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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Plutocracy is rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth. The combination of both plutocracy and oligarchy is called plutarchy.

In a plutocracy, the degree of economic inequality is high while the level of social mobility is low. This can apply to a multitude of government systems, as the key elements of plutocracy transcend and often occur concurrently with the features of those systems.

The word plutocracy (Modern Greek: πλουτοκρατία - ploutokratia) is derived from the ancient Greek root ploutos, meaning wealth and kratos, meaning to rule or to govern.



The term plutocracy is generally used to describe these two distinct concepts: one of a historical nature and one of a modern political nature. The former indicates the political control of the state by an oligarchy of the wealthy. Examples of such plutocracies include some city-states in Ancient Greece, the civilization of Carthage, the Italian merchant republics of Venice, Florence, Genoa, and pre-WWII Empire of Japan zaibatsus.

Before the equal voting rights movement managed to end it in the early 20th century, many countries used a system where rich persons had more votes than poor. A factory owner may for instance have had 2000 votes while a worker had one, or if they were very poor no right to vote at all. Even artificial persons such as companies had voting rights. In the US, it would take until 1945 before persons living on welfare and persons in personal bankruptcy would get voting rights.[1][2]

One modern, perhaps unique, formalised example of a plutocracy is the City of London. The City (not the whole of modern London but the area of the ancient city, which now mainly comprises the financial district) has a unique electoral system. Most of its voters are representatives of businesses and other bodies that occupy premises in the City. Its ancient wards have very unequal numbers of voters. The principal justification for the non-resident vote is that about 450,000 non-residents constitute the city's day-time population and use most of its services, far outnumbering the City's residents, who are fewer than 10,000.


Marxist-Leninist view

According to Marxism-Leninism all capitalist nations follow a plutocratic government mixed with imperialism, and the only way to change this is through a mass revolution by the proletariat. The plutocratic state's lack of social mobility is a result of exploitation of the masses, preventing the workers from climbing out of poverty.[citation needed]

Modern politics

The second usage of plutocracy is a pejorative reference to a disproportionate influence the wealthy are said to have on political process in contemporary society: for example Kevin Phillips, author and political strategist to U.S. President Richard Nixon, argues that the United States is a plutocracy in which there is a "fusion of money and government."[3]

Positive influence includes campaign contributions; negative influence includes refusing to support the government financially by refusing to pay taxes, threatening to move profitable industries elsewhere, bribes, and so on. It can also be exerted by the owners and ad buyers of media properties which can shape public perception of political issues (see also: fourth estate).

Recently, there have been numerous cases of wealthy individuals and organizations exerting financial pressure on governments to pass favorable legislation (see also: Lobbying). Most western democracies permit partisan organizations to raise funds for politicians, and it is well-known that political parties frequently accept significant donations from various individuals (either directly or through corporate, labour union, or other advocacy groups). These donations may be part of a cronyist or patronage system. Some describe these donations as bribes, although legally they are not unless a quid pro quo exists. Ostensibly, campaign donations should have no effect on the legislative decisions of elected representatives; however it would be unlikely that no politicians are influenced by these contributions.

In the United States, campaign finance reform efforts seek to ameliorate this situation. However, campaign finance reform must successfully challenge officials who are beneficiaries of the system which allows this dynamic in the first place. This has led many reform advocates to suggest taxpayer dollars be used to replace private campaign contributions; these reforms are often called clean money or clean election reform as opposed to simply campaign finance reform which does not address the conflict of interest involved where most or all of the campaign money is from private, often for-profit sources. Critics of clean elections point out that it allows the sitting government to decide which candidates would qualify to receive tax dollars - and therefore influence who would be allowed to win - thus solving one problem by creating another problem; courts in the U.S.A. have also agreed that some "clean election" legislation has discriminated against independent or third-party candidates, and has violated the constitution. This problem can be solved by equal funding for all candidates.

See also


Further reading

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

A plutocracy is rule by the wealthy, or the power held by the wealthy.


  • "Dynastic wealth, the enemy of a meritocracy, is on the rise. Equality of opportunity has been on the decline. A progressive and meaningful estate tax is needed to curb the movement of a democracy toward plutocracy."
    • Warren Buffet speaking to the US Senate Finance Committee, November 14,2007 [1]


  • We’re not a democracy. It’s a terrible misunderstanding and a slander to the idea of democracy to call us that. In reality, we’re a plutocracy: a government by the wealthy.
    • Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General
  • Of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of plutocracy.
    • John Pierpont Morgan
  • I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.
    • Thomas Jefferson
  • This court is no respecter of wealth or other claims of immunity!
    • Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis

External links

Look up plutocracy in Wiktionary, the free dictionary
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PLUTOCRACY (Gr. lrXovroKparia, from irXo13ros, wealth, and Kpecros, power), government or power exercised by the possessors of wealth, power obtained by the mere possession of riches; hence a body or ruling class whose influence is due only to their money.

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Simple English

Plutocracy is a government by people who are rich. Normally money is used to exchange physical objects or be helped with something that needs done but since it could be used for many purposes people would do anything to get more, and thus could create corruption which, as its ultimate aim, creates more money allowing the rich to continue to rule.


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