The following is an excerpt from the new book Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power by Noam Chomsky and edited by Peter Hutchison, Kelly Nyks, and Jared P. Scott (Seven Stories Press, 2017):
One of the leading political scientists, Martin Gilens, has done important studies of the relationship between public attitudes and public policy, based on polling data. It’s a pretty straightforward thing to study—policy you can see, and public opinion you know from extensive polling. In one study, together with another fine political scientist, Benjamin Page, Gilens took about 1,700 policy decisions, and compared them with public attitudes and business interests. What they show, I think convincingly, is that policy is uncorrelated with public attitudes, and closely correlated with corporate interests. Elsewhere he showed that about 70 percent of the population has no influence on policy—they might as well be in some other country. And as you go up the income and wealth level, the impact on public policy is greater—the rich essentially get what they want.
Polling data is not refined enough for him to look beyond the top 10 percent, which is kind of misleading because the real concentration of power is in a fraction of 1 percent. But if the study was carried up to there, it’s pretty clear what you’d find: they get exactly what they want, because they’re basically running the place.
The fact that policy doesn’t correspond to public interest shouldn’t come as a big surprise. This has been going on for a long time. Government policy is designed to implement state power and the power of dominant elements within the society. Here, it means mainly the corporate sector. The welfare of the population is secondary, and often not cared for at all. And the population knows it. That’s why you have this tremendous antagonism toward institutions—all institutions. So, support of Congress is often in the single digits; the presidency is disliked; corporations are disliked; banks are hated—it extends all over. Even science is disliked—“why should we believe them?”