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According to Dahl, what are the two forces pushing in opposing directions? What are the two levels at which the incompatibilities of capitalism and democracy are revealed? In which economically advanced democratic country is disposable income the most unequally distributed?.

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questions for robert dahl

According to Dahl, what are the two forces pushing in opposing directions?

What are the two levels at which the incompatibilities of capitalism and democracy are revealed?

In which economically advanced democratic country is disposable income the most unequally distributed?

Questions for Robert Dahl
robert dahl

Evolution of thought

Most commonly associated with pluralism. Early writings critiqued complaints of an all powerful “they”. These writings occurred during 1950s and 1960s when income disparity was low and GINI was in the upper 30s.

1985 –”If citizens are unequal in economic resources, so are they likely to be unequal in political resources; and political equality will be impossible to achieve. In the extreme case, a minority of rich will possess so much greater political resources than other citizens that they will control the state, dominate the majority of citizens, and empty the democratic process of all content.” Four years into Reagan administration, pro-business environment, income disparity increasing.

Robert Dahl
robert dahl1

Democracy and Capitalism pushing in opposite directions.

“The extent to which political equality and democracy are attainable depends, among other things, on the distribution of access to political resources and the willingness to employ them to achieve one's goals.”

Not just political campaigns, also lobbying, influencing public opinion through astroturfing, gatekeeping, and influencing academia through research grants.

“We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.” Justice Louis D. Brandeis

Robert Dahl
robert dahl2

“Yet even in modern democratic countries, birth generally confers initial advantages and disadvantages that often tend to become cumulative.”

Donald Trump and the Koch Brothers

6 of 10 richest Americans inherited wealth from 2 families: 2 Kochs and 4 Waltons

Robert Dahl
robert dahl3

Pg 642, Dahl’s explanation of social and racial intolerance – greater acceptance of redistribution in homogeneous societies. Numerous studies have shown that welfare programs find less acceptance in states with high levels of minority populations.

Robert Dahl
robert dahl4

Pg. 643 The use of religious doctrine to justify the subordination of others, then backed by the state.

    • Caste system was initially a less formal categorization of individuals. The British codified it in Indian law, somewhat like earlier British hereditary rules, and made these social divisions more salient.
Robert Dahl
robert dahl5

Pg 644 In addition, ideology and religion are double-edged swords. Although some Christian ministers justified slavery, others dedicated their energies to abolition because of their Christian beliefs. Nuns on the bus vs Catholic bishops.

Abolition – “astroturfing” for Yankee industrialists

Robert dahl
robert dahl6

“Their incompatibilities (democracy and capitalism) are revealed at two levels, one the level of theoretical interpretation and justification, the other at the empirical level of historical experience.”

“In practice, market capitalism makes political equality all but impossible to achieve.”

Robert dahl

If this is true, what should be our priority?

robert dahl7

Evolved in his thinking over time. As economic conditions changed, so too did theories regarding how government worked.

Robert Dahl
chapter 15 interest groups

The previous edition of this textbook opened with a piece about the Tea Party as an interest group. This textbook classifies the Tea Party as a 3rd political party, perhaps because they have successfully gotten people elected displacing incumbent Conservative Republicans.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. They are better classified as an interest group that has successfully elected candidates through the Republican Party. It is unlikely that many of these would have been elected had they run solely as a Tea Party candidate against both Republican and Democratic candidates.

Although initially started as a grassroots movement opposed to the bank bailouts, they receive their funding, organization and agenda from billionaires and corporations. This is a textbook example of “astroturfing”. Corporate and Koch Brother funded Tea Party organizations include; Tea Party Patriots, FreedomWorks, and Americans for Prosperity. Read more about Koch Brothers and astroturfing

Chapter 15 interest groups
interest group theories pluralism
Interest group theories (pluralism)

Absence of interest groups – Agency Autonomy possible – The government is free to look at the facts and objectively determine policies that would be in the best interest of society.

Government decides to require seatbelts in cars to improve safety and reduce highway fatalities

interest group theories pluralism1
Interest group theories (pluralism)

Single interest group – Agency autonomy compromised

Auto industry lobbies against the new law, claiming that the additional cost will be far greater than the lives saved.

interest group theories pluralism2
Interest group theories (pluralism)

Countervailing power develops – Agency autonomy is restored

Insurance companies and safety advocates lobby for the new rules offering evidence showing the efficacy of wearing seatbelts.

The US Chamber of Commerce used to be a countervailing power to big business (including foreign). Now big businesses (including foreign) are now providing the majority of dues.

Pluralism was how government worked in the 50s and 60s with low income disparity.

interest group theories elitism
Interest group theories (elitism)

Access to economic and political resources is inherently unequal, political resources available to countervailing power is insufficient to restore agency autonomy. US after business elite mobilization starting in the early 1970s per David Plotke. CEOs of major corporations band together to push an agenda of lower tax rates at the top, deregulation, and free trade.

interest group theories plural elitism
Interest group theories (plural elitism)

Elites organize within specific policy arenas in which their political power is dominant with insufficient or nonexistantcountervailing power. US today. Examples: the oil industry in energy and environmental protection, pharmaceutical and health insurance companies in healthcare, the NRA in gun control legislation.

“The extent to which political equality and democracy are attainable depends, among other things, on the distribution of access to political resources and the willingness to employ them to achieve one's goals.” Robert Dahl

iron triangles plural elitist

An “iron triangle” is the name given to a subgovernment that develops within a specific policy arena in which elites utilize the regulatory system and a “revolving door” to enrich themselves.

Iron triangles (plural elitist)
mancur olson

The Logic of Collective Action (1965) applied economic concepts of rational behavior to the development of interest groups. Rational individuals (or firms) do not get involved in the organization of interest groups unless there is something to be gained. If they assume that others will organize and they will still receive the benefit, they don’t bother to get involved.This is what is meant by the “free rider problem”.

Fireworks and unions – underprovision of collective goods. Will to work state: if the union member gets the benefit regardless, they will not pay the dues.

Rational individuals form interest groups when: the group membership is small, the goals are narrow and clearly defined, and the advantages are limited to the membership, or the potential benefit significantly exceeds the cost of membership.

Mancur Olson
initiative 1183

Advertisements on both sides were almost continuous.

A lot of money at stake on either side, so millions being pumped into advertisement.

Both sides using the symbolism of emergency responders.

Difficult for uninformed voters to develop an opinion.

How many voters will fail to accurately register their own policy preference?

Initiative 1183
interest groups

Public interest groups – “seek a collective good, the achievement of which will not selectively and materially benefit the membership or activists of the organization.” According to Olson, such a group is irrational.

Economic interest groups – “primary purpose is to promote the economic interests of their members.”

Governmental units – self-explanatory but typically seeking economic benefits.

Political Action Committees – No longer concerned with membership, money is all that matters.

Interest groups
framers of the constitution

Madison, Federalist #10 – Saw factions as inevitable and sought to diminish their influence through systems of checks and balances.

“The Framers could not have envisioned the vast sums of money or technology that would be available to interest groups as the nature of these groups evolved over time.”

Framers of the constitution
the living constitution

“Later, the Court ruled that states could not compel interest groups to provide their membership lists to state officials.” NAACP v. Button (1963) This was a specific case in which jurisdictions in Southern states were requesting these lists from the NAACP which was registered as a corporation. Divulging membership could have endangered the lives of members. The law had originally been put in place to provide transparency of interest group lobbying.

NAACP v. Button (1963) has now been used to allow unlimited anonymous campaigning by financial interests through 501c4 groups in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010).

“Because First Amendment freedoms need breathing space to survive, government may regulate in the area only with narrow specificity.” NAACP v. Button (1963)

“While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.” Dissent of Justice Stevens in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010).

The living Constitution

Gilded age – End of Civil War to 1890s – Capital accumulation of “trusts” – monopolistic control of various industries – Union organization prevented or discouraged through use of force and court decisions. State governments and Congress are significantly influenced by lobbyists working for the corporate agendas. The book mentions the Southern Pacific Railroad as having political control over the California legislature. The railroad was Leland Stanford.

Progressive Era – 1890-1930 – Increased interest activity as public interest groups and unions worked to improve living conditions and fight political corruption. There was more political involvement by citizens to improve social conditions, but successful efforts in the states were often shot down by the Supreme Court in the Lochner Era.

Keynesian Era – The textbook remains silent on the time period from 1930 to mid 1970. During this period, the federal government, and eventually, the federal courts supported the rights of workers to organize. The progressive tax structure prevented the capital accumulation of business interests that funded earlier (and later) political influence. Faith in government and life satisfaction by the average American was at an all time high. The political parties were in consensus regarding the level of government intervention in the economy. Tax rates for the wealthiest individuals and corporations remained high. 35% of Americans were members of unions.

timeline continued

The interest group state – Interest groups develop predominantly over social issues including civil rights and civil liberties, the anti-war movement, and pro-choice issues. The development of these groups gave rise to countervailing powers in Christian organizations and business organizations. We see the development of the Business Roundtable, and the Chamber of Commerce, previously the champion for small business interests, starts accepting larger corporations for membership. We also see the development of religiously motivated political interest groups like the Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family.

Timeline continued
the effect of feca

Intended to provide greater disclosure of campaign donations, it ironically increased the legitimacy and prevalence of PACs. The feeling was that an individual donor, who is known, will demand political favors for their support. The PAC, in theory, allows the individual to provide support to a favored candidate with no strings attached.

The effect of FECA
what do interest groups do

Accumulate resources – economic, political, and organizational

Lobbying – A method through which interests can make sure that legislators “vote correctly.” “other groups also provide information that decision makers might not have the time, opportunity, or interest to gather on their own.” This is how we end up with legislation written by lobbyists. Speaker Boehner, who “handed out checks from tobacco

What do interest groups do?

lobbyists on the House floor in 1995 while lawmakers were weighing tobacco subsidies,” Milbank, Washington Post (2006), reduced the allowances for House lawmakers, making them further dependent on lobbyists for resources and information necessary to do their jobs. Jack Abramhoff

what do interest groups do1

Venue shopping

Not looking to Congressmen who do not agree with them. Providing resources for those who agree with their position. Economic interests have more resources and a willingness to use them.

Barack Obama campaigned on controlling the price of pharmaceuticals through importing or negotiating. He made a deal early on with PhRMA to take these off the table in exchange for discounts and PhRMA advertising support of the final legislation.

Low paid bureaucrats may be padding their resume for getting to where the real money is…the companies they regulate.

What do interest groups do?
lobbying the courts

Thomas, Scalia, and the Koch Brothers.

Impeachment, possible but no Supreme Court judge ever convicted. Calls for it from Georgia in the 1950s following Brown v. BOE saying they were communists.

Lobbying the Courts
grassroots and astroturfing

“Grassroots” lobbying is when average Americans take it upon themselves to organize and pressure Congressmen for specific policy preferences. Their political power comes from large numbers of voters supporting their position.

The description in the textbook of grassroots sounds more like astroturfing.

“In the world of lobbying, there are few things more useful than a list of committed supporters.” Allegations that Ralph E. Reed, Jr. was selling the mailing lists of the Christian Coalition for political mobilization of committed activists to both threaten and benefit casinos.

Astroturfing is a group meant to look like they have broad support, but in actuality, they just have a great deal of economic resources with little or no popular support. Support is often faked by bussing in corporate employees.

In the case of the Tea Party, a grassroots movement opposed to bailing out banks that are “too big to fail” was co-opted by corporate interests with the same agenda that creates corporations that are “too big to fail”.

Grassroots and astroturfing

The textbook talks more about violent and radical protests while virtually ignoring the value of peaceful protests. In large groups, people pose a “threat” of violence for which security forces will need to deploy. This can create a problem for government resources. Violent responses from authorities to peaceful protesters will make observers sympathetic to their cause.

radical pro life groups

“Other radical groups also post on the Internet the names and addresses of those they believe to be engaging in wrongful activity.”

On May 31, 2009, George Tiller was shot in his church by a Pro-Life zealot.

Radical Pro-life groups
election activities gatekeeping

Candidate recruitment – We have seen an increase in Congressmen who fail to “vote correctly” facing challenges in their primaries. Moderate Republicans are virtually extinct, while labor has been increasing their pressure on Democrats who fail to vote in a manner consistent with their issues. Labor has reduced the amount of money going to party coffers and targets their resources to better reflect their political concerns. IE Ran a candidate against incumbent Blanche Lincoln (D – Ark.) in the party primary. Lincoln narrowly won the primary, but lost in the general election by a large margin.

Election activities - gatekeeping
getting out the vote or not

High levels of voter turn out tend to favor Democratic candidates, low levels of voter turnout tend to favor Republican candidates.

ACORN was an advocacy group for the poor. They worked to register voters and remove obstacles to voters in low income precincts. Congress defunds ACORN. (multiple times)

Conservative state legislatures have passed numerous new laws regarding voting procedures in several states. Reduced early voting, more complicated voter registration procedures and voter ID laws (likened to poll taxes), makes it that much harder for citizens to vote.

Liberals: Rock the Vote identified as nonpartisan works to increase the voting rates of younger voters

Conservatives: True the Vote support voter ID laws, train poll monitors, purge voter rolls, accused of voter intimidation and caging.

Getting out the vote (or not)
rating the candidates

Uninformed voters can decide between Democratic and Republican candidates based on what the parties are believed to stand for. Organizations that track Congressional voting can give the public greater details to the individual votes taken by a Congressperson. This facilitates more active voters in considerations of primary races. This rating of the candidates serves as a form of gatekeeping to keep a party ideologically pure. Another downside is that these organizations also tell voters how they should feel about these issues. If we look back over the exercise of researching pros and cons of issues, we find that these issues are rarely cut and dried.

Rating the candidates
campaign contributions

Soft money - $400 million in 2008. Koch Brothers alone have committed to spending $400 million in this election. Textbook talks about issue advocacy, but often “soft money” is used as negative campaigning against the preferred candidate’s opponent. This offers both deniability of the favored candidate, but also allows for contributions that would be in excess of campaign finance laws.

John Kerry “swiftboated” in 2004 campaign. This 527 group received nearly $10 million from three conservative contributors.

Campaign contributions

More gatekeeping

gatekeeping venue shopping astroturfing

“For powerful groups, simply making sure that certain issues never get discussed may be the goal.” No discussion of limiting clip size after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords.

Gatekeeping in our universities. Neoclassical economic theory is taught, Keynesian theories are discussed just enough to say they have been proven wrong without providing evidence. The “Failure of the New Deal” is often used.

Research grants and publishing is the road to tenure. You either put forward ideas consistent with these dominant views, or fail to get tenure and find a new occupation.

Gatekeeping, venue shopping, astroturfing
interest group success

Leaders – Importance of an individual who can form a coalition of often disparate opinions and values. Reagan with businesses and blue collar workers.

Funding and patrons – Not a problem for corporations or industry groups. More difficult for groups that seek to address issues of economic discrimination like the poor and the working poor.

Interest group success
interest group success1

Demographic of membership matters: AARP, old people vote. NAACP was initially not particularly effective in legislative lobbying, sought relief from the courts. ACORN represented poor people who were often not even registered to vote.

Interest group success
congress and the revolving door

“Hence it is a mistake to think, that the supreme or legislative power of any commonwealth, can do what it will, and dispose of the estates of the subject arbitrarily, or take any part of them at pleasure. This is not much to be feared in governments where the legislative consists, wholly or in part, in assemblies which are variable, whose members, upon the dissolution of the assembly, are subjects under the common laws of their country, equally with the rest. But in governments, where the legislative is in one lasting assembly always in being, or in one man, as in absolute monarchies, there is danger still, that they will think themselves to have a distinct interest from the rest of the community; and so will be apt to increase their own riches and power, by taking what they think fit from the people: for a man's property is not at all secure, tho' there be good and equitable laws to set the bounds of it between him and his fellow subjects, if he who commands those subjects have power to take from any private man, what part he pleases of his property, and use and dispose of it as he thinks good.”

John Locke felt that a citizen legislature was a necessity. That the legislator would not allow the increase in arbitrary power while in the legislature as they would then be subject to this arbitrary power when they return to civilian life.

Congress and the revolving door
judicial branch lobbyists

“legal education” sessions at fancy resorts

This remark is likely in reference to two Supreme Court justices, Thomas and Alito, who regularly attend the Koch Brothers annual organizational meeting, with attorneys who will have business before the court, who then rule in favor of the conservative position. How the left views this How the right views this Mainstream media

Judicial branch lobbyists