Oligarchy, and Remedies
By Angelo Codevilla May 3, 2021 American Greatness
Those who live under oligarchies are not citizens—because oligarchy validates itself, decides for itself, within itself. It is committed above all to negating a people’s capacity to rule itself.
What are hundreds of America’s biggest corporations doing as they browbeat the public to abolish the requirement of identification for voting? What are Twitter, Facebook, et al. doing when they prohibit people from sharing facts that are inconvenient to government policy or (and) the Democratic Party? What did banks do when they turned over to the FBI the records of persons who happened to have traveled to D.C. near January 6? And what about all those big retail stores—you know, the ones that the government designated “essential,” the ones that thrived under the lockdowns—what are they doing when they continue to demand that you wear masks on their property regardless of vaccination? What are colleges and universities, even K-12 schools doing when they deprive of opportunities young people who do not fit woke profiles? And what do all of them do when they dismiss complaints that they are violating your Constitutional rights by telling you that they are exercising their own private rights?
Are they simply fronting for the government or, specifically, for the Democratic Party?
What is the Biden Administration doing when it swears disinterest in “vaccine passports” to regulate ordinary people’s access to travel, careers, etc. but works with airlines, theaters, big retailers, and universities to help them impose such passports? Is the government—in practice, the political party that controls the government—fronting for corporations, or do the corporations front for the Party? Do the drug companies influence what the Centers for Disease Control “recommends” regarding pandemic restrictions? Do they influence the Democratic Party, or is it the other way around? Who runs whom?
Understanding what is happening in America begins with dismissing such silly questions. Focus, instead, on the fact that those who rule us in all these matters are essentially the same people. They are interchangeable, with near-identical interests, loves, hates, and tastes. Often, they are friends and colleagues, and are united about coercing whomever is not on their own sociopolitical side. Whether the institutions they control are public or private under our Constitutional system has ceased to matter. These persons are responsible for the sharp diminution in all manner of freedoms we have experienced since at least 2016, and especially since 2020.
What’s an Oligarchy?
Aristotle noticed that governments are run either by one person, by a few, or by the many, and that regardless of how many people rule, they do so either for the general interest or for their own. The American republic was founded in 1776-89 by the people at large, to serve the general interest by mixing the power of sheer numbers with that of states, and with that of a unitary presidency. But over the last century, the increasingly homogeneous set of people who run the republic’s institutions took power out of the hands of the people’s elected representatives pretty much at all levels, and have governed in their own interest rather than in the general population’s. Nobody voted for this, on any level.
On the contrary: the exercise of coercive powers by and for self-selected elites who claim to know better and who validate one another is the very negation of the constitutional republic within which Americans have lived since 1776. It is oligarchy.
In 21st century America, this oligarchy erased the distinction between public and private powers, and replaced it with the distinction between those who are and are not part of the ruling class. The privatization of public power is oligarchy’s essence. Because government is by the ruling class few, and is for that class’s interest, the oligarchs can wield the coercive powers of government without legal limits, as if they were dealing with their own private affairs.
Those who live under oligarchies are not citizens—because oligarchy validates itself, decides for itself, within itself, and because it is committed above all to negating the people’s capacity
to rule itself.
Americans struggle to understand what is happening because we still regard ourselves as citizens, and imagine that those who run our republican institutions still respect them to some extent. We see persons whom the ruling class favors committing crimes with impunity, and complain of “a two-tiered justice system.” But this is not mere corruption. We see corporations wielding government powers and complain that power is being franchised to favorites. But these are not mere favorites of the regime. This is the new regime being itself. Such things are not deviations from republican legality. They are the assertion of oligarchic reality. This is oligarchic justice, oligarchic normality. The republic was yesterday. The oligarchy is today.
Conservatives’ congenital mistake is to try conserving something that no longer exists by supporting institutions that now belong to a regime so alien to republican life that it treats attempts at citizenship as crimes against the regime. And so they are. They call today’s American regime “our democracy.” It is “theirs,” all right, but not ours. It is a classic oligarchy.
What’s an Ex-citizen To Do?
First, stop pretending. Begin by rejecting—in heart and mind entirely, and publicly as prudence may dictate—the authority of the oligarchs who now control what used to be our republican institutions. Realize that you enjoy the rights God gave you only to the extent that your fellow ex-citizens recognize them, and that your only hope of continuing enjoyment lies in leaguing with them, on turning your back on the oligarchy and on effectively living republican lives with similarly minded people.
Citizenship is possible only when the many join together in the kind of mixed regime for the general good that our oligarchs rejected. Turning our backs to the oligarchy is possible for the twin purpose of rejecting un-republican rule and as the assertion of a new republican way of life. Citizenship happens when individuals join together under leaders of their choice to achieve common goals, both positive and negative.
Rejection of oligarchy is possible, even easy, if and when large numbers of persons do it together. This goes for ostensibly private corporations as well as for formerly republican institutions now in the oligarchs’ hands. The moment that millions of Americans, whether led by actual state governors in league with one another or by prospective presidents, recognize that Twitter and Facebook are enemy institutions, their power ends. The moment that millions are led to boycott Costco, or Pfizer, their officers are fired. The moment that these millions, so led, refuse the legitimacy of anything coming from Washington, its power ends.
Our oligarchs, having seen how easy it was to cower the majority of Americans to agree to the stupid, self-destructive practices of mask-wearing and lockdowns, having rejoiced in ruining the lives of small numbers of individual dissenters, believing that, under the media’s cover, their threats to crush opponents as white supremacists will forestall serious resistance, fantasize about applying the tools of the war on terror to America’s population.
But no. Their success was due to what remained of the American people’s confidence in them. That is now gone. The oligarchs have the FBI and CIA, and the Pentagon’s generals. But who will risk his pension, never mind his life, for them? Who will risk anything for Kamala Harris, never mind Joseph Biden?
Nor, in 2021, can anybody stop the governors and legislatures of any number of states from leading their peoples in settling what is and is not acceptable to them, how they shall and shall not live—that is, nobody can stop them as they decide to govern themselves.
The American people, divided as they are, cannot purge the oligarchs from what had been republican institutions. But those so minded have full power to defend themselves from them and to leave them to their own devices.