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Interest Groups

Interest Groups

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Interest Groups

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  1. Interest Groups Because Politics is Collective Action

  2. Party or Interest? • Interest Groups: • Candidates don’t run under the interest group label (although they may want people to know they support a particular group). • Interest groups are “ideological,” focused on a very narrow range of issues. • Parties: • Candidates run for office under a party label • America’s major parties are “umbrella” parties, covering a variety of political issues.

  3. Collective Action, Yet Again • If the umbrella party is too busy to focus on your issue, or not enough people in that party agree with you, what can you do? • Form a 3rd party? • How much success do they have? • Form an interest group to organize people with the same collective interest. • Organized interests beat disorganized interests. • Disorganization doesn’t solve collective action problems!

  4. Types of Groups • Ideological/Public Interest • Pursue policies that are not economically motivated.

  5. Types of Groups • Economic • Pursue policies that primarily are economically motivated.

  6. Interest Group Activities • Lobbying • Talking to policymakers • Both legislators and bureaucrats • Grassroots Organizing • Communicating with supporters • Newsletters • Voter-information guides • Campaign Finance • Doesn’t usually buy votes, but buys access, opportunity to lobby.

  7. Who Benefits? • Is it easier to (a) Take from a few and give to many? (b) Take from many and give to a few? • Because democracy is majority rule, (a) should be easier, right? • But each of the few lose so much they have incentive to fight hard against it, while each of the many gain so little they have no incentive to fight for this. • With (b), each of the few gain so much they have an incentive to fight hard for it, and each of the many lose so little they have no incentive to fight against it. A disorganized majority does not rule, even in a democracy! The organized minority is often in the best position to win the fight.

  8. Why Join? • If politics is collective action, why join an interest group? Why not be a free rider? • If the group achieves its goals--I benefit even if I never contributed to the effort. • E.g, If I like guns, the NRA’s efforts to defend the 2nd Amdt. protect my right to bear guns. • That’s a collective benefit, one that benefits all interested parties. • Since my contribution is not going to make a difference, why should I waste time and money by contributing? • But if everyone does that, we don’t achieve our goals. • I hope you recognize by now--this is a collective action problem. • So how to stop people from free-riding?

  9. Why Join? • Selective Benefits • Benefits that go only to those who join. • From the National Rifle Association website • “NRA Membership BenefitsThese basic membership benefits are automatically included with your NRA Annual Membership or Life Membership, along with special members-only discounts and services.” • Subscription to the NRA magazine of your choice. • “$10,000 of Accidental Death and Dismemberment at NO COSTyou.” • See more at • Note: I use the NRA as an example because it is not unusual. This is the norm for organized interest groups.

  10. The Ultimate Example • Political Entrepreneurship: Creating an interest group that people join for the selective benefits, even though they’re ignorant of the collective benefits. • Insurance and roadside assistance are just the selective benefits. • The real purpose of AAA: Lobbying for increased federal spending on roads. • Very few AAA members know that it is primarily a politicalorganization.

  11. Tax rules, 501c and 527 • Sorry, don’t have this part yet. • The End