Elitist theory holds that the majority of political power is held by a
relatively small and wealthy group of people, which share similar principles and
interests. Most members of this group are born into affluent families. The
majority of top leaders in the United States come from this privileged group.


The power elite utilizes a variety of resources to dictate public policy. These
individuals tend to hold top management positions within big corporations. These
corporations are used as a powerful tool to dominate the political arena.


Corporations are granted immense power, which they use, to protect their own
interests, as well as, shape the interests of ordinary citizens. “The
leadership role that business has in the economy gives executives of large
corporations an unusual kind and degree of influence over governmental policy
making.” (Lindblom 1993:p91) The economic control of corporations plays an
essential role in public policy. Depending on how they choose to play the game,
large corporations dictate to economic conditions. Politicians must accommodate
corporate interests to protect our sensitive economy. These accommodations can
be called “corporatism”. Big businesses receive a privileged position by
donating huge amounts of money and support to politicians and their political
parties. This monetary support buys access into the system. This access, known
as corporate welfare, can be achieved in the forms of favored rates on goods and
commodities, higher interest bond issues, tariff protections, emergency funding,
tax breaks and incentives, guaranteed investments, and weak safety standards.

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The rewards are endless, and they must be worth something because corporations
spend a tremendous amount of money to obtain them. Corporations have existed as
early as the eighteenth century. The framework of the constitution protects
corporations through its interpretation of property rights. Our constitution
was founded on a principle that the rights of people with property have to be
privileged. It is true that the framework defended the rights of people, but
rights were distributed, even more so, to people who owned property. The framers
of the constitution were hardly democratic. They represented their own,
personal, privileged, economic interests. Our founding fathers had a direct
interest to establish a government that would protect their holdings and
investments. The guiding light of the constitution, that still exists today, is
class interest. Privileged powers are protected by, and set a side for, the
power elite. In the United States, affluence and power is attained by wealth and
social status. Unavoidably, this power is passed onto the common citizen. “The
power elite is composed of men whose positions enable them to transcend the
ordinary environments of ordinary men and women; they are in positions to make
decisions having major consequences. Whether they do or do not make such
decisions is less important than the fact that they do occupy such pivotal
positions; their failure to act, their failure to make decisions, is itself an
act that is often of greater consequence than the decisions they do make.

(Mills, 1956: p.73) Corporations exercise their power to protect their own
interests. In doing so, they effect the economical, social, and political
make-up of society. This power is unique, and is reserved for only a few. The
United States is admired for its ideals of equality and opportunity. One can
view our system as “a multitude of groups and associations that organize
openly and freely, to compete with each other for the advancement of such
purposes as their members may wish.”(Miliband, 1969:p58) Yet, in reality, the
United States is a far cry from being democratic. The problem is that groups do
not compete on a level playing field. Large corporations enjoy a massive
superiority compared to smaller businesses, small interest groups, grassroots
organizations, and individual voters. It is the tightly woven relationship
between big business and government that prevents true democracy. Economic
influence is a magic wand used by large corporations to get their wishes
granted. According to Ralph Miliband,” businesses control the key areas of
economic life which makes it extremely difficult for governments to impose upon
it policies to which it is firmly opposed.” (1969:p59) In other words,
corporations dictate policy whether government likes it or not. Business
decisions have a yielding effect on the state of the economy. Choosing to
disinvest, downsize, relocate, or, decrease production, often has a negative
impact on the economy. According to Lindblom, a poor economy will negatively
affect voters more than anything else, and therefore, politicians must be quick
to respond to it. Politicians must pay special attention to the business
community. (p.91) For, if business is governments customer, then is business
always right? Miliband suggests, that in abstract, the array of powers and
influences utilized by business are combated by the equated powers and
influences obtained by government. (p.61) In reality, government has minimal
resources for self-protection. Big corporations are the backbone of government.


Without corporate donations, politicians would not be able to effectively secure
positions in government. The success of a political campaign highly depends upon
efficient funding. As politicians except huge contributions to enhance their
chances of winning, corporations contribute money to enhance their personal
interests. Perhaps corporations should not be regarded with a negative
connotation. Rather, the system itself should be blamed for encouraging these
corrupted relationships. Lindblom suggests that the relationships between
businesses and government are reciprocal. These relationships lend to the idea
that government makes certain choices that benefit corporations, with hopes to
assist the economy. Many choices made by government are favored towards the
large corporations. However, these very decisions persuade corporations to
reciprocate decisions that benefit the economy. For, it is when the economy is
on hard times, that citizens scrutinize their representatives. As already
stated, corporations can choose to negatively impact the economy by decreasing
productivity, mobilizing outside of the country, downsizing, and, in turn, lead
the United States into a recession. To guard their prominent positions,
politicians are forced to represent the interests of corporations. Corporations
will continue to play an integral role in our political system because so much
emphasis is placed on the economy. Free enterprise and public policy are
indivisible. One cannot be separated from the other. Instead, society must come
to terms with the idea that politics is business, business is dirty, and
therefore politics is a dirty business. This is not to say that the ordinary
citizen always loses. Certain policies that deal with issues, such as health and
the environment, manage to defeat big business. One example, used by Lindblom,
is the National Clean Air Act of 1990. Despite the major efforts of
corporations, policy reforms were initiated that hindered big businesses, to
benefit the environment. The privileged position that corporations receive makes
sense. These groups participate more. They are more actively involved in the
process than any other group. Large corporations utilize their resources to fund
interest groups, form special relationships with politicians, and are more
informed than the ordinary citizen. Their access places them into a unique
position, whereas, large corporations are able to browbeat government. Out of
fear, government is forced to share decision-making with corporate bullies. As
long as this relationship continues, democratic policy-making will be an
impossible goal to attain. Corporate giants will continue to interfere with
policy initiatives that fight pollution, encourage equality, heighten safety
standards, and improve our overall quality of life. For money runs this country,
and the one with the most money usually wins.


Bibliography
1. Lindblom, Charles E. and Woodhouse, Edward J., The Policy-Making Process
(1993) New Jersey, Prentice Hall. Pp.90-103 2. Miliband, Ralph., Imperfect
Competition, in Public Policy, The Essential Readings Stella Z. Theodoulou and
Matthew A. Cahn, (1995) New Jersey, Prentice Hall Pp.58-65 3. C. Wright Mills,
The Power Elite, in Public Policy, The Essential Readings Stella Z. Theodoulou
and Matthew A. Cahn, (1995) New Jersey, Prentice Hall

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