What are Interest Groups?

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Interest groups are private organizations and voluntary associations whose members share certain views and ideology. They work together to shape public policy, or goals of the government. Interest groups try to work within the government structure and use several techniques, such as lobbying, to achieve their goal. These groups spend a great deal of money and put a lot of effort into persuading government officials to support bills or policies they feel would be beneficial. There are two viewpoints on the impact of interest groups. One side views them as factions that are serving their own purpose with disregard to society or community as a whole. On the other side, interest groups serve as a necessary device in democracy and work for the public interest.
James Madison viewed interest groups as evil factions; special interest groups that only cared about their own agenda and not the common good. Madison wanted both liberty and order and believed political factions were inevitable and the government needed to control their effects. According to Madison, granting people the freedom to form groups and express their opinion could sabotage the hope for a manageable society. The separation of powers plus the checks and balances system of government help to keep one group from becoming too powerful. It also enables many avenues and levels that allow even the small groups a chance to be heard. (pg. 220-221)
Pluralists believe that interest groups enhance democracy. They are argue that interest group politics was a considerable power in American government and society. According to pluralism theory, all groups should be free to vie for influence in the government. Interest groups represent many diverse parts of society and provide exp...

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... There has even been an effort to regulate campaign financing and contributions.
Since the majority of lobbyist represent business interests and better educated and wealthier Americans are more active in interest group politics, many interests at the bottom of the economic spectrum enjoy minimal or no representation at all. Many interest groups are formed when interests are threatened. This is known as the disturbance theory. Interest groups are not political parties therefore they do no nominate candidates, are only concerned with a few specific issues, do not worry about others with different opinions and are organized based on a shared values and not geographic location. Because of their narrow fields, lobbyist, regardless of the interest group, need to develop long term relationships with officials and/or their staff members to make an impact on policy making.
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