The study of special interest groups is vital to the country and especially to the government and the politicians; this is because of the many areas that the interests groups represent and the effects which they bring to the government system. This study will try to look at what really special interest groups are; their importance in the political field in the country as well as the effects they have brought to political limelight, whether they have brought democracy to the people and finally to know if they are for the benefit of the country or they have brought more harm than good.
This study will also pay great attention on the effects that special interest groups have brought to the government, both positive and negative and whether they should be dealt away with. Political organizations which are established to influence the government in a specific area of policy are referred to as an interest group. These groups perform these duties by persuading legislators, engaging in legal processes or working their way through regulatory bureaucracy.
Examples of such groups are such as front groups which pretend to represent corporations partitioning to win a government contract, trade associations seeking favorable tax policies or government regulations and represents interests of an industry at large. Other special interest groups are trade unions, senior citizens, and disabled persons, groups set to deal with a single political issue or persons with particular ideologies or economical theories guiding their analysis of a particular situation.
The interest groups have two main goals which groups either carry out one of the goals but not both of them. One of the goals is human protective where the interest groups represent a segment of a society and its membership is usually restricted to members who are in the segment which is being represented. Examples of such groups are professional bodies, trade unions or veteran organizations. The other goal is promotional goal whose aim is to represent common interest of people, their rights and also rights of everything that is life on earth.
These groups believe that their work is for the benefit of all people or life in the planet and their membership is usually open for all people; the special interest groups are such as the green peace movement, friends of the earth and the worldwide fund for nature. Special interest groups pursue their mission for political advantage by using several methods; they first support the position they have taken by gathering information in regard to their objective, and then surrender the information to powerful politicians whom they intent to make their case be known to.
The groups present their arguments to the public as well so as to win the sympathy of the people as well as the voters. They can also perform disruptive activities which are meant to pressure the politicians so as to pay attention to the problem that they are presenting. They also attend political parties and campaigns for individuals. (Grossman & Helpman, p265-286).
Some of the interest groups go as far as trying to make primary changes to the country’s public policy and with the help of public relations specialists and law firms, they are at times able to compete effectively with the president of a country for media attention and elected representatives loyalty. The interest groups do this by criticizing the moves the government takes especially if they are not for the benefit of the people and the general public. Special interest groups however have not been received well by several politicians in different countries.
For example, the United States political leaders have consequently feared that the so called free for all democracy will lead to common interest frustration which may result to conflicts which would tear the country apart. In his farewell address in 1796, George Washington warned of the “baneful effect of the spirit of party” that through “selfish misrepresentations” tends “to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. ” President Jimmy Carter in his farewell almost two decades after George Washington’s farewell expressed almost similar concerns by saying that:
Today, as people have become ever more doubtful of the ability of the Government to deal with our problems, we are increasingly drawn to single-issue groups and special interest organizations to ensure that whatever happens, our own personal views and our private interests are protected. This is a disturbing factor in American political life. It intends to distort our purposes, because the national interest is not always the sum of all our single or special interests. We are all Americans together, and we must not forget that the common good is our common interest and our individual responsibility.
Even though special interest groups may not affect its members directly, it can be problematic especially if a person depends on the interest groups for campaign funds. This harms the accountability principle of the legislative ethics which requires its members to act in ways which will build public confidence as well as maintain it in the legislative process. Accountability principle is also harmed by close interest group ties because the public believe special groups and money is a major key to prevent members loosing touch with the people.
However other people find interest groups to be of great importance as they present a perspective which would not be available to people and the general public. They generate awareness to both the general public and the decision maker and give a better understanding of specific issues which may be of interest. Whatever kind of conflict invoked by interest groups, it helps to define as well as refine the issues which arise from its consequences. The groups encourages informed debates, it sharpens understanding capacity of a person and finally shape and/or reshape a person’s action which therefore lead to public good.
On the other hand, special interest groups tend to limit the appreciation of an issue by the public by making people to believe in what they believe; these groups usually take this move for their own benefit which may not be as beneficial to the general public. This move means that the special interest group does not protect the democracy of the people rather it hinders the public from their democratic rights. This calls for transparency of the special interest groups’ statements and they should be strictly supported by facts and data which should be made available to the public for their own independent conclusions.
Their activities should be transparent, leadership declared, and their funding sources declared for the purpose of public accountability. The groups also contradict the rules of the people. This is because they make effort to persuade candidates and public officials to adopt their ideas, a move which is seen to have menacing and evil attempts of imposing a minority position on the majority of people. On the other hand, diversity in the society is created by the actions of special interest groups and they help people to see the vital importance of democracy in their lives.
Therefore “majorities are merely temporary coalitions of minorities and the public interest is often found in the compromises achieved among contesting special interests. ”(Rosen p103). The gap between the administrative and the legistrative branches of government is said to be bridged by interest groups. This is especially needed when the executive and the legislative branches of government want to check and balance each other and they find it difficult to work differently.
The groups therefore are said to remove the separation which exists between the executive branches and the administration of the government by approaching both branches with a similar support. They act as a mediating structure between individuals and the state and protect the individuals from undue control or suppression by the state. Interest groups contribute to political culture and socialization by making sure that its members are well informed, politically aware, and active. They provide them with the opportunity to learn as well as exercise political skills.
However today, the initial purpose of special interest groups seems to change. Special interest groups can lead to the system of political economy becoming hardened. This is because many people in the interest groups devote most of their time and their effort trying to gain as much as possible from the government and the public policy instead of trying their level best to gain from production. The special interest are said to spoil the system in the already bloated and ineffective government.
The special interests have even broader effect on the productivity and success of an economy as a government with interest groups leads to diminished economic success, which is the opposite of what is likely possible. Special interest groups today have diverted their interest of helping the government to looking for ways of gaining from the politicians whom they will support. One opponent of the groups said that “regardless of whom wins in the upcoming national elections, special interest and big money donors will be the winners again and the American public will be losers.
The reason why political campaigns of candidates receive large sums of money from special interest groups and corporate executives is because they “expect their politicians to look out for the interests of the group that provided the money. ” (www. johnwallaceforcogress. com) John Wallace further said that America is living in a political system that allows and encourages legalized bribery for election candidates especially the presidential candidates. This is because politicians receive funds from special interest groups and big money donors who have their personal interests which the politicians are well aware of.
These donors and interest groups however do not care who wins the elections, this is because they fund all the parties so whichever party that wins, and they win as well. (www. johnwallaceforcogress. com). Special interest groups have turned to bribing politicians that they want to look out for their interests regardless of whether it id for the interest of the American people of not, the money given to politicians by interest groups has been termed as legalized bribery. (www. autobloggreen. com).
Special interest groups have also turned to employing direct and indirect lobbying which enable then to gain their goals. Moving round constituencies for the purpose of gaining assess to government decision makers is referred to as the indirect lobbying. They then influence the government decision makers to use their suggestions and ideas so that they can gain personal interest from that. They carry out campaigns, stimulate the mass media and keep in contact with their sympathizers so that they can create a good impression to the people.
They also involve themselves in forming political action committees, organize strikes and carry out demonstrations and through this they are able to quench their interests by misusing the American public. In conclusion, special interest groups in countries have impacted both negatively and positively; the positive side of the groups is that they keep the government as well as the politicians on their toes. This is because they monitor the government undertakings they criticize any moves the government makes which is not consistent to helping the public at large.
The politicians therefore are kept conscious of their actions and avoid carrying out activities which may bring scrutiny by the interest groups. The groups also help the people in the communities to raise their voices incase of any injustices which may be conducted against them or if their problems are not listened to. Groups such as the human right groups, trade unions and unions of the disabled people are a good example of such groups. With the help of these groups, the people’s voices are heard and they are able to be helped by the government.
The negative side of the special interest groups is that they have commonly led to frustration of the public due to their uttering of statements which end up not being true. The special groups have also started to use their unions to gain sympathy from the people and the government for their own benefits. They have caused the politicians to loose their accountability principle due to getting funds from the interest groups which is not genuine. They have also denied the public their right of democracy by making them believe in things which will be of benefit to them but not to the public.
They make sure that whatever they say is believed by the people even though it is not true, a move which has resulted to many conflicts between the people, the government and the special interest groups. The groups also focus on how to achieve personal gains from the government instead of thinking of how to gain from productivity therefore making the economy of the country to go down due to neglect of production, they have also turned to giving bribes to politicians and political parties so that once they get into power, they will remember them and fulfill their personal interests.
They fund these politicians and especially on both sides so that whoever wins they will still be able to gain from them. All these criticism of special interest groups have brought doubts about their main purpose and even their existence. The interest groups have no reason on existing after all since they bring more harm than good.