"To discover who rules, follow the gold." This is the argument of "Golden Rule," a provocative, pungent history of modern American politics. Although the role big money plays in defining political outcomes has long been obvious to ordinary Americans, most pundits and scholars have virtually dismissed this assumption. Even in light of skyrocketing campaign costs, the belief that major financial interests primarily determine who parties nominate and where they stand on the issues--that, in effect, Democrats and Republicans are merely the left and right wings of the "Property Party"--has been ignored by most political scientists. Offering evidence ranging from the nineteenth century to the 1994 mid-term elections, "Golden Rule" shows that voters are "right on the money."
Thomas Ferguson breaks completely with traditional voter centered accounts of party politics. In its place he outlines an "investment approach," in which powerful investors, not unorganized voters, dominate campaigns and elections. Because businesses "invest" in political parties and their candidates, changes in industrial structures--between large firms and sectors--can alter the agenda of party politics and the shape of public policy.
"Golden Rule" presents revised versions of widely read essays in which Ferguson advanced and tested his theory, including his seminal study of the role played by capital intensive multinationals and international financiers in the New Deal. The chapter "Studies in Money Driven Politics" brings this aspect of American politics into better focus, along with other studies of Federal Reserve policy making and campaign finance in the 1936 election. Ferguson analyzes how a changing world economy and other social developments broke up the New Deal system in our own time, through careful studies of the 1988 and 1992 elections. The essay on 1992 contains an extended analysis of the emergence of the Clinton coalition and Ross Perot's dramatic independent insurgency. A postscript on the 1994 elections demonstrates the controlling impact of money on several key campaigns.
This controversial work by a theorist of money and politics in the U.S. relates to issues in campaign finance reform, PACs, policymaking, public financing, and how today's elections work.
An arresting collection of revisionist essays that (despite what will strike most readers as a surfeit of donnish baggage) put a fresh spin on Tip O'Neill's dictum that money is the mother's milk of politics. Drawing on a wealth of previously ignored data on the financing of presidential campaigns, Ferguson (coauthor of Right Turn, 1986, etc.) offers provocative perspectives on realpolitik informed by what he calls investment theory. In brief, he concludes that it is not voters who form the lifeblood of American political parties but rather powerful blocs of business elites with durable (largely economic) interests. Among other advantages, they have the resources to master issues and the financial means to invest in the election of candidates prepared to keep the ship of state on courses of their choosing. Since political action in the US has become so expensive, Ferguson argues, well-heeled elites set agendas and influence deliberations and debate: "Everyone else watches on TV," he notes. Employing anecdotal as well as statistical evidence drawn from the past two centuries (including the 1994 contest that gave the Republicans control of Congress), the author makes a persuasive case for the sardonic observation that those who control the gold rule. Cases in point range from the willingness of internationally minded industrialists and Wall Streeters to support FDR, through the reasons why realty groups cut their contributions to conservative Democrats during the 1980s (mainly because the cities and infrastructure projects had to compete with the Pentagon for federal dollars). Citing Ross Perot, Ferguson asserts that "with enough money, candidates can pole vault over the whole rotting structure of party politics in America...." As a card-carrying academic, the author feels obliged to deconstruct the hypotheses of rival scholars, frequently in excruciating detail. This considerable cavil apart, a genuinely original and disturbingly convincing interpretation of what underlies vox populi. Helpful graphs and tabular material throughout. (Kirkus Reviews)
Series: American Politics & Political Economy
Number Of Pages: 441
Published: 1st January 1995
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.0 x 15.3
Weight (kg): 0.59
Edition Number: 2