Welcoming the Dreaded ‘Plutocracy’

Go Lean Commentary

 Plutocracy 2

It is not nice to be called a plutocracy, it’s almost considered a derogatory term – see Appendix below. It simply refers to the undue influence that a super-rich minority group can have on a nation.

The dread of plutocracies is not new, societies have contended with them since the dawn of civilization (Ancient Greece and Rome). Many countries in the Caribbean had de facto plutocracies during their colonial years (Montserrat, Belize and the Bahamas’s Bay Street Boys come to mind), just as a natural off-shoot from a mono-industrial economy (sugar, coffee, tobacco planters). Considering existing plutocracies today, like the City of London and Wall Street, we see that an appropriate strategy can allow a society to “bottle the plutocratic concept” and use it for good.

There is currency to this discussion. Award winning documentary film-maker Ken Burns is debuting his new production on The Roosevelts on PBS in the United States, starting tonight (Sunday September 14, 2014). When we consider the lives and advocacies of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, we see that there was a consistent urging to take on big business/special interest (plutocratic endeavors) to benefit the working-class man/woman of America. The following is the synopsis of the documentary:

Plutocracy 1The Roosevelts: An Intimate History chronicles the lives of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of the most prominent and influential family in American politics. It is the first time in a major documentary television series that their individual stories have been interwoven into a single narrative.  This seven-part, fourteen hour film follows the Roosevelts for more than a century, from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. Over the course of those years, Theodore would become the 26th President of the United States and his beloved niece, Eleanor, would marry his fifth cousin, Franklin, who became the 32nd President of the United States. Together, these three individuals not only redefined the relationship Americans had with their government and with each other, but also redefined the role of the United States within the wider world. The series encompasses the history the Roosevelts helped to shape: the creation of National Parks, the digging of the Panama Canal, the passage of innovative New Deal programs, the defeat of Hitler, and the postwar struggles for civil rights at home and human rights abroad. It is also an intimate human story about love, betrayal, family loyalty, personal courage and the conquest of fear.

A film by Ken Burns. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward. Produced by Paul Barnes, Pam Tubridy Baucom and Ken Burns.

The Roosevelts airs for a week starting September 14, 2014.


The idea of “bottling” plutocratic institutions for the Greater Good is a “big idea” in the book Go Lean…Caribbean. How exactly is this envisioned? The answer provided in the book is that of Self-Governing Entities (SGE).

The Go Lean book delves into this approach of inviting the super-rich to establish industrial parks, corporate campuses and research parks in bordered territories in the Caribbean. These entities would be governed solely by the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). The Go Lean book serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the CU and SGE’s.

The approach of the Go Lean roadmap is not to punish the super-rich for their success nor cower to any special interests group at the expense of the greater population.

Too bad this approach has not been employed in the US.

Many previous Go Lean blog/commentaries stressed the changes on American society (and by extension, other communities including the Caribbean) due to plutocratic abuses of corporations, super-rich individuals/institutions and special-interest groups, especially since 2008. The following sample applies:

http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=2259 The Criminalization of American Business
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=2183 A Textbook Case of Price-gouging
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=2126 Where the Jobs Are – Computers Reshaping Global Job Market
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=1869 Senate bill targets companies that move overseas
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=926 Conservative heavyweights have solar industry in their sights
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=789 America’s War on the Caribbean
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=782 Open the Time Capsule: The Great Recession of 2008
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=546 Book Review: ‘The Divide’ – American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=273 10 Things We Want from the US and 10 Things We Don’t Want from the US: American Capital – Yes; Quantitative Easing – No.
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=242 The Erosion of the Middle Class

The charter of the CU, on the other hand, is to pursue the Greater Good for all of the Caribbean, to make the region a better place to live, work and play. This Go Lean roadmap aligns this charter with the following 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines.

The book describes the CU as a technocratic administration with 144 different missions to elevate the Caribbean homeland. The underlying goal to regulate the regional economy, and solicit (super-rich) investors, is stated early in the book with this pronouncement in the opening Declaration of Interdependence (Page 13):

xxiv. Whereas a free market economy can be induced and spurred for continuous progress, the Federation must install the controls to better manage aspects of the economy: jobs, inflation, savings rate, investments and other economic principles. Thereby attracting direct foreign investment because of the stability and vibrancy of our economy.

The Go Lean…Caribbean book challenges the reader, and the Caribbean as a whole, to create a structure that would be inviting to the super-rich and their resources. The SGE concept is a creative approach for that goal, but it is not so revolutionary – similar concepts already exists. Some examples of SGE-like structures are the city-states of Hong Kong, Liechtenstein (Europe), Vatican City (Italy), Panama City Zone (during the 20th Century, alluded to in the foregoing documentary synopsis) and many Free Trade Zones operating throughout the world.

The Go Lean/CU roadmap constitutes change for the Caribbean. The goal is to structure SGE’s at the federal level only, so as to incentivize the super-rich to consider this region. The plan calls for a Special Liaison Group within the CU Department of State just for the One Percent. Already this population enjoys the Caribbean for play, the plan now is to invite them to live and work in the region as well.

The Go Lean roadmap highlights the required community ethos, plus the execution of strategies, tactics, implementation and advocacies to construct the climate for the promotion of “plutocracies in a bottle”. The following is a sample of these specific details from the book:

Community Ethos – Economic Principles – People Respond to Incentives in Predictable Ways Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principles – Economic Systems Influence Individual Choices Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principles – Voluntary Trade Creates Wealth Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principles – Job Multipliers Page 22
Community Ethos – Security Principles – Privacy versus Public Protection Page 23
Community Ethos – Security Principles – Whistleblower Protection Page 23
Community Ethos – Security Principles – “Crap” Happens Page 23
Community Ethos – Governing Principles – Minority Equalization Page 24
Community Ethos – Governing Principles   – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Governing Principles – Return on Investments Page 24
Community Ethos – Ways to Foster Genius Page 27
Community Ethos – Ways to Help Entrepreneurship Page 28
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact Research & Development Page 30
Community Ethos – Ways to Improve Negotiations Page 32
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Strategy – Vision – Confederation   of the 30 Caribbean Member-States into a   Single Market Page 45
Strategy – Mission – Invite empowering immigrants to help us move our society and economy Page 46
Strategy – Mission – Customers (Subjects/Citizens) – Foreign Direct Investors Page 48
Tactical – Confederating a Permanent Union Page 63
Tactical – Fostering a Technocracy Page 64
Tactical – How to Grow the Economy to $800 Billion – US Example of Economic Bubbles Page 69
Tactical –  Separation of Powers: – State Department – Special Interest Group Page 80
Tactical –  Separation of Powers: – State Department – Self Governing Entities Page 80
Implementation – Assemble Existing Regional Organizations into CU Page 96
Implementation – Ways to Pay for Change – SGE Licenses Page 101
Implementation – Steps to Implement Self-Governing Entities Page 105
Implementation – Ways to Deliver Page 109
Implementation – Trade Mission Objectives Page 117
Planning – 10 Big Ideas for the Caribbean Region – Self Governing Entities Page 127
Planning – Ways to Improve Trade – Trade Missions Page 131
Planning – Lessons Learned from 2008 Page 136
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways to Foster Empowering Immigration – SGE Labor Rules Page 174
Advocacy – Ways to Market Southern California Page 194
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Wall Street Page 200
Advocacy – Ways to Help the Middle Class Page 223
Advocacy – Ways to Impact the One Percent Page 224
Appendix – Job Multipliers Page 259
Appendix – List of One Percent Billionaires and Giving Pledge Signatories Page 292

Allowing a super-rich minority to wield unchecked influence could be destructive to a society – the rich would get richer while the poor gets poorer. But the structure of SGE’s would allow the participation of the super-rich class in a manner that would not foster conflict with democratic principles – of the people, by the people, for the people.

Imagine a parade of workers entering an industrial park in the morning, then returning to their individual communities in the evening. This is the exact model of the City of London, described in the Appendix below. This model creates direct jobs on the SGE campuses/parks and a multiplier-effect for indirect jobs in the neighboring communities.

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” – Old adage.

While the Go Lean book details these specifics, it also stands “on guard” as a Sentinel against possible abuses and threats to the economic/financial eco-systems. There it is: “plutocracy in a bottle”.

“Tame the market’s excesses” – Theodore Roosevelt.

According to the referenced documentary, the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt made great gains in curtailing the market excesses of that day; (there was a Depression in the 1870’s and Recession in the 1890’s). The oil industry and railroads were dominated by a small number of individuals. This Roosevelt Administration presided over a divestiture of Standard Oil and the railroad barons.

In addition, the Presidency of Franklin Roosevelt also made great gains in curtailing the market excesses of Wall Street and the Big Banks, the dysfunctional source of the Great Depression (1929 – 1933). The New Deal initiatives balanced the scales of justice for rich versus poor Americans.

Is the US a plutocracy today? Not technically, but the trending has been leaning in that direction, especially with the downward pressures on the middle classes.

The purpose of this commentary is not to assess and fix the challenges of an America plutocracy trend, but rather to identify, qualify and propose arrangements for Direct Foreign Investments in the Caribbean without creating the dreaded plutocracy. The Go Lean book declares that the Caribbean can “count on the greedy to be greedy”, (Page 26).

Opportunities will abound in this new Caribbean … for the rich, the poor, and the middle classes. Everyone is urged to lean-in to this regional empowerment roadmap, to “go lean“. Everyone can contribute to make the Caribbean a better place to live, work and play. 🙂

Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!


Appendix – Plutocracy Definition and Relevance

Retrieved from Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia; 09/14/2014: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutocracy

Plutocracy defines a society or a system ruled and dominated by the small minority of the wealthiest citizens. The first known use of the term was in 1652.[1] Unlike systems such as democracy, capitalism, socialism or anarchism, plutocracy is not rooted in an established political philosophy. The concept of plutocracy may be advocated by the wealthy classes of a society in an indirect or surreptitious fashion, though the term itself is almost always used in a pejorative sense.[2]

The term plutocracy is generally used as a pejorative to describe or warn against an undesirable condition.[3][4] Throughout history, political thinkers such as Winston Churchill, 19th-century French sociologist and historian Alexis de Tocqueville, 19th-century Spanish monarchist Juan Donoso Cortés and today Noam Chomsky have condemned plutocrats for ignoring their social responsibilities, using their power to serve their own purposes and thereby increasing poverty and nurturing class conflict, corrupting societies with greed and hedonism.[5][6]


Examples of plutocracies include the Roman Empire, some city-states in Ancient Greece, the civilization of Carthage, the Italian city-states/merchant republics of Venice, Florence, Genoa, and pre-World War II Empire of Japan (the Zaibatsu).

One modern, formal example of what some critics have described as a plutocracy is the City of London.[7] The City (not the whole of modern London but the area of the ancient city, about 1 sq mile or 2.5 km2, which now mainly comprises the financial district) has a unique electoral system for its local administration. More than two-thirds of voters are not residents, but rather representatives of businesses and other bodies that occupy premises in the City, with votes distributed according to their numbers of employees. The principal justification for this arrangement is that most of the services provided by the Corporation are used by the businesses in the City. In fact about 450,000 non-residents constitute the city’s day-time population, far outnumbering the City’s 7,000 residents.[8]

Modern politics

Historically, wealthy individuals and organizations have exerted influence over the political arena. In the modern era, many democratic republics permit fundraising for politicians who frequently rely on such income for advertising their candidacy to the voting public.

Whether through individuals, corporations or advocacy groups, such donations are often believed to engender a cronyist or patronage system by which major contributors are rewarded on a quid pro quo basis. While campaign donations need not directly affect the legislative decisions of elected representatives, the natural expectation of donors is that their needs will be served by the person to whom they donated. If not, it is in their self-interest to fund a different candidate or political organization.

While quid pro quo agreements are generally illegal in most democracies, they are difficult to prove, short of a well-documented paper trail. A core basis of democracy, being a politician’s ability to freely advocate policies which benefit his or her constituents, also makes it difficult to prove that doing so might be a crime. Even the granting of appointed positions to a well-documented contributor may not transgress the law, particularly if the appointee appears to be suitably qualified for the post. Some systems even specifically provide for such patronage.

United States

Some modern historians, politicians and economists state that the United States was effectively plutocratic for at least part of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era periods between the end of the Civil War until the beginning of the Great Depression.[9][10][11][12][13][14] President Theodore Roosevelt became known as the “trust-buster” for his aggressive use of United States antitrust law, through which he managed to break up such major combinations as the largest railroad and Standard Oil, the largest oil company.[15]According to historian David Burton, “When it came to domestic political concerns, TR’s Bete Noire was the plutocracy.[16] In his autobiographical account of taking on monopolistic corporations as president, TR recounted:

’’ …we had come to the stage where for our people what was needed was a real democracy; and of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of a plutocracy.’’[17]

The Sherman Antitrust Act had been enacted in 1890, with large industries reaching monopolistic or near-monopolistic levels of market concentration and financial capital increasingly integrating corporations, a handful of very wealthy heads of large corporations began to exert increasing influence over industry, public opinion and politics after the Civil War. Money, according to contemporary progressive and journalist Walter Weyl, was “the mortar of this edifice”, with ideological differences among politicians fading and the political realm becoming “a mere branch in a still larger, integrated business. The state, which through the party formally sold favors to the large corporations, became one of their departments.”[18]

In his book The Conscience of a Liberal, in a section entitled The Politics of Plutocracy, economist Paul Krugman says plutocracy took hold because of three factors: at that time, the poorest quarter of American residents (African-Americans and non-naturalized immigrants) were ineligible to vote, the wealthy funded the campaigns of politicians they preferred, and vote buying was “feasible, easy and widespread”, as were other forms of electoral fraud such as ballot-box stuffing and intimidation of the other party’s voters.[19]

Post World War II

In modern times, the term is sometimes used pejoratively to refer to societies rooted in state-corporate capitalism or which prioritize the accumulation of wealth over other interests. According to Kevin Phillips, author and political strategist to U.S. President Richard Nixon, the United States is a plutocracy in which there is a “fusion of money and government.”[20]

Chrystia Freeland, author of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else,[21] says that the present trend towards plutocracy occurs – and is self-justified – because the rich feel “[their] own personal self-interest is in the interests of everybody else.”[22][23]

Some researchers have said the US may be drifting towards a form of oligarchy, as individual citizens have less impact than economic elites and organized interest groups upon public policy.[24] A study conducted by political scientists Martin Gilens (Princeton University) and Benjamin Page (Northwestern University), which was released in April 2014,[25] stated that their “analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.” that Gilens and Page do not characterize the US as an “oligarchy” or “plutocracy” per se; however, they do apply the concept of “civil oligarchy” as used by Jeffrey A. Winters[26] with respect to the US.

Most recently, Jeffrey Winters has posited a comparative theory of “Oligarchy,” in which the wealthiest citizens – even in a “civil oligarchy” like the United   States – dominate policy concerning crucial issues of wealth- and income-protection.[27]

On August 13, 2014, on Al Jazeera, in response to questions related to US responses to the Israeli/Gaza situation, professor Noam Chomsky of MIT effectively repeated the quote on American public influence over policies. When questioned further, he suggested that significant amounts of research indicated that the US was in effect a plutocracy.

As a propaganda term

In the political jargon and propaganda of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and the Communist International, western democratic states were referred to as plutocracies, with the implication being that a small number of extremely wealthy individuals were controlling the countries and holding them to ransom.[28][29] Plutocracy replaced democracy and capitalism as the principal fascist term for the United States and Great Britain during the Second World War.[29] For the Nazis, the term was often a code word for “the Jews”.[29]

Cited References

  1. “Plutocracy”. Merriam Webster. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
  2. “The study of attitudes is reasonably easy […] it’s concluded that for roughly 70% of the population – the lower 70% on the wealth/income scale – they have no influence on policy whatsoever. They’re effectively disenfranchised. As you move up the wealth/income ladder, you get a little bit more influence on policy. When you get to the top, which is maybe a tenth of one percent, people essentially get what they want, i.e. they determine the policy. So the proper term for that is not democracy; it’s plutocracy.” Extract from the transcript of a speech delivered by Noam Chomsky in Bonn, Germany, at DW Global Media Forum, 15 August 2013.
  3. Fiske, Edward B.; Mallison, Jane; Hatcher, David (2009). Fiske 250 words every high school freshman needs to know. Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks. p. 250. ISBN 1402218400.
  4. Coates, ed. by Colin M. (2006). Majesty in Canada: essays on the role of royalty. Toronto: Dundurn. p. 119. ISBN 1550025864.
  5. Conservative thinkers: from John Adams to Winston Churchill. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. 2006. pp. 19–68. ISBN 1412805260.
  6. Toupin, Alexis de Tocqueville; edited by Roger Boesche; translated by James; Boesche, Roger (1985). Selected letters on politics and society. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 197–198. ISBN 0520057511.
  7. The medieval, unaccountable Corporation of London is ripe for protest, The Guardian, retrieved 01/11/2011 from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/31/corporation-london-city-medieval.
  8. René Lavanchy (12 February 2009). “Labour runs in City of London poll against ‘get-rich’ bankers”. Tribune. Retrieved 14 February 2009 from: http://www.tribunemagazine.org/2009/02/labour-runs-in-city-of-london-poll-against-‘get-rich’-bankers/.
  9. Pettigrew, Richard Franklin (2010). Triumphant Plutocracy: The Story of American Public Life from 1870 to 1920. Nabu Press. ISBN 1146542747.
  10. Calvin Reed, John (1903). The New Plutocracy. Kessinger Publishing, LLC (2010 reprint). ISBN 1120909155.
  11. Brinkmeyer, Robert H. (2009). The fourth ghost: white Southern writers and European fascism, 1930-1950. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. p. 331. ISBN 0807133833.
  12. Allitt, Patrick (2009). The conservatives: ideas and personalities throughout American history. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 143. ISBN 0300118945.
  13. Ryan, foreword by Vincent P. De Santis; edited by Leonard Schlup, James G. (2003). Historical dictionary of the Gilded Age. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe. p. 145. ISBN 0765603314.
  14. Conservative thinkers: from John Adams to Winston Churchill. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. 2006. p. 103. ISBN 1412805260.
  15. Schweikart, Larry (2009). American Entrepreneur: The Fascinating Stories of the People Who Defined Business in the United   States. AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn.
  16. David Henry Burton: Theodore Rooselvelt, American Politician, An Assessment, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1997
  17. Theodore Roosevelt: Theodore Roosevelt: an autobiography. New York, Macmillan, 1913
  18. Bowman, Scott R. (1996). The modern corporation and American political thought: law, power, and ideology. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press. pp. 92–103. ISBN 0271014733.
  19. Krugman, Paul (2009). The conscience of a liberal ([Pbk. ed.] ed.). New York: Norton. pp. 21–26. ISBN 0393333132.
  20. Transcript. Bill Moyers Interviews Kevin Phillips. NOW with Bill Moyers 4.09.04 | PBS. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/now/transcript/transcript_phillips.html.
  21. Freeland, Chrystia (2012). Plutocrats: the rise of the new global super-rich and the fall of everyone else. New York: Penguin. ISBN 9781594204098. OCLC 780480424.
  22. National Public Radio (October 15, 2012) “A Startling Gap Between Us And Them In ‘Plutocrats'”. Retrieved from: http://www.npr.org/2012/10/15/162799512/a-startling-gap-between-us-and-them-in-plutocrats
  23. See also the Chrystia Freeland interview for the Moyers Book Club (October12, 2012) Moyers & Company Full Show: Plutocracy Rising. Retrieved from: http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-plutocracy-rising/
  24. Piketty, Thomas (2014). Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Belknap Press. ISBN 067443000X p. 514: “the risk of a drift towards oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism about where the United States is headed.”
  25. Gilens & Page (2014) Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, Perspectives on Politics,PrincetonUniversity. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  26. Winters, Jeffrey A. “Oligarchy” CambridgeUniversity Press, 2011, p. 208-254
  27. Gilens & Page (2014) p. 6
  28. http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/fi/vol02/no02/editors2.htm
  29. Blamires, Cyprian; Jackson, Paul (2006). World fascism: a historical encyclopedia, Vol. 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 522. ISBN 978-1-57607-940-9.


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