Interest Groups in the Political Marketplace

Interest groups arise in democratic societies because many people realize that the opportunities to achieve particular benefits or other desired outcomes are enhanced through collective action within the political marketplace, specifically through influencing the public policymaking process. (An excellent background resource on interest groups is found at http://texaspolitics.laits .utexas.edu/html/ig/index.html.) They are ubiquitous in the United States as much in the health domain as in any other. However, as Table 3.1 shows on the following page, the relative influence ofinterest groups in political markets varies across states.

The right to organize interest groups, as well as to participate in them, is granted and protected by the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the American people the right "peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." However, constitutional guarantees notwithstanding, from the nation's beginning to the present day, political theorists have disagreed about whether interest groups play positive or negative roles in American political life (Ornstein and Elder 1978; Moe 1980; Ciglar and Loomis 2002; Peters 2003; Edwards, Wattenberg, and Lineberry 2003).

James Madison, writing in several of The Federalist Papers in 1787, discusses the relationship of groups, which he called "factions," to democratic government. In Federalist Number 10, he defines a faction as "a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights ofcitizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community." Madison felt strongly that factions, or interest groups, were inherently bad. He also believed, however, that the formation of such groups was a natural outgrowth of human nature (he writes in Federalist Number 10 that "the latent causes of faction are sown into the nature of man") and that government should not seek to check this activity.

In his wisdom, Madison felt that what he called the "mischiefs of faction" could and should be contained by setting the "ambition" of one faction against the selfish preferences and behaviors of other factions or groups. So

TABLE 3.1

Comparing Interest Group Strength Across the States

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Responses

  • erminia longo
    Do interest groups play a positive or negative role in society?
    2 years ago
  • katja naumann
    What motivated interest groups in the political marketplace?
    1 year ago

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