Voting in an Oligarchy and How Golf Factors Into My Decision

John McManamy Health Guide
  • It is this time of year that I am most grateful not to have a TV. For those of you who are similarly blessed, I will fill you in: There is an election around the corner. My quick take - if the political ads don’t disabuse you of the notion of US-style democracy, then the political commentary will.


    Okay, I’m sounding cynical, but I’ve lived long enough, I’ve earned the right. But does my cynicism give me the right to opt out of the electoral process?


    Ah, that is the question.


    According to a recent Princeton study, the US is now living in an oligarchy influenced by economic elites and organized groups while average citizens have no impact on government policy.

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    The study crunched the numbers and found - no surprise - the economic elites get their way just about every time. As for you and me - no one listens.


    Ergo, ipso facto, inter alia, ratio decidendi and obiter dictum, we are not living in a democracy.


    Here’s the tangible evidence: California, where I live, is experiencing one of the worst droughts on record. The state has reacted by slapping stiff fines on people washing their cars, but the rich still get to play golf on verdant sprinkler-saturated courses, famously located in the desert.


    Don’t get me started on golf.


    On second thought, I take it back. I will be voting this election day, and golf is part of the reason. Below is a photo I took on my iPhone. It is my favorite walking location, five minutes from my home.



    A number of years ago, a developer wanted to put a golf course there. Some of the locals fought back and succeeded in preserving the land as part of a special trust. These were public citizens, hero activists, but without certain laws on the books they never would have stood a chance. 


    The reason those laws were on the books in the first place had to do with a whole different set of public citizens, operating in a different time and place, soliciting support from people like you and me. Human affairs, in short, is complex and nonlinear. Cause-and-effect only become apparent looking back, never forward.


    So, when the time comes, I will hold my nose and vote. It will be a huge effort. Not only will I have to overcome years of carefully cultivated cynicism, I also have to override my baseline tendency towards depression and dark thoughts.


    The democracy we live in may not serve me the way I want it to, but every time I look at the sunset from my favorite spot I am reminded of the fact that it is not quite dead.

Published On: October 13, 2014