Week 9: Interest Groups in American Politics James Madison, Federalist Papers “The causes of faction… are sown in the nature of man.” Saw the need to limit the negative effects of faction by promoting competition among groups
James Madison, Federalist Papers
“Contrary to good morals…. The lobby has reached such a position of power that it threatens government itself. Its size, its power, its capacity for evil, its greed, trickery, deception and fraud condemn it to the death it deserves.”
“Interest group liberal solutions to the problem of power provide the system with stability by spreading a sense of representation at the expense of genuine flexibility, at the expense of democratic forms, and ultimately at the expense of legitimacy.”
“Interest group liberalism [the proliferation of groups and their growing access to government] is pluralism, but it is sponsored pluralism, and the government is the chief sponsor.”
TrumanThe complex society, characterized by economic specialization and social differentiation, is fundamental to group proliferation.
Change – some orderly, some not – is also key.
Groups formed from an imbalance of interests in one area induce a subsequent disequilibrium, which acts as a catalyst for individuals to form groups as counterweights to the new perceptions of inequity.
Group politics is characterized by successive waves of mobilization and counter-mobilization.
“While spontaneous popular action warms the heart of any good democrat, a moment’s reflection shows that the people initiate little of what we normally call participation…. Acts of participation are stimulated by elites – if not by the government, then by parties, interest groups, agitators, and organizers.” (Jack Nagel, Participation – 1987)
People participate in politics when they get valuable benefits that are worth the costs of taking part.People participate in politics when political leaders coax them into taking part in the game. Both sides are necessary: Strategic mobilization without individual motivation is impossible, and individual motivation without strategic mobilization is illogical (R&H, p. 10)
Based on the model of the “rational economic man”
Posits that even individuals who have common interests are not inclined to join organizations that attempt to address their concerns.
The major barrier: The free-rider problem
Four factors influence the choice of political strategies by interest groups:
“Political mobilization is seldom spontaneous”
”The essential prerequisites for successful mobilization are organizational, and many are subject to manipulation through public policy.” (Reagan policy to ‘defund the left’)
“The reason why some of the most deprived elements of American society are either ignored or represented in the legislative process only by small, nonmember organizations is not that they are satisfied with their status and have no interest in political activity; it is because there is no institutional foundation from which a successful effort at mobilization can be launched.”