Interest Groups Chapter

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University of Central Florida
Political Science
POS 2041
Meredith Legg

Chapter 9 Interest Groups: Organizing for Influence This chapter looks at the degree to which various interest in American society are represented through organized groups Argument: economically powerful groups dominate the system, an issue deemphasized by pluralist claims. Begin with explanation of various types of interest groups What is the impact of the lobbying process by interest groups on national policy? Interest groups have policy goals (to further their interests) Definition of interest group: a set of individuals organized to promote a shared political concern Tenents of Pluralism:  Political parties are different from interest groups. Parties build coalitions by addressing wide range of issues, groups focus on narrow set of issues of immediate concern  Pluralism holds that society’s interests are represented mainly by groups. These interest benefit from organized group activity  The rise of single-issue politics combined with decline of political parties has served to increase the power of interest groups. Group politics may result in the ascendancy of narrow interests which prove harmful to the larger society I. Interest Group System a. In the 1830s Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that “the principle of association” was nowhere more evident than in America. This description stills holds. Americans are more likely than citizens of other nations to join organized groups. But not all are interest groups. We have a tradition of free association. b. Nation’s political structure contributes to group action as well. Because of federalism and separation of powers, groups have multiple points of entry through which to influence policy The success of any interest group is directly related to its ability to organize effectively. Economic interests tend to be very well organized for the following reasons: Advantages  Many economic interests naturally form into small groups and hence have an advantage over large groups as each member of a small group stands to benefit substantially from participation in a collective effort.  Economic groups offer members a powerful incentive for membership in the form of private (individual) goods, which accrue benefits to members exclusively; non- economic groups offer public (collective) goods to their members and thus suffer from the free-rider problem. Free rider problem: individuals can obtain the good even if they do not contribute to the group’s effort. NPR as example. Although NPR’s programs are funded primarily through listeners’ donations, those who do not contribute can listen to the programs.  Economic groups have the advantage of ready access to resources, such as money from profits or dues that facilitate organization. These groups include the following:  Business groups are numerous and have a size advantage over many other groups. They concentrate their efforts on issues directly affecting business interests.  Labor groups promote policies that benefit workers in general and union members in particular. The largest represent service and public employees today rather than skilled and unskilled laborers.  Agricultural groups consist of general and specialty farm associations.  Most professions have lobbying associations; an example of a powerful professional group is the American Medical Association. Citizens’ (non-economic) interest groups emphasize purposive incentives—opportunities to promote a cause in which the members believe. They offer collective or public goods as incentives and thus have a free-rider problem. Citizens’ interest groups include several types:  Public-interest groups attempt to act in the broad interests of society as a whole.  Single-interest groups are organized to influence policy in just one area.  Ideological groups are concerned with a broad range of policies from a general philosophical or value perspective. There are also lobbying groups formed to represent foreign and sub-national governments. These groups have increased sharply in number in recent years, as have the other citizens’ (non-economic) interest groups. II. Inside Lobbying: Seeking Influence through Official Contacts Inside lobbying refers to efforts of groups to develop and maintain close (inside) contacts with policymakers.  Inside lobbying focuses on gaining access to public officials, providing them with vital information, and expressing group concerns in order to promote the group’s perspective.  Money is an essential ingredient of inside lobbying due to the hi
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