Here's the plot that shows the relationship: public support for any given issue may vary from 0% to 100%; the probability that public policy will follow remains stuck at 30%. It doesn't matter whether or not you vote, you are throwing your vote away regardless. Or, if it makes you feel better, it is thrown away for you.
And who are those in power? They are the oligarchs, of course, the people who own just about everything, your good person included. Gilens and Page determined that the opinions of the economic elite and of business groups do have a profound effect on public policy. If this group is dead-set against a bit of policy, it will not be adopted: 0% support by this group means no chance of the policy being adopted. If, on the other hand, this group is 100% behind something, the chances of it being adopted skyrockets up to 70%. In short, while voting for or against an issue matters not a whit, throwing lots money at one or the other side of an issue does matter a great deal. The political parties, the campaigning, the electioneering and all that nonsense is just for show. The real power resides everywhere. Here is the plot that shows the relationship:
So, what is it that you do when, on election day, you proudly march into the voting booth and pull a lever, or touch the touchscreen of a voting machine? You are certainly not making a decision; that's been proven already. But you are still doing something: you are voting in support of your owners—the ones who make public policy decisions on your behalf. If you vote, then it must be because you approve of what they are doing.
And what is it that they are doing? Well, job one for them seems to be to make sure that the rich continue to get richer while the poor get poorer and the middle class is... well... class dismissed. If this sort of public policy seems self-destructive to you, that's probably because it is. Whenever it is allowed to run its course, the results are abysmal—especially for the rich who continued to get richer, whose corpses end up festooning lampposts and whose arterial spray adds a touch of color to city squares.
Now, you'd think that at least a few rich people here and there might realize this and do something about it; after all, they can't all be completely stupid. Well, I think that it's not a question of intelligence; it's a question of sentience. These people are not people, they are moneybags. And moneybags have a logic of their own: I call it “moneybag logic.” This logic says that having more money is always good, having less money is always bad, and that therefore everyone should do everything possible to make sure that there is always more money. If that requires turning the Earth into a polluted, radioactive, lifeless desert, so be it.
As the author Victor Pelevin once observed, “Everything has deadlocked on money, and money has deadlocked on itself.” Truer words have rarely been spoken. After all, you can't get anything done without spending money. And to spend money you have to make it first. And you have to have money in order to make money. This is what we teach to our children, along with “There is no free lunch” and other such homilies. “Don't quit your day job,” we tell them if they take up music or the arts, and “How do you suppose you'll make a living with that?” It is little wonder that they then march into the voting booth and cast a vote for the moneybags.
Let's face it, the moneybags can't help acting like moneybags, in accordance with moneybag logic. But a lot of them are getting spooked, thinking that this will end badly for them. A lot of them are realizing that this money that they are made of is just so much soiled paper and numbers inside computers, and to make any of it mean anything they need to control everything. But what if that control slips through their fingers? How much will this mountain of nothing be worth then? Luckily, there are some professionals on hand to help them. I call them moneybag-whisperers. Like people who can soothe nervous horses, these professionals excel at talking down moneybags. Even financial Armageddon is survivable, you see. You just need a lot of gold, and weapons, and a few warlords on your side. Your private jet that's ready to evacuate you to your private island paradise. Little things like that. It's all under control, you see. Thanks to the efforts of the moneybag-whisperers, it may turn out that some of the shrewder moneybags won't have a problem no matter what happens.
But everyone else will have a problem, and here moneybag logic isn't going to help. Moneybag logic works for the big moneybags, but it is seductive even to the tiniest little baggie full of nickels. After all, even the tiniest baggie full of nickles could win the lottery one day... If that's how you think, then you should go and vote for some moneybags; either way, your chances of winning are exactly the same.