A new scientific study from Princeton researcher Martin Gilens and Northwestern researcher Benjamin I. Page has finally put some science behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn't a democracy any more. And they've found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.Usually when I think of an oligarchy I think of a relatively small group of people, but if the US is one it actually consists of a huge group. Does that make a difference?
An oligarchy is a system where power is effectively wielded by a small number of individuals defined by their status called oligarchs. Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.
I was taken aback, though, when I read this:
While there are some limitations to their data set, economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez constructed income statistics based on IRS data that go back to 1913. They found that the gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us is much bigger than you would think, as mapped by these graphs from the Center On Budget and Policy Priorities...Piketty. Piketty. I've heard that name before. Ah yes, Thomas Piketty:
Financial Times economics editor Chris Giles says French economist Thomas Piketty's best-selling "Capitalism in the 21st Century," about rising inequality in the West, contains serious errors that undermine his conclusion that wealth distributions are widening.
Giles says there are clear examples of some "fat finger" mistranscriptions and compares the situation to omissions found in Reinhart's and Rogoff's data on debt levels and growth.
But while the two Harvard professors' errors seemed to have been unintended, Giles levels a more serious critique: that Piketty actively manipulated his data.