When you think of the idea of democracy, what comes to mind first?
Chances are that you are thinking of majority rule! However, democracy isn’t always based on majority rule or majority will as many imagine.
For example, elite democracy is a type of democracy where a small elite group such as a wealthy few or educated elite holds and exercises more power over the majority.
Elite democracy is an idea that originated from the fear that the majority could sometimes act like a mob.
For example, the US founding fathers such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton felt that such a mob could be non-reasoning and are susceptible to unruly politicians or demagogues.
They argued for restraints since such a mob could be manipulated through passions that pander to short-term gratifications rather than the long-term interests of the people as a whole.
Therefore, they advocated for systems that placed power on wise men usually educated or privileged classes.
In ancient Greece where democracy originated from, certain social classes were excluded from democracy like slaves and females. Therefore, it was the preserve of males.
Here are 5 elite democracy examples.
1. Electoral College
When Americans vote for president, they don’t do so directly. Instead, they vote for electors who in turn vote for president in each state.
The candidate with the greatest number of electoral votes is then the winner.
The result is that sometimes the popular vote and the electoral vote give different winners.
For example, in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote.
Therefore, her rival, Donald Trump won the election even though he lost the popular vote.
This is an elite democracy since it’s the electors (called superdelegates) who have the final say on who becomes the president.
Superdelegates who are usually party officials can be considered as an elite group.
2. Deep State
Have you heard of the Deep State lately?
This is a group of people, usually bureaucrats or unelected officials in government who influence government policy to benefit interests that may be different from that of voters.
The Deep State is usually anonymous and amorphous—people are not able to pinpoint the identity of the real players.
However, despite its elusive characterization, it is able to exert real power and influence behind the scenes.
Members of the Deep State can also be private entities outside government such as the financial and defense sector.
The Deep State can operate outside the law and engage in criminal activity.
In some cases, the Deep State can be imaginary rather than real at least to some extent.
3. Lobbies and interest groups
Many decisions by politicians or policies are usually influenced by lobbyists.
Lobbyists act on behalf of interest groups by representing them and giving them a voice.
Although lobbying can be beneficial for a better functioning democracy, it can also lead to some people having more influence than others in.
Some lobbies are more powerful than others or not everyone can afford to engage lobbies to represent them. The result of this is unequal access to power
4. Subverted Democracy
Countries which are recent converts to democracy from authoritarian rule sometimes show false dawns on the road toward this goal.
This is because anti-reformist leaders can simply reinvent themselves to beat the new rules.
They devise clever ways of retaining the old dictatorship so that the country is a democracy just on paper.
In this case, these are reluctant democrats adhering to minimal rules to give the illusion of democracy but continue with the previous autocracy in disguised form.
Examples of these are third-world countries and also some Eastern bloc countries after the fall of communism.
In Russia, for instance, there was the oligarch menace where people quickly became rick due to the privatization of state corporations.
With their money, these oligarchs tended to control more power to influence government.
In a corporatocracy, big businesses and corporations wield great power and are able to pressure the government to bow to their wishes.
In such a system, democratically elected governments could easily put the interests of corporates ahead of their constituents or smaller businesses in the marketplace.
This amounts to an elite democracy where corporate interests dominate. For example, in the Gilded Age, a few big corporations held disproportion influence over the marketplace and politics.
Using their superior financial muscle, they were able to corrupt politicians to prevent regulation against themselves. This gave them an undue advantage over smaller competitors
One of the most memorable lines of the American Declaration of Independence was the assertion that “all men were created equal.”
However, in elite democracies, the situation seems to more accurately fit the reality depicted by George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm, where some animals were “more equal” than others.
Related Post: 7 Participatory Democracy Examples Today