Oligarchy is a system of government where only a few powerful people is given control. They are not elected, but are able to maintain their power and wealth by keeping close ties and relationships with each other. The very idea that those in power are not elected, makes it quite the opposite of democracy.
A lot of people, especially opponents of oligarchy, consider it as abusive, bordering on tyrannical, because the people in power often exercise control for selfish and corrupt purposes. Then again, corruption and selfishness are just as present in other systems of government. This means that oligarchy also has its share of advantages and disadvantages.
List of Pros of Oligarchy
1. Quick decision-making process
Coming to a consensus in a democratic government is often extremely difficult because the citizens can have a say on key issues. But because only those in power makes decision in an oligarchy, agreements can be made quickly. This is especially true if the decision to be made is for the good of the government. It is also efficient, since most of the people in office are expert insiders in wealth and economy.
2. Women can hold a position of power
Most of the time, the basis for someone to hold office in an oligarchy is whether or not they belong to the wealthy ruling class. So, if a woman is a member of such class, she has the option and potential to have a position in the government, which is something of a rarity in other government systems, such as theocracy in the Middle East.
3. Allow people to focus on their daily lives
Because decision-making and other government concerns that affect the society as a whole are delegated to a small group, people will only have to worry about their own lives. They can focus on their choice in career, in taking care of their family, cultivating relationships or engaging in activities that they love.
4. Open plenty of room for innovation and improvements
Got a creative idea you want to cultivate? If it benefits the interest of the oligarchy, you have higher chances of success and gaining support. This will encourage people to be more creative and inventive for good reasons.
5. Control the amount of risk taken
In an oligarchy, the small group of people in power usually makes a conservative decision in order to preserve the status quo. This ensures that no one strong leader will have the power to steer the society into highly risky ventures.
List of Cons of Oligarchy
1. Iron Law of Oligarchy
In Robert Michel’s book entitled Political Parties, he outlined the various elements of the principle called the Iron Law of Oligarchy.
- Power and decision making is delegated only to a small number of persons.
- Those in office take on more power than the people who elected them.
- Leaders will slowly develop values that are at odds with the rest of the society.
Based on these, it is clear that anyone else who wish to join the government would find it difficult to break in. Because of the lack of diversity, no new ideas will be cultivated and the government will become stale.
2. Favor only falls on those in power
Selfishness doesn’t exactly leave room for generosity or benevolence, which is why an oligarchy only favors those who are in the government. In the event that the working class is given benefits, it can only be considered an extreme exception.
With the people deprived of free speech and the freedom to voice their opinion on key issues, civil unrest can happen when the citizens become frustrated and unhappy with the oligarchy.