A DIfferent Kind of Tyranny

Economic inequality has been at the forefront of American politics for several election cycles. The middle class dwindles, while the wealthiest further enrich themselves. We constantly hear statistics that say most of the economic gains made since the recession have been vacuumed up by the richest 1 percent. Considering that median incomes have barely risen in at least a few decades, this is easy to believe. These disproportionate gains lead to wildly outrageous incomes, and, more importantly, wealth inequality. An unfair and, frankly, dangerous amount of political influence is in the hands of the few who have the means and connections to shape public policy according to their views. This kind of political influence—over what is supposed to be a democratic system—allows those with means to flood that very system with money and special interests to which politicians become beholden. Such a distortion of the democratic process equates wealth with influence.

Photo courtesy of Savvy Sugar.

Moreover, this is a problem that is happening throughout the world. In this age of globalization and relative global economic prosperity, there is a small class of economic elite, from New York to Beijing, that wields power too great for their small numbers. This is as great a danger to democracy as any militaristic or authoritarian regime. President Woodrow Wilson once said that the world had to be made “safe for democracy.” That goal is still being pursued in some ways, but this time, the greatest enemy isn’t an overly aggressive Germany or some other arbitrary state; rather, it’s the concentration of fabulous wealth in the hands of those who essentially buy political influence. In the United States, voters of ordinary means feel increasingly disconnected with the political process of their own country and often feeling that they cannot make a difference in political deals where money has the loudest voice of all.

Given this context and the recent history of the past few major elections, it’s good news that the Supreme Court is now deliberating on revisiting its Citizens United ruling, which initially opened the floodgates for the recent wave of money in politics. However, it seems that the wider issues of economic disparities and the political consequences associated with them still need to be addressed. When intertwined, these two issues clearly have negative ramifications all over the world. They create a different kind of injustice, in which the way wealth is dealt with is the greatest tyrant of all.

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