This book offers a fresh and original analysis of the power structure of a number of societies, past and present. There are and ever have been only two essential models of government: minority rule of all types (labelled “oligocracy”) and regimes in which power is concentrated in the hands of a single individual (labelled “monocracy”).

The present-day “democracies” of Britain and the United States are in reality composite oligocracies made up of several disparate elements. Oligocracies are by definition regimes with a high degree of inequality, but with variable levels of liberty. Oligocracy and inequality are the “default” features of human society.

Equality is unattainable except by a radical monocracy like Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and then only with difficulty and at the expense of liberty and probably of lives as well. Equality of opportunity must not be equated with equality. Equality of opportunity means an equal opportunity to become unequal. For genuine freedom of expression to exist there also needs to be equality, because the little man standing on his soap-box and shouting his lungs out at Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park cannot compete with the media moguls — which is why genuine freedom of expression is rare.

Once these truths are recognised, it becomes clear that for a Western nation to combine “regime change” in a foreign state with an attempt to impose “democracy” and Western “liberal” values on it is likely to be doomed to failure – as is amply demonstrated by the recent history of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.