An oligarchy is when a few people rule over the majority. The rulers are put in power due to wealth or nobility. At its core, oligarchy involves concentrating economic power and using it for political purposes.
In an oligarchy, an organized minority controls a disorganized majority. It’s the most common type of rule around. We even see it in high schools with the cliques and power couples.
Some countries such as Saudi Arabia have been oligarchies for a long time. Others such as in Venezuela, form when democracy goes wrong. Cochtonia in my novel series, is such an oligarchy.
Ancient Rome was an oligarchy as was South Africa (established by Caucasians) in the last century.
Today these countries are oligarchies: Russia, Ukraine China, Iran (religious), Saudi Arabia (wealth, monarchy), Turkey (one family, the Kocs), North Korea, and a few others.
Some consider the US to be rapidly becoming a wealth based oligarchy now that over half of our wealth is controlled by a few families, with the Koch brothers and Silicon Valley wealth controlling much of the country’s policies. The Koch brothers have been very bad for any policies protecting the environment, for example.
Why would people put up with such rule? In many ways, it makes life more predictable. You don’t have to worry about politics, which is exhausting and a lot of work. The most powerful oligarchies offer hope that a few select peons will be able to join, lying to people that all have a chance. This is evident in my next novel, Lost in Waste.
The downside is, of course, most citizens become discouraged, disenfranchised, and even rebellious.
Democracy is most often toppled into oligarchy when people complain about government. Have you heard the terms starve the beast and big government sucks? It might sound like a pleasant appeal to independence but the truth is, these are oligarch refrains. These ideas aren’t based on any sort of well-researched, economic policies. They come from the wealthy wanting more and more.
In an oligarchy, you don’t vote out bad politicians. Once they get in, the repeat the lies of the oligarchs. Try writing one of Iowa’s senators these days. If you have evidence that their policies are hurtful, they write back calling you an idiot or don’t write back at all.
One tool of oligarchy is to divide the people. Here in Pella, people use the abortion issue as an excuse to support the oligarchy. If this issue goes away, the oligarchs will come up with something new to control the masses. I’m on the local planning and zoning commission and found that political party did not define how members reacted to a local controversy. People can be unified, but oligarchies don’t want this.
Oligarch’s also make sure that ordinary people depend on them for economic survival. You can see this today, as small businesses are swallowed up by large chains, companies merge, and even the media consolidates. In my town, the local factories sometimes tell people how to vote and run their own insider candidates. In fact, a tool of an oligarchy is to set up puppet rulers.
A third way they survive is to destroy any pubic projects and instead, make people reliant on their charity. An example of this is the American Prairie Reserve, which combines public and private lands, and is funded by primarily oil profiteers. They take and they give, and they expect us to admire them, as all oligarchs do.
How oligarchies fall? It can occur when some oligarchs become sympathetic with the public and fund initiatives favoring them. It is thought that this is why Caesar was killed.
If the majority organizes, they can regain some rights, and even tax the minority. The first step of opposing an oligarchy is to remain informed. This is why oligarchies such as Russia and some political parties put out so much disinformation.
Another way to gain freedom is to follow science. Science relies on independence and evidence based decisions. Unlike the powerful, most scientists have the public interest at heart, Scientists have been oppressed by oligarchs–think Galileo for example. “Indeed, reflecting on what drew him to the study of physics, Stephen Hawking once noted that in his chosen field, “It doesn’t matter what school you went to or to whom you are related. It matters what you do.” (source of quote) The idea that people are free to observe and to think is what moves science forward. The Dark Ages were a time of stagnation for science. Science and democracy grew from the Enlightenment together.
It’s no accident that independent research is being cut in the US.
Another way to fight back is to not share disinformation. Understand that disinformation comes with a kernel of truth to entice you. Misinformers might post a kind meme one minute and a lie the next. They might modify a real video clip, such as was done to make Nancy Pelosi appear to be slurring her words. Misinformers micro-target you. If you like dogs, a meme will carry a dog for example. Do not post or comment on dubious sources of information. If possible, speak privately to your dear old friend or relative who has become a meme-poster. Remember, lies and conflict only help the oligarchy.