Certain interest groups are often depicted as pursuing only their self-interest. They are supposed to "push government to enact policies that benefit small constituencies at the expense of the general public". These criticisms lead to the creation of a new word: lobbying, which designates the attempts made by policymakers to influence policymakers. That perhaps explains why the excessive power of interest groups is very often feared. The last example of this kind of fear is the book by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. In this book, the two scholars argue that the Iraq war and other decisions made by the Bush administration were decided because of pressure by the Israel lobby and that these decisions were against the general interest of the United States. Furthermore, interest groups "have increased in visibility these forty last years, whereas the parties have declined in importance". Therefore, the study of interest groups is especially interesting today and we will see more of them in this document.
[...] Interest groups can indeed “advance particular interpretations of the consequences of a legislative proposal”[xxvi] and hence help the lawmakers to convince their constituents. Furthermore, partisan interest groups are very helpful for the lawmakers when an election is coming. They provide candidates with resources for the campaign: money, staff or ideas[xxvii]. Nevertheless, interest groups can also be bad for lawmakers. Interest groups and parties indeed “compete for many of the same resources –money, identity and allegiance among political activists, and so on-“[xxviii]. [...]
[...] Groups, Interests, and U.S. Public Policy (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1998) Ibid. [xvi] Jeffrey M. Berry, The Interest Group Society (New York: Longman, 1997) [xvii] Ibid [xviii] Ibid [xix] R. Arnold Douglas, Citizens Control Their Representatives?” Ronald J. Hrebenar, Interest Group Politics in America (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1997) [xxi] Ibid. [xxii] R. Arnold Douglas, Citizens Control Their Representatives?” [xxiii] Richard A. Smith, “Interest Group Influence in the U.S. Congress”, in Legislative Studies Quarterly, XX February [xxiv] Ibid. [xxv] Richard F. [...]
[...] The problem is that by so doing, interest groups don't reduce voter ignorance but rather increase it because interest groups guide the debates in a way that favors theirs positions but not in a way that is useful for democratic debates. As Schattschneider points out, scope of a conflict determines its outcome”[xxxix] and the problem is that interest groups can influence the scope of a political conflict. For instance, if there are discussions about a possible ban on smoking, if against smoking interest groups decide to present the problem of smoking as a public health issue, they only would broaden the debate but also condition the chances of either side prevailing”[xl]. [...]
[...] Finally, what proves the big role played by interest groups in American politics today is maybe the deliberate effort by the Reagan administration to reduce the power and influence of liberal interest groups which opposed key parts of its “Reagan revolution” in the 1980's? It's a good example where interest groups were feared by politicians because they could remedy to the ignorance of their voters. Bibliography - Berry, Jeffrey M The Interest Group Society (New York: Longman). - Berry, Jeffrey M Lobbying for the People (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press). [...]
[...] However, interest groups have also several negative side effects for voter ignorance because among others interest groups provide voters and lawmakers with biased information. III. The negative side effects of interest groups for democracy First of all, the biggest problem with the role played by interest groups in American politics is the fact that “they present only their side of an issue to the public, offering facts and interpretations most favorable to their positions”[xxx]. Or, to put it another way, it means that the information provided by interest groups is partisan and biased. [...]
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