Interest groups are a key aspect of American politics in the world today. An interest group is an organization of people with shared policy goals that enter the policy making process at several points to try and influence the policy. The development of interest groups has led to the creation of three theories used to describe them: pluralism, hyperpluralism, and elitism. Pluralism states that interest groups bring representation to all the people. Elitism is when there is an unbalance of power towards certain interest groups.
Hyperpluralism states that the government is differential to interests groups and creates conflicting regulations. Hyperpluralists believe that iron triangles greatly influence the policy. Iron triangles are known as subgovernments, in which there is an interest group leader, a government agency the puts the policy in place, and the members of congress that handle to policy. Membership in an interest group is what allows it to thrive. Groups that can take potential members (people who might join the group because they share the same interest), and turn them into actual members (people that are in the group) will have more influence in policy. The more members a group has, the more potential for capital it has. In society today, interest groups with more political capital will have a greater influence on policy.
Interest groups must target a specific policy by using one of the four tactics: lobbying (people who communicate with a government official who try to influence their decision), electioneering (direct group involvement in the electoral process, i.e. funding a campaign), litigation (if congress says no, an interest group will take their policy idea to the courts), and appealing to the public. There are five primary types of interest groups: economic groups, professional associations, public interest groups, think tanks, and government units. Many interest group’s today claim that they are public interest lobbies, only seeking out policy that will benefit the general public and not the members of the group. Despite many arguments against interest groups, they are a vital aspect in the American political culture. James Madison states that interest groups were a faction, a necessary evil in politics.
Section 10.1 1.The Role of Interest Groups- Explain the difference between a party and an interest group. a.Parties and interest groups are both important to the political process, however they are not the same exact thing. Parties are involved in the electoral process by running a candidate for public office. Interest groups support a candidate for office, but they don’t run their own candidate. Another difference between the two is parties are general and less specific, but interest groups take a specific stand on a particular policy. Section 10.2
1.Pluralism- How does interest group activity bring representation to all? a.Interests groups provide a link between the people and the government. Anyone can form an interest group if they wanted too. There are also so many different groups that one should be able to find one that helps them. Groups are constantly competing to gain a foot in on policy, this is what allows democracy to thrive. 2.Elitism- Explain the theory of elitism.
a.Elitism is a theory in politics that states that an upper-class elite hold most of the power in government and essentially run the government. An elitists thinks that there is no point in having numerous groups because all the power is concentrated in only a few of them. They believe that large corporations are too powerful and use unfair tactics such as lobbying to receive policy benefits. 3.Hyperpluralism- Why do hyperpluralists think interests groups are bad for society? a.Hyperpluralists believe that the government is deferential to interest groups. They think that the huge number of interest groups pressuring the government cause them to create conflicting regulations. Hyperpluralists also argue that special interest groups get too much of what they want. They think that the iron triangle is bad for American political culture because the aspects of it have the same thing in mind, protecting their self-interest. They argue that this is bad for American society. Section 10.3
1.The Surprising Ineffectiveness of Large Groups- Explain the free-rider problem. a.A free-rider is a member of a potential group who doesn’t join the actual group because they receive the same benefits the members do without joining. This is a problem because people don’t have to pay the fees or do any work in the group, but they get all the same benefits people in the group do. This also leads to members of potential groups not joining because there is no need to. This problem can be solved by the use of selective benefits. This would allow groups to set up benefits that only actual members would receive.
2.Intensity- Analyze how intensity is a major contributor to the formation of a group. a.Potential groups can become actual groups through a high intensity about it. If people feel intense about the interest, they are more likely to go through and form the actual group. Intensity has also led to the creation of single-issue groups. These single issue groups, are narrow-minded and are unwilling to compromise. If a topic is very intense, people will like form an actual group. 3.Financial Resources- How influential are financial resources in the formation of policy? a.Wealthy people in America have more of an influence in policy making than the poor people. In politics, money talks, meaning that the more political capital you invest, the more likely you are to benefit from policy. However, there was a study conducted and the results were unexpected. They determined that the usual resources used to “buy out” policy outcomes had no observable effect on the outcome of policy. Section 10.4
1.Lobbying- How can lobbyists help a member of congress? a.Lobbying is defined as “communication, by someone other than a citizen acting on their own behalf, directed to a governmental decision maker with the hope of influencing their decision.” Based off this definition, you can determine that they are important sources of information for members of congress. Lobbyists also can help politicians come up with strategies for presenting their ideas. Lobbyists are good sources of information and innovation to a congressman. Lobbyists can give them an idea and if it succeeds they will get credit for it and that will benefit them.
2.Electioneering- Explain how campaign finance laws have led to an increase of PACs. a.A political action committee is a group that raises money from individuals and then donates it to candidates that the group supports. In 1974, there were a series of campaign finance laws passed which created a necessity for a PAC. In 1974, there were only 608 PACs, but in 2014, there were 5,680. The campaign finance laws made it so a single person could not donate a certain amount of money to a candidate. This led to the formation of more PACs because people wanted to give money to a candidate and this was the only way they could do it. 3.Litigation¬- Explain the process of litigation.
a.If an interest group fails in congress to get a piece of legislation, they go to the courts to hopefully get a decision. That is the start of the litigation process. The next step is writing a deposition to the court that states the group’s position on policy and how the court’s decision will affect their welfare. When they receive this, the court will decide how they want to rule the case. 4.Going Public- Why are groups so interested in the opinions of the public? a.Public opinion is what ultimately influences policymakers to make their decision. If the general public agrees with a policy, it is more likely to be passed in congress. Interest groups will use specific slogans and sayings such as “what made America great” to try and attract the public to support their policy. Having the public on a group’s side is a huge advantage for them in going up against congress. Section 10.5
1.Economic Interests- How does business interest effect policy? a.The American power elite is made up of the leaders of the biggest businesses in the country and the world. These gigantic companies have offices in Washington that watch congress. Businesses invest money into lobbying in efforts to persuade policy to benefit them. Over the last several decades, business PACs have grown more than any others.
2.Environmental Interests- Explain how environmental interests groups had an effect on policy. a.Environmental interest groups are newer than the other categories of groups. Environmental groups have influenced policy to control pollution, wildlife protection, and species prevention. They also had a major effect going against some policies like supersonic aircraft and nuclear power plants. They had such an effect on policy, since 1977 when the United States first nuclear accident occurred to 2010, no new nuclear plants were built.
3.Equality Interests- How important are equality interest groups in causing policy change? a.The most well-known example of equality interest groups are the civil rights interest groups that fought segregation. They caused policy change by making it known that they wanted change. As a result, congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment which guarantees equal protection under the law. In more recent times, women’s rights groups are lobbying for discrimination against women to end.
4.Consumer and Other Public Interest Lobbies- Analyze how public interest lobbies work. a.A public interest lobby is an “organization that seek a collective good, the achievement of which will not benefit the membership or activists of the organization.” Thousands of groups are claiming to be public interest lobbies. This is good for American society because it makes the nation better off as a whole, with policy not just benefitting the members of the interest group who supported it. Section 10.6
1.Interest Groups and Democracy- Analyze how Madison’s ideas on interest groups work in today’s world. a.Madison believed in a wide-open system in which many interest groups would be able to participate. He thought that in this system, groups would have opposing ideas and they would work to balance each other. This system has made it so politics is not dominated by a small number of powerful interest groups, but a large number of equally powerful interest groups. This has been beneficial for the public in relation to policy because they are more fairly involved in the policy making process.
2.Interest Groups and the Scope of Government- How do interest groups promote American individualism? a.Interest groups give American’s opportunities to politicize their ideas. The increasing number of interest groups give people more opportunities to join, and allow them to be more politically active. Interest groups fight for a policy that is important to them, and by doing this, people feel politically active. Interest groups allow people with similar ideas to work together and try and achieve policy, which is good for American democracy as a whole.