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Plutocracy is rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth. The combination of both plutocracy and oligarchy is called plutarchy.

In a plutocracy, the degree of economic inequality is high while the level of social mobility is low. This can apply to a multitude of government systems, as the key elements of plutocracy transcend and often occur concurrently with the features of those systems.

The word plutocracy (Modern Greek: πλουτοκρατία - ploutokratia) is derived from the ancient Greek root ploutos, meaning wealth and kratos, meaning to rule or to govern.

Usage

The term plutocracy is generally used to describe two distinct concepts: one of a historical nature and one of a modern political nature. The former indicates the political control of the state by an oligarchy of the wealthy. Examples of such plutocracies include some city-states in Ancient Greece, the civilization of Carthagemarker, the Italianmarker merchant republics of Venicemarker, Florence, Genoa, and pre-WWII Empire of Japanmarker zaibatsus.

Before the equal voting rights movement managed to end it in the early 20th century, many countries used a system where rich persons had more votes than poor. A factory owner may for instance have had 2000 votes while a worker had one, or if they were very poor no right to vote at all. Even artificial persons such as companies had voting rights. However, it would take until 1945 before persons living on welfare and persons in personal bankruptcy would get voting rights.[4040][4041]

One modern, perhaps unique, formalised example of a plutocracy is the City of Londonmarker. The City (not the whole of modern Londonmarker but the area of the ancient city, which now mainly comprises the financial district) has a unique electoral system. Most of its voters are representatives of businesses and other bodies that occupy premises in the City. Its ancient wards have very unequal numbers of voters. The principal justification for the non-resident vote is that about 450,000 non-residents constitute the city's day-time population and use most of its services, far outnumbering the City's residents, who are fewer than 10,000.

Marxist-Leninist View

Marxism-Leninism believes that all capitalist countries follow a plutocratic government mixed with imperialism, and that the only way to change it is through a mass revolution by the proletariat. The plutocratic government's social mobility deficiency is a result of exploitation of the masses, preventing the workers from moving up.

Modern Political

The second usage of plutocracy is a pejorative reference to a disproportionate influence the wealthy are said to have on political process in contemporary society: for example Kevin Phillips, author and political strategist to U.S. President Richard Nixon, argues that the United Statesmarker is a plutocracy in which there is a "fusion of money and government.".

Positive influence includes campaign contributions; negative influence includes refusing to support the government financially by refusing to pay taxes, threatening to move profitable industries elsewhere, bribes, and so on. It can also be exerted by the owners and ad buyers of media properties which can shape public perception of political issues. Recent examples include Rupert Murdoch's News Corp's alleged political agendas in Australia, the UK and the United States or the oil industry oligarchy, and billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, which may back right-leaning political action committees (PACs), as well as billionaire George Soros' efforts to influence US politics by backing left-leaning PACs.

Recently, there have been numerous cases of wealthy individuals and organizations exerting financial pressure on governments to pass favorable legislation. (see: Lobbying) Most western democracies permit partisan organizations to raise funds for politicians, and it is well-known that political parties frequently accept significant donations from various individuals (either directly or through corporate institutions). Ostensibly this should have no effect on the legislative decisions of elected representatives; however it would be unlikely that no politicians are influenced by these contributions. Some describe these donations as bribes, although legally they are not.

In the United Statesmarker, campaign finance reform efforts seek to ameliorate this situation. However, campaign finance reform must successfully challenge officials who are beneficiaries of the system which allows this dynamic in the first place. This has led many reform advocates to suggest taxpayer dollars be used to replace private campaign contributions, these reforms are often called clean money, clean elections reform as opposed to simply campaign finance reform which does not address the conflict of interest involved where most or all of the campaign money is from private, often for-profit sources. Critics of so-called clean elections point out that having the government decide which candidates would receive tax dollars and therefore be allowed to run would create an effective dictatorship where (instead of private organizations) the government decides for whom the people can vote.

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