I read a piece about the US being an oligarchy via The Telegraph’s Zachary Davies Boren here. It points to a research paper in 2014 — it’s interesting as studies on oligarchies might go: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/perspectives-on-politics/article/testing-theories-of-american-politics-elites-interest-groups-and-average-citizens/62327F513959D0A304D4893B382B992B The papers written by a professor at Princeton (Martin Gilens) and Northwestern (Benjamin Page).
There’s a rebuttal out there that refute the paper’s “conclusions” as well, as covered on Vox in 2016: https://www.vox.com/2016/5/9/11502464/gilens-page-oligarchy-study
And then there’s a rebuttal by the authors of the study in 2016, too: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/05/23/critics-challenge-our-portrait-of-americas-political-inequality-heres-5-ways-they-are-wrong/
The authors of the original study’s closing points are key:
Should the majority rule?
We would never argue, as one journalist critical of our work suggested, that “democracies should enact the people’s opinions exactly as currently stated.” As Gilens wrote in “Affluence & Influence,” “There are good reasons to want government policy to deviate at times from the preferences of the majority: minority rights are important too and majorities are sometimes shortsighted or misguided in ways that policymakers must try to recognize and resist.”
An ideal democracy, if such a thing can be imagined, would not offer a perfect match between public opinion and government policy, as if people sitting at home were voting directly from their TV remotes or mobile phones. But the gross inequality that our research reveals is strongly undemocratic and incompatible with notions of political equality that most Americans hold dear.
Many Americans voting for outsider candidates believe that government pretty much ignores people like them. We think they’re right.—WashPo
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