Is it ethical for the American people to be represented by billionaires?

North America and the Caribbean Desk

Written by: Blake Bridge, Davenport College ’23

The most common American critique of the 2016 presidential election was that the average voter felt as if they were pinned between two not so great candidates and some guy named Gary Johnson. Yet, after nearly four years of a presidency that most would agree has brought great change to the political identification of both the Democratic and Republican parties, the 2020 presidential election is now is possibly poised to be a showdown between billionaires on both sides of the ballot with Michael Bloomberg signaling to join the race to secure the Democratic nomination. This garners the question: is it reasonable for the American people to be represented by their country’s richest citizens?

According to a recent Forbes article, there are currently 607 billionaires in the United States, a country with a population of approximately 330 million. Thus, when it comes to the gears of American power, it seems as if this 0.00018 percent has pilfered the presidency away from the rest of the nation’s less wealthy denizens. This is not to question the ability of billionaires to run the United States, despite a tumultuous national track record over the past four years. Rather, this is to question the application of the constitutional principles of the modern electoral processes where the net worths of the last five presidents have all been over $25 million. 

Thus, while issues of racial, gender, and age-based representation have assumed the forefront of the American consciousness over the past ten or so years, the idea that American federal power lies almost inevitably in the hands of the wealthiest has been so fundamentally ingrained in our governance that it has become numb in the minds of most Americans. Whether manifesting in the creation of an electoral college constructed to check the decision-making powers of American commoners in the late 18th century or contemporary campaign financing practices, the seat of power in the United States has been inextricably linked to wealth and status. 

While the US constitution was designed to allow for amendment as the face and the practices of the nation changed over time, its more foundational principles are religiously protected by an American loyalty to the constitution’s constructionism. Even when it comes to the gun-bearing rights of the militias of yesteryear, the American people are entrapped by a self-imposed sense of constitutional protection. We believe that the only way to protect the freedoms that the constitution grants us is to forget and even attack those freedoms that it withholds from us. 

The Electoral College, gun rights, and wealth inequality, especially when it comes to representation in the federal government, are all things which we are coaxed into believing as innately fair. We are euphemistically taught that this is our “right to equal opportunity” when it comes to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” None of these topics are equal or fair. The electoral college was designed to favor the opinions of American high society, guns do not make people more equal (maybe more lethal), and I believe I don’t need to explain how wealth inequality is in fact not equal. 

As a nation, we hid behind our fundamental problems by paper-macheing them with different less fundamental ones, such as critiquing the personality of our representatives. Therefore, when it comes down to selecting the best of two evils in November 2020, take some time not to analyze their shortcomings but the system which allowed those shortcomings to thrive.


Works Cited:

“BILLIONAIRES THE RICHEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.” Forbes. March 5, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/billionaires/#2e664ba3251c.

Summers, Robert S. “Net Worth.” POTUS. Robert S. Summers. Accessed November 10, 2019. https://www.potus.com/presidential-facts/net-worth/.

“U.S. and World Population Clock.” Population Clock. The US Census Bureau, November 10, 2019. https://www.census.gov/popclock/.

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