Oligarchy Law and Legal Definition

Oligarchy means "rule by a few". When referring to governments, it refers to government by a few, usually the rich, for their own advantage, rather than the public good.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle said, "For democracy is said to be the government of the many. But what if the many are men of property and have the power in their hands? For the real difference between democracy and oligarchy is poverty and wealth. The democrats think that, as they are equal, they ought to be equal in all things; while the oligarchs, under the idea that they are unequal, claim too much, which is more inequality... those which incline more toward oligarchy are called aristocracies, and those which incline more toward democracy constitutional governments. Therefore the latter are the safer of the two, for the greater the number, the greater the strength, and when men are equal they are contented. But the rich, if the government gives them power, are apt to be insolent and avaricious... The only stable principle of government is equality according to proportion, and every man to enjoy his own."