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Economic Inequality

In the United States, one-percent of the population controls the majority of the countrys
wealth. This economic division is growing even larger every year. The wealthy majority is just
getting wealthier, and every day economic inequality is becoming an even larger problem.
During the recent economic recession, the richest one percent increased their share of total
income by ten percent, while the majority of people saw their total income shrink by two percent
(Amadeo). One of the major problems with economic inequality is that it bleeds over into other
areas of equality. According to political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville, economic inequality can
also affect other areas of equality such as social and political equality. Political decisions are
made by the wealthy, and this causes underrepresentation of many people when it comes to
governing a country. With democracy being present in a country, there can either be a true
democracy, or the majority of the wealth can be concentrated in the hands of the few. There
cannot be both.
The term democracy comes from the Greek word dmokratia which directly translates
to mean rule by the people (Green). The term does not mean rule by a few people, which is
essentially what an oligarchy is. Without considering how these terms have evolved with time,
the United States falls more into the category of an oligarchy. As previously stated, one-third of
the population controls the majority of the wealth in the United States. Thus, political decisions
are made by the rich because the wealthy minority has access to campaign funding and other key
factors needed to instill a place in the government. To be even more specific, there is also a racial
component to the economic division. People of Caucasian descent generally make more money
than people of color (Stacey). Essentially, the wealthy Caucasian population rules the country.
Now, looking at the literal translation of democracy, a government that practices this political

philosophy should have the power concentrated in the hands of the majority of the people, not
just a few of the people. By definition, it is impossible to practice democracy and have great
wealth concentrated in the hands of just a few people. This is simply a contradiction.
Another reason why democracy and controlled wealth cannot co-exist is because
democracy places a major emphasis on equality. Another way to think of democracy is by a
definition from Merriam-Websters Dictionary which states that democracy is an organization
or situation in which everyone is treated equally and has equal rights. By law, everyone who is
a citizen of the United States is entitled to the same rights written in the Constitution. However,
if the focus is shifted from strictly what is written in the Constitution to what is actually
happening, one could see that there is a clearly defined class system which exists in the United
States. Generally, this class system is defined by race and socioeconomic status. People of lower
socioeconomic status and people of color do not necessarily have the same privileges and
opportunities as Caucasian people of higher socioeconomic status. Thus, a democracy cannot
truly exist simply based on the fact that the wealthier, higher status people have different
privileges than the vast majority of the population. Equality cannot exist when there is an
unintentional class system in place.
Due to the constantly changing nature of government and law, it would be extremely
difficult to have a society in which every person is economically, socially, and politically equal.
Society usually evolves into a state in which a few people control the majority of the population.
When this occurs, a democracy cannot exist. It is impossible to have a true democracy and also
have a situation where great wealth is concentrated into the hands of a few. These ideals are
contradictory, and therefore they cannot co-exist.

Works Cited

Amadeo, Kimberly. "The True Cause of Income Inequality in America." About.com. N.p., n.d.
Web. 05 Nov. 2014.
"Democracy." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2014.

Green, John. "What Is the Literal Translation of Democracy?" The Classroom. N.p., n.d. Web.
05 Nov. 2014.
Stacey, Simon. "Tocqueville in the Age of the 1%." University of Maryland, Baltimore County,
Baltimore. 27 Oct. 2014. Lecture.