As a result, partially because of years of horrible shootings in our country, much research has been completed on who governs. Who actually governs? Although there are hundreds of studies on this subject, the latest work is by Princeton and Northwestern scholars, political scientists and long-term experts on the issues. They work from a huge body of evidence—some quantitative (the statistics), some historical (to make sense out of the statistics), and some actually observational.
The authors of the study reveal that there are “four families” of research: elected politicians, the economic elites (Wall Street and major Hedge Fund directors), interest groups (tending to be millions of ordinary people with differing interests and personal drivers), and biased interest groups with differing targets.
What makes this study highly useful is the existence of a unique data set, compiled over many years, by one of the authors: Martin Gilens. The study is especially interesting to me because it is not focused on gun research, but on a related issue: who controls public policy?
Well, take a guess. Is it average citizens, business interest group, mass-based interest groups (like AARP) or economic elites (Koch brothers)? First of all, average citizens and their elected politicians have zero impact upon policy. Organized interest groups, a substitute for voters, also have nearly zero impact on policy. That means that organized populists groups who want government to respond primarily or exclusively to the preferences of their citizens have no effect on public policy. . .
The findings are that (you guessed it), the financial elite control public policy. The authors of the study need to find out who these elites are. Is it the merely affluent, the top 1%, or the top one-tenth of one 1%?
In sum, as the authors of the study conclude, majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.
Candidly, though I trust the research, I’m also aware that history reveals that resistance and change are inevitably–and always–possible. The fact that powerful elites control policy is not set in granite. One of the wonderful thing about the kids’ challenge of the policy is that they don’t know what they don’t know. And that’s worth gold.
The research is available free to all, here.
An analysis of the research is here.
Originally Posted on http://danerwin.typepad.com/my_weblog/.This post was originally published on this site