Proliferation of interest groups

High School ・Political Science ・MLA

Over the years, the United States of America has witnessed an unparalleled spike and development in pressure groups, and this has seen an ideology developed to describe this phenomenon. The principle of the interest group is based on the idea that the conflicting interests that then balance out and bring in good governance will influence government policy (Gilens, and Page 565). Among political scientists, the theory has been very popular and has had positive arguments in its favor among leading economists like Adam Smith and supporters like James Madison (Berry, and Wilcox 10). An interest group can be considered to be a body of persons that have a common policy goal, and through such means as lobbying and petitions, tries to influence government policy on particular issues. It differs with a political party in the sense that it does not try to win a political office. Besides, while they may endorse candidates, they do not run candidates or form government after the elections (Gilens, and Page 565). These bodies represent diverse constituents that are drawn from the professional, economic, racial, religious, and gender factions. Some factors that determine the power of an interest group include its size, the organizational strength, wealth, leadership, internal cohesions and access to the leadership (Berry, and Wilcox 64). The purposes of interest groups are to seek subsidies, special benefits, privileges, and some form of protection from the government. Despite their successes and significance to the democratic governance of the country, they traditionally have a negative tag in America. It cannot be escaped that honest lobbying has yielded far much better governance than dishonest lobbying, but many scholars in political science are now persuaded that dishonest lobbying is better than honest lobbying.

Political scientists have developed two theories that try to explain this phenomenon: Pluralism and Elitism. The pluralist theory supposes that the activities of an interest group bring representation to all because the different groups compete and bring about counterbalance while the elitist approach argues that it is only a few groups, those that are wealthy and have access to power, that controls most of the power (Wilson, DiIulio, and Bose 245). Pluralism is based on the assumption that groups will win sometimes and lose at another time, but no single group will win or lose all the time (Gilens, and Page 567). The proponents of the theory do not refute the fact that some groups are wealthy and stronger than others and therefore, not all groups will get an equal hearing. However, they contend that lobbying must not be a problem because it is open to all. Under this theory, a further assumption held is that all legitimate groups have the ability to influence certain aspects of public policy and that no single group can become too dominant and negate the impact of others (Wilson, DiIulio, and Bose 248). The tenets of the hypothesis are outlined by the adherents who hold that governments are held together by a latent group that gives support to the system, the checks and balances of competition in groups, the building of agenda and the overlapping membership in various factions (Berry, and Wilcox 80). As such, the group leaders and some political scientists believe that this situation is to remain fluid permanently and that no single entity will have lasting victory.

The elitists, on the other hand, believe that real power is in the hands of few groups, individuals, and institutions. They maintain that the government is run by a few big interests that are only looking out for themselves. The advocates of this theory hold that the extreme inequality of power among the interest groups cannot allow the relatively weak groups to have a significant influence on policy (Gilens, and Page 572). The hypothesis further argues that the pluralist theory does not reflect the true state of American politics because the preponderance of power is held by the elites. In this theory, power flows downward, this is a reverse of the democratic theory. The elite successfully manipulate the masses through the exploitation of such symbols as charity and elections. Such huge organizations like the Rockefeller Brothers, Pew, and Ford among others use the acts of philanthropy to reduce the threat of the masses demanding the seizure of money from the wealthy. Some politicians do consider the theory as being beneficial to democracy because they view it as an accurate representation of reality (Wilson, DiIulio, and Bose 256). One of the significant advantages of this theory is based on the consensus that is built among the elites and thus has the ability to avoid conflicts.

In conclusion, while the two theories attempt to describe the reality of American politics and how the interest groups influence public policy, the proliferation of the groups tends to speak more of the pluralist theory. Despite its flaws, the increase in the number of lobby organizations does help in distributing resources to the various organizations. However, in real terms, the elite will still have significant influence in the running of key institutions and governments. The theories have their own merits and demerits, but when the various groups compete, they will all at some point gain which is, in my opinion, good for our democracy.

Read also: Only experienced master paper writers could help you to achieve high results on your essays.

Works Cited

Berry, Jeffrey M., and Clyde Wilcox. The interest group society. Routledge, 2015.

Gilens, Martin, and Benjamin I. Page. "Testing theories of American politics: Elites, interest groups, and average citizens." Perspectives on politics 12.3 (2014): 564-581.

Wilson, James Q., John J. DiIulio Jr, and Meena Bose. American government: Institutions and policies. Cengage Learning, 2016.

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