59 Democrats and 40 Republicans.

From the Wikipedia:

A Plutocracy is a government controlled by a minuscule proportion of extremely wealthy individuals found in most societies. In many forms of government, those in power benefit financially, sometimes enough to belong to the aforementioned wealthy class.

Classically, a plutocracy was an oligarchy, which is to say a government controlled by the wealthy few. Usually this meant that these ‘plutocrats’ controlled the executive, legislative and judicial aspects of government, the armed forces, and most of the natural resources. To a certain degree, there are still some situations in which private corporations and wealthy individuals may exert such strong influence on governments, that the effect can be compared to a plutocracy.

If there are no forms of control within the society, the plutocracy can easily collapse into a kleptocracy, "reign of thieves", where the powerholders attempt to confiscate as much public funds as possible as their private property. A kleptocratic state is usually thoroughly corrupt, has very little production and its economy is unstable.

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