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Interest Groups Chapter 11 The Role and Reputation of Interest Groups Defining Interest Groups – An organization of people with shared policy goals entering the policy process at several points to try to achieve those goals. Interest groups pursue their goals in many arenas. – Political Parties fight election battles, Interest Groups don’t - but they may choose sides. – Interest Groups are policy specialists, Political Parties are policy generalists. Theories of Interest Group Politics Pluralist Theory Elite Theory Hyperpluralist Theory Click on name to go to that slide. Theories of Interest Group Politics - Pluralism Definition: – Politics is mainly a competition among groups, each one pressing for its own preferred policies. – Many centers of power and many diverse, competing groups. – No group wins or loses all the time. – Groups provide the key link between the people and the government. Theories of Interest Group Politics - Pluralism Continued – Groups provide a key link between people and government. – Groups compete. – No one group is likely to become too dominant. – Groups usually play by the “rules of the game.” – Groups weak in one resource can use another. Theories of Interest Group Politics - Elitism Definition: – Societies are divided along class lines and an upper-class elite rules, regardless of the formal niceties of governmental organization. – Numerous groups mean nothing, power is not equally divided among them - some have much more. – The largest corporations hold the most power. Theories of Interest Group Politics - Elitism Continued – Elite power is strengthened by a system of interlocking directorates of these corporations and other institutions. – Corporate elites are willing to lose the minor policy battles, but work to win the major policy issues in their favor. – Lobbying is a problem because it benefits the few at the expense of the many. Theories of Interest Group[ Politics - Elitism Perceptions of the Dominance of Big Interests (Figure 11.1) Theories of Interest Group Politics - Hyperpluralism Definition: – Groups are so strong that government is weakened. Extreme, exaggerated form of pluralism. – Subgovernments consist of a network of groups that exercise a great deal of control over specific policy areas. – Interest groups have become too powerful as the government tries to serve every interest. Theories of Interest Group Politics - Hyperpluralism Continued – The many subgovernments (iron triangles) aggravate the process. – When the government tries to please all the groups, the policies become confusing and contradictory. – With more interest groups getting involved, these subgovernments may be dissolving. What Makes an Interest Group Successful? What Makes an Interest Group Successful? The Surprising Ineffectiveness of Large Groups – Potential group: All the people who might be interest group members because they share a common interest. – Actual group: The part of the potential group consisting of members who actually join. – Collective good: Something of value that cannot be withheld from a group member What Makes an Interest Group Successful? – Free-Rider problem: Some people don’t join interest groups because they benefit from the group’s activities without officially joining. – The bigger the group, the larger the free-rider problem. (Olson’s law of large groups) – Large groups are difficult to keep organized. What Makes an Interest Group Successful? – Small groups are better organized and more focused on the group’s goals. – Consumer groups have a difficult time getting significant policy gains - the benefits are spread over the entire population. – Groups that can provide selective benefits can overcome this problem. What Makes an Interest Group Successful? The Benefits of Membership in the AARP (Figure 11.2) What Makes an Interest Group Successful? Intensity – Single-Issue groups: Groups that focus on a narrow interest and dislike compromise. – Groups may focus on an emotional issue, providing them with a psychological advantage. – May be more likely to use protests and other means of political participation than traditional interest groups that use lobbyists. What Makes an Interest Group Successful? Financial Resources – Not all groups have equal amounts of money. – Monetary donations usually translate into access to the politicians - a phone call, a meeting, etc. – There is a bias towards the wealthier groups. – The wealthier groups don’t always win in the policy arena. The Interest Group Explosion Figure 11.3 How Groups Try to Shape Policy Lobbying – “communication by someone other than a citizen acting on his own behalf, directed to a governmental decisionmaker with the hope of influencing his decision.” (Lester Milbrath) – Two basic types: Those that are employed by a group, and those that are hired temporarily. How Groups Try to Shape Policy – Lobbyists are a source of information. – Lobbyists can help politicians plan political strategies for legislation. – Lobbyists can help politicians plan political strategies for reelection campaigns. – Lobbyists can provide ideas and innovations that can be turned into policies that the politician can take credit for. How Groups Try to Shape Policy Electioneering – Direct group involvement in the election process. – Political Action Committee (PAC): Used by interest groups to donate money to candidates. – PACs help pay the bill for increasing campaign costs. – Most PAC money goes to incumbents. How Groups Try to Shape Policy Litigation – If an interest group fails in one arena, the courts may be able to provide a remedy. – Interest groups can file amicus curiae briefs in court cases to support their position. – Class Action lawsuits permit small groups of people to try and correct a situation on behalf of a much larger group. How Groups Try to Shape Policy Going Public – Groups try and cultivate a good public image. – Groups use marketing strategies to influence public opinion of the group and its issues. – Groups will purchase advertising to motivate the public about an issue. Types of Interest Groups Economic Interests – Labor – Agriculture – Business Environmental Interests Equality Interests Consumer and Public Interest Lobbies Understanding Interest Groups Interest Groups and Democracy – James Madison’s solution to the problems posed by interest groups was to create a wide- open system in which groups compete. – Elite theorists point to the proliferation of business PACs as evidence of interest group corruption. – Hyperpluralists maintain that group influence has led to policy gridlock. Understanding Interest Groups Interest Groups and the Scope of Government – Interest groups seek to maintain policies and programs that benefit them. – Interest groups continue to pressure government to do more things. – But as the government does more things, does that cause the formation of more groups?
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