Oligarchy has always seemed far away to Americans. We readily invoke the term for Russian billionaires or robed senators in ancient Rome. But that is changing as we grapple with extreme economic and political inequality much closer to home.
It is axiomatic that money is power. The degree of oligarchy in a society depends on how concentrated wealth is in a few hands, and how easily wealth power can be converted into political power.
Surprisingly, the U.S. data on stratification makes us look worse than ancient Rome. The 500 wealthiest Roman senators were roughly 10,000 times as …read more