Robert B Reich published The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It in March 2020. In the book, he writes about how Americans are under the control of a few people: rich magnates and politicians. He explains the difference between democracy and oligarchy, and how the former has been used as a smokescreen for their selfish interests.

Of course, Reich talks about the political systems in the US but you don’t even have to think too deeply about how the same systems run in whatever country you’re living in as well. It’s very obvious that the system is followed in pretty much the same way in other democracies as well.

Here are some highlights from the book.

System of corruption has made it difficult to oust oligarchy

There hasn’t been a desire to create a balance between the rich and the poor. The people in power want to get richer and are not bothered about the poor getting poorer. Unemployment has increased and so has the cost of living, which has forced people to take up more jobs and have less time to think about other things.

The spending power of the rich Americans has also increased at a faster pace than that of the poor. Politicians are also going to side with the highest spenders, since campaign costs are high and they’re dependent on the rich to fund these campaigns. Of course, the rich won’t fund without having vested interests. This means that the politicians are automatically in debt of the wealthy. In the US, the Democrats and Republicans are equally corrupt. 

Power of the powerful rests on the powerlessness of the powerless

This was one of the most brilliant lines I came across in the book. It’s very simple to understand as well. 

The people running the system don’t want hardworking average people to earn more, don’t want to reduce inequalities and provide access to quality healthcare or education. Doing so would allow them to get some semblance of power, which is what the rich don’t want to lose.

People are made to believe that whatever happens in the government is beyond their control. Their morale is killed and they are forced to resign to their fate.

Middle class and lower class won’t get anything

Reich cites the example of billionaire investor Carl Ichan who supported Donald Trump from the start. When Trump declared he would be running for presidency, Ichan was worth $16 billion. Three years after Trump became the President, Ichan net worth grew to $18 billion.

Similarly, many CEOs in America have seen their worth grow but the same hasn’t been the case for the middle and lower classes. The latter have had to take up more jobs and debts only to end up with fewer savings. 

Getting rid of oligarchy requires collective effort

A lot of Americans believe that the system is rigged against them but very few actively participate in politics. When Trump campaigned, he promised to work for the benefit of the middle and lower classes. But in reality, he didn’t do anything of that sort.

Americans need to find a leader who doesn’t belong to the selfish oligarchy. Oligarchy cannot last forever and the tactics they use shows that they also know this. Politicians need to be held accountable and people should resist the urge to give up. This is not easy but there is no other way. 

Reich suggests that the only way to fix the system is by discarding the belief that you’re helpless against the government and by actively participating in politics.