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Word History: Oligarchy

February 21, 2011

In economist Paul Krugman’s column today he mentions oligarchy:

The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America’s oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.

What is an oligarchy?
1.
a. Government by a few, especially by a small faction of persons or families.
b. Those making up such a government.
2. A state governed by a few persons.

Noun: oligarchy – a political system governed by a few people; “one of his cardinal convictions was that Britain was not run as a democracy but as an oligarchy”; “the big cities were notoriously in the hands of the oligarchy of local businessmen”
form of government, political system – the members of a social organization who are in power.

Source: Free Dictionary

Related: Quiet Coup by former IMF Chief Economist, Simon Johnson

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.

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