Ch.7 Module - -1Ch.7 - Interest Groups The existence of...

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-1Ch.7 - Interest Groups The existence of interest groups represents a fundamental dilemma for the U.S. political system. Interest groups work to gain advantages for themselves at the expense of the larger population. Indeed, James Madison warned that “factions” would go as far as to suppress the rights of others to achieve their objectives. Yet, interest groups are a manifestation of liberty; curbing interest groups means curbing freedom. Interest groups do play many positive roles. Among other things, they represent people before their government. One troubling aspect of interest group politics has to do with the nature of this representation. Some segments of society (particularly the wealthy, the well educated, and businesses) are more likely to be represented by lobbying organizations than are other constituencies. This inequity is also manifested in the resources available to groups. The development of citizens groups—organizations built around policy concerns unrelated to members’ vocational interests—provides some opportunities for these inequities to be remedied, but the less educated and the poor are still under-represented in a system that provides advantages to business groups. In recent years, we have observed an upsurge in the number of interest groups. The most troubling aspect of that growth is the increasingly significant role political action committees, or PACs, play in financing congressional elections. The greatest portion of PAC contributions comes from corporate PACs. Critics charge that PACs gain undue advantage from the access they gain with contributions. They argue that PACs exacerbate the inequities in U.S. society. Defenders respond that PACs are a way in which people can participate in politics. Moreover, shouldn’t people have the freedom to join together with other like-minded Americans to promote the candidates they believe in? I. Interest groups and the U.S. political tradition A. An interest group can be defined as “an organized body of individuals who share some political goals and try to influence public policy.” B. Do interest groups contribute to the proper functioning of democracy, or are they a threat to democracy? 1. Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, suggested that the ease with which Americans form organizations is a reflection of a strong democratic culture. 2. In Federalist No. 10, James Madison warned, however, of the dangers of “factions.” a) He noted that the causes of factions were “sown in the nature of man.” b) He believed eliminating factions was a mistake because that would restrict liberty. Rather, relief from factions should come from controlling their effects.
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This note was uploaded on 07/24/2010 for the course PS 001 taught by Professor Graham during the Summer '08 term at Los Angeles Southwest College.

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Ch.7 Module - -1Ch.7 - Interest Groups The existence of...

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