HGov: Interest Groups


Americans join all kinds of groups that reflect their interests. A political interest group is composed of a set of individuals organized to promote a shared concern. Most interest groups owe their existence to factors other than politics. These groups form for economic reasons, such as the pursuit of profit, and maintain themselves by making profits, in the case of corporations, or by providing their members with private goods, such as jobs and wages. Economic groups include corporations, trade associations, labor unions, farm organizations, and professional associations. Collectively, economic groups are by far the largest set of organized interests. The group system tends to favor interests that are already economically and socially advantaged.

Citizens’ groups do not have the same organizational advantages as economic groups. They depend on voluntary contributions from potential members, who may lack interest and resources or who recognize that they will get the collective good from a group’s activity even if they do not participate, the free-rider problem. Citizens’ groups include public-interest, single-issue, and ideological groups. Their numbers have increased dramatically since the 1960s despite their organizational problems.

When such groups seek to influence government, at any level, they are called special-interest groups or special interests. The term special interest refers to a particular goal or set of goals that unites the members of a group.

There are thousands of interest groups in the United States. Although they differ in many respects, their basic goal is the same: they all try to persuade elected officials to take actions to support their interests. Special-interest groups fall into several categories, depending on their membership and goals. Americans join interest groups for various reasons. Some join for the information and benefits the groups offer. Many interest groups publish newsletters and host workshops and conferences for members. Some offer training that helps members qualify for higher-paying jobs.

All interest groups need both money and people, but they are organized and financed in many ways. Most interest groups have an elected board of directors or trustees who set policy and decide how the group’s resources will be used. Many groups have both national and state chapters, each led by their own boards or trustees. Funding methods vary among interest groups. Many economic and single-issue groups get most of their operating expenses from dues, membership fees, and direct mail fundraising campaigns. Some public interest groups get their primary funding from foundations or government grants.

1) Read Chapter 9 pp.277-287



Econ: Economic Goals

Economic Goals

A nation’s values and goals influence its choice of economic systems. The major economic and social goals used to evaluate the performance of an economic system are economic freedom, economic efficiency, economic equity, economic security, economic stability, and economic growth. We place a high value on economic freedom, which is the ability to make our own economic decisions without interference from the government. A society that values economic freedom gives individuals and businesses the right to make decisions about how to use their resources, without government intervention. An efficient economy makes the most of society’s resources. It delivers the goods, literally, by allocating resources in such a way that the greatest number of consumers get what they want with the least amount of waste. Because unemployed workers are a wasted resource, an efficient economy strives for full employment. A condition in which everyone who wants to work can find a job. Economic equity is the fairness with which an economy distributes its resources and wealth. People often disagree on questions of equity, which makes it a difficult goal to achieve. Economic growth is a condition in which an economy is expanding and producing more and better goods and services and is desirable because over time it leads to an improved standard of living. Every society has people who cannot provide for themselves. They may be too young, too old, too sick, or too poor  to meet all of their basic needs. A society that puts a high value on economic security seeks to provide its less fortunate members with the support they need in terms of food, shelter, and health care to live decently. This is another economic goal about which people often disagree.  No one likes economic uncertainty. Societies therefore strive for economic stability which is a condition in which the goods and services people count on are available when they want them. This includes that our jobs are there when we go to work each day and prices are predictable, allowing us to plan ahead for purchases. Most societies try to address some or all of the six economic goals. Most societies consider these goals when making economic choices. But societies differ in the degree of importance they attach to each goal. Sometimes progress toward one goal can be achieved only at the expense of another. Societies, like individuals, must weigh the tradeoffs and opportunity costs of pursuing any particular set of economic goals.

1) Chapter 3 Quiz – Friday 10/2