The Entity that has the Greatest Influence on Public Policy

Among all the political groups, I think economic interest groups have the most impact on public policy. First, I chose interest groups instead of social movement organizations because there are more successful lobbying attempts than there are social movements. This is because of the US’s unique political structure that provides room for interest groups to act on policymaking. Despite that both social movements and interest groups both benefit from and are protected by the first amendment both guarantees people’s rights to assemble and to advocate for their beliefs, the interest groups have flourished under the separation-of-powers principles of the US government. The separation of powers creates multiple power centers that interest groups can target their effort towards to influence policy. For instance, Congress itself has two houses. There are 40 standing committees and 400 subcommittees, as well as 535 members that interest groups can communicate directly to influence the policymaking process. Furthermore, states and local governments also have a decent amount of power in terms of policymaking because the US is a federalist country. Thus, they also attract lobbyists and interest groups. As a result, more interest groups are created to influence public policies.

Theory Of Separation Of Powers - University of Political Science
Political Science

Successful lobbying was demonstrated in the Odd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, in which several new federal agencies are created and are targeted by lobbyists to influence the acts’ attempt to further regulate the financial services industry and ban loans. The interest groups and more than 500 lobbyists, in defense of their economic interests, worked hard to talk to the legislators and eventually successfully convinced them that auto loans present less danger to the economy than others and got it exempted. In general, officials are willing to work with interest groups, who provide lawmakers with arguments and evidence backing their position. By informing the legislators of what people are most concerned with, lobbyists can incentivize the officials to listen to them and take their advice for more public support.

Conflict of Interests | The New Yorker
The New Yorker

The reason that social movement organizations rank below the interest group is that they require sustainability, institutionalization, and legitimacy to successfully influence public policies. Many have failed to meet the last two criteria and had little or only temporary influences. For instance, the Occupy Wall Street movement has failed to institutionalize its effort by refusing to take sponsorship from the Democratic party and align with their ideals, thereby gradually lost its momentum and public influences. The social groups usually disband after achieving their specific agenda, making long-term influence unusual. The prohibition movement in 1919 caused the amendment of the law but was repealed later. Some argue that the Republic and Democratic Parties are the most influential. In response, I concede that the two political parties do play important roles, but they are subject to the transition of power between each elections and competition. Republican president’s effort can be reversed by a Democratic successor. Also, the partisan disagreements can cause stalemate in policymaking process, failing to make progress or huge changes. Even though lobbyisters do face lots of conflicts and competitions, the huge number of them out there lobbying on varioys issues makes a stagnation almost impossible. From every angle and aspect, interest groups influences policymaking indirectly or explicitly.

Occupy May Day – as it happened | World news |
The Guardian

Among interest groups, economic groups are more successful and influential than non-economic ones. The two components of a successful lobbying group are the resources needed to sustain its development and function and the incentive to keep the members engaged in its efforts. The economic groups have both. First, they can use the profits they generate from their corporations to support their lobbying activities. Whereas the non-economic groups rely solely on the public’s voluntary fundraising and donations, which is unsustainable and usually inadequate. Second, the economic groups provide their members with individual goods, such as jobs, that are specific and tangible to the members. As a result, more are incentivized to become a member to get those goods. In non-economic groups, members receive collective goods, which benefit all people regardless of their contribution. Therefore, it creates the free-rider problem, which is individuals choose to stay inert because they are obtaining good even if they do contribute to the group’s interest. Therefore, economic groups can sustain themselves and making influential and lasting impacts on public policy than other parties or groups.

Business and Economic Interest Groups

Despite being the most influential, economic interest groups have some limitations. Legislators can choose to ignore the requests and information provided by lobbyists if they want. Also, the consequences of interest groups providing false or misleading information that embarrasses the legislator can destroy all trust and connection between the two institutions. Lastly, interest groups usually do not expand to mass membership, which I think is reassuring. A huge membership base is not always beneficial as marginal contribution of each new member is small and can wrongfully translates citizen support for the group into votes for candidates that support its goals, undermining democracy. Therefore, most interest groups prefer smaller and more cohesive membership that can more effectively make actions. This limitation on public engagement prevents the tyranny of the majority, which is the domination of a majority group that exploits its power to impinge on the rights of the minority groups. Since no interest group can expand its influence boundlessly, the concern for the tyranny of majority is out of the discussion.

Lobbying - Grey eminences | Special report | The Economist
The Economist

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