What leads you to believe that conditions are markedly different in the republics of Western Europe and the Americas? To be sure, we have all the trappings of “people power.” We vote, and have a choice between a pair of multi-millionaires in most federal elections that have raised tens of millions of dollars to get elected. They are in turn subjected to a host of interest groups, where the greatest interest naturally is purchased by the ones who have the most money to spend on getting heard. How many of the UK’s top politicians have the same boarding school accent? How many of the million dollar junkets taking US senators and representatives around the world are funded by small-budget citizens’ action groups?
A few stark figures: according to a study done in 2001 by economist Edward Wolff at NY University, 39.7% of US financial wealth is concentrated in the top 1% of its population. A 2006 study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research (with 2000 statistics) showed that nearly 70% of all wealth in the US was owned by the top 10% of the adult population, while in the UK, that figure was 56%.
There’s a great paper IMO on the subject of the economic relationship between wealth and power, and how they interrelate in many democratic nations, by G. William Domhoff, Professor of Sociology at U of Cal. You can read it here.