HGov: Interest Groups


InterestGroups

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.


Homework:
1) Read Chapter 9 pp.277-287

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