'We must describe', says Plato
, 'how timocracy
changes into oligarchy
.. Even a blind man must see how it changes .. It is the treasure house that ruins this constitution
. They' (the timocrats) 'begin by creating opportunities for showing off and spending money
, and to this end they twist the laws, and they and their wives disobey them ..; and they try to outrival one another.' In this way arises the first class conflict
: that between virtue and money, or between the old-established ways of feudal simplicity and the new ways of wealth. The transition to oligarchy is completed when the rich establish a law that 'disqualifies from public office all those whose means do not reach the stipulated amount
. This change is imposed by force or arms, should threats and blackmail
not succeed ..'
Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, taken from chapter 4 on Change and Rest. Parts in quotes are taken directly from Plato, boldfaced emphasis is mine.
Perhaps its a trite observation but according to this definition America is an oligarchy rather than a democracy, of course Plato would have been happy about this as he considered democracy to be better only than tyranny.