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Are pressure groups good or bad for democracy? Harmful or Helpful?

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Introduction

Are pressure groups good or bad for democracy? Harmful or Helpful? GOOD a) Pluralism Robert Dahl in "Who governs?" - examined decision-making in New Haven, Connecticut. Conclusion was that no elite group ran the town - on different issues, different groups were dominant. For pluralists pressure groups help the govt. to operate, their pressure is a reflection of public opinion and is vital to democracy providing a healthy 'free market' of opinion and influences. There are many access points, and freedom of speech and association are entrenched in the constitution. Ed Davis (California State Senator) - "About 90% of all legislation is conceived by special interests. That's what democracy is all about". Examples of pressure group activity helping democracy include Brown v. Board of Education which transformed the South, Rose v. ...read more.

Middle

Similarly, when the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act (1946) proved ineffective, it was replaced with the Lobbying Disclosure Act in 1995. Pressure groups, therefore, far from shaping the political landscape are forced to respond to it. f) They allow people to participate in politics, beyond just voting in elections. g) Pressure groups generally balance each other out e.g. pro. v. anti-abortion. Intensifies the system of checks and balances set up by the Founding Fathers. h) Note that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (2002) tightened up the rules on finance limiting the actions of PAC's. Money could no longer be spent on directly supporting or opposing a candidate or supporting Federal campaigns. But a loophole was found and '527' pressure groups were set up to collect unlimited soft money to spend on: o voter mobilisation o advertising which is issue based rather than candidate based. ...read more.

Conclusion

e.g., the Tobacco Industry v. the Anti-Smoking lobby. Unlike democracy (one man one vote) pressure groups are selfish and power goes to the strongest (E.E. Schattsneider- "The Semi-Sovereign People") Senator Edward Kennedy once said the US has 'the finest Congress that money can buy'. PAC money can be unhealthy for democracy. c) Change is difficult. Those pressure groups that seek to prevent change and preserve status quo are most successful. US system of checks and balances is geared towards easy delay/obstruction. Pgs. are more concerned with 'special' interests than the national interest. d) Pressure group leaders are often unaccountable. Often not elected. e) The 'revolving door' syndrome allows former politicians to take up highly paid jobs as lobbyists. f) Violence, increasing in recent years. Anti - abortion bombs and assassinations, animal rights groups, anti-capitalist groups. g) Clientelism - p.g. and bureaucrats reinforce each other's goals e.g. Pentagon and the ...read more.

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