ERIC ZUESSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Each country is either an aristocracy, ruled by hereditary wealth and status; or else a democracy, ruled by the public or "demos" (without hereditary wealth or status being a major factor deciding a person's success).
It's either one, or the other -- or somewhere between those two political poles.
The American Revolution was waged against aristocracy (which was the longstanding system), who happened to consist of British aristocrats. The American Revolutionists fought to establish a democracy instead. They did this, though democracy had never before existed (except in very limited form, in very small places, such as ancient Athens, and even there only briefly).
Thus, the American Revolution was a truly revolutionary "revolution," unlike any before it.
Not only was hereditary status banned by the Constitution (in Article I, Section 9, Clause 8), but wealth itself was removed from political power. A property qualification (a requirement that one must own a certain amount of wealth), for the right to vote, was rejected by the members of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, even though a few members there had wanted such a requirement. However, even the few who did want that, such as Gouverneur Morris, said they wanted a property qualification only in order to prevent an aristocracy in this country; not to start a new one here. That's how unified against aristocracy they were. Everyone agreed: aristocracy must be avoided.
On August 7, 1787, Morris said to the Convention, "Give the votes to people who have no property, and they will sell them to the rich who will be able to buy them." James Madison's record of the Convention went on to say of his speech: "He had long learned not to be the dupe of words. The sound of [the word] Aristocracy therefore had no effect on him. It was the thing, not the name, to which he was opposed, and one of his principal objections to the Constitution as it is now before us, is that it threatens this Country with an Aristocracy."
But, anyway, Morris's proposal, for a property-qualification for the right to vote, was voted down.
Madison then gave a speech himself, saying: "The right of suffrage is certainly one of the fundamental articles of republican Government, and ought not to be left to be regulated by the Legislature. A gradual abridgment of this right has been the mode in which Aristocracies have been built on the ruins of popular forms." Those words could be said by today's Democrats, against proposals by today's Republicans. But they were said then by the man who drafted the U.S. Constitution.
Everybody at the Constitutional Convention was an enemy to aristocracy; all of them were democrats (small-"D").
No policy-position is as anti-democratic as is the proposal to eliminate estate taxes -- taxes on estates (inheritances) that are very large. The reason is that inheritances are the foundation for any aristocracy. Even the idea or concept of inherited wealth or status is anathema to democracy -- a virtual invitation to aristocracy. America's Founders waged the Revolutionary War to destroy aristocracy here; and that's the reason why the U.S. Constitution prohibited it, in the only way they knew how (at that time).
Inheritance of a small amount from one's parents -- only enough to give a child a modest boost (yet, still, children of the poor don't get such a boost) -- can be debated by supporters of democracy; but large inheritances must be taxed very heavily, if the concept of democracy is to be meaningful at all.
If inherited wealth or status is permitted, then democracy is doomed: wealth and power will become more concentrated with each succeeding generation.
However, today's U.S. has eliminated taxes on all estates below $5 million, and has lowered the taxation-rate on large estates. This means that some babies enter this world with more money than the average American draws as income throughout his entire lifetime. Other children are born with little or nothing, and must go into debt in order merely to survive. Their children suffer even worse.
That's not the only sign of democracy dying in America. Other signs are more subtle. For example:
On March 13, 2014, Robbie Couch at The Huffington Post headlined "Chelsea Clinton Tells SXSW That She's 'Obsessed With Diarrhea' -- For a Great Reason," and showed video of this U.S. princess, daughter of a former President, saying, "I'm obsessed with diarrhea" because "I find the fact that 750,000 children still die every year around the world because of severe dehydration due to diarrhea unacceptable." Reader-comments following this report did not object to the star-system that has taken over in our country and that propelled her upwards, the system that causes a person of no remarkable abilities (such as this princess) to have news-media flocking to her, and reporting every self-promotion that issues from her (so that not only the ex-President's wife, but also their daughter, will inherit the dynasty-founder's public attention), while far-more-capable experts on the given subject receive no such hereditary advantage, and are ignored by star-struck media.
Chelsea's parents are centi-millionaires because, due to Bill Clinton's (earned) Presidency, they receive (unmerited) enormous speaking fees, of hundreds of thousands of dollars for each speech they give at closed-to-the-press meetings at Goldman Sachs, etc., fundraising for themselves or their political campaigns, plus favored access to investment information, and other such advantages that are typical for aristocrats and that cause inequality of wealth to be soaring in this country -- as it now is soaring.
Chelsea Clinton's paparazzi press constitutes a sign of America's descending into aristocracy.
But, instead of democratic revulsion against it, the reader-comments to this news-story were like this:
"Hillary 2016 and Chelsea in 2024!!!!"
"Look at the great genes she has.....smart, smarter & smartest.....U GO GIRL!!!"
"She really is a cutie. More importantly, she is a smart cookie."
She hadn't said anything noteworthy, but people were praising her as if she had.
Latching onto a charitable cause, in order to promote oneself, is both good and bad: it is good if the person is especially well-qualified to talk about the subject (which Chelsea Clinton wasn't), or else is especially articulate and persuasive in making the case (which Chelsea also wasn't), or else doesn't easily get sidetracked onto other topics (such as tacos, as Chelsea was -- and a quick goodbye to the cause of opposing diarrhea -- for which, it turns out, she wasn't even fundraising).
There are millions of people who can make a case more informatively than Chelsea, or more persuasively, or with fewer of "uh" and "um" and repeated, stumbled, words. But those other people aren't aristocrats, as Chelsea Clinton is.
And, so, since this country is degenerating from a democracy into an aristocracy, our "news" media become more and more focused on less and less qualified "stars" such as she. Competency is no longer rewarded with success. And incompetency increasingly is. Not only the body-politic, but the economy, thus head downhill.
This is becoming a "whom do you know" country, no longer a "what do you know" one -- much less a "what can you do" economy.
Democracy in the U.S. is dying, and those are just some signs of the broader trend toward a rule by aristocrats, otherwise called "plutocracy," which inevitably means, in fact, rule by thieves, stealing from the masses to enrich the classes: kleptocracy. Because inherited wealth or status is stolen from everyone else, not earned in fair competition.
This is the new welfare program for the super-rich. It's Robin Hood in reverse. And it is profoundly un-American.
It is even anti-American, in the sense that America's Founders had waged war against rule by aristocrats. But today's Americans accept it.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They're Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.