The rich are always with us

Someone needs to remind John Lloyd ("How the rich rule politics again", 26 March) that the baleful, narrow and usually entirely selfish ruling vision of the rich never went away. In the 1920s, R H Tawney engaged in research on this nation's hierarchies and discovered that roughly 28,000 families ran every major institution, business or undertaking, from fine art to the military, astronomy to zoology. In the l960s, Richard Titmuss repeated the research and discovered that the same 28,000 families were still running everything, including new hierarchies not "invented" in the earlier research, such as the BBC. With interesting but temporary exceptions such as post-revolutionary Russia (which rapidly established its own brand of hereditary owners), every nation shows the same pattern.

The result of this rule by self-perpetuating oligarchies is all around us. The Darwinian fitness of these people to rule is proved again and again. Every time the People have the power in their hands, they promptly hand it back to their "masters" with an almost audible sigh of relief.

Christopher Knapp

In John Lloyd's interesting article on the rich in politics, there is a reference to "democratic oligarchy". But oligarchs are not necessarily rich, whereas plutocrats are, by definition. The traditional term for the situation he describes is "plutocracy".

How about "plutodemocracy", to define plutocracy masquerading as democracy?

William Keegan
London, N1