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The existence of pressure group makes government more democratic; the activities of pressure groups also make democratically e

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Introduction

The existence of pressure group makes government more democratic; the activities of pressure groups also make democratically elected governments more effective". Discuss. A pressure group is an organised interest group, which seek to influence the formulation and the implementation of public policy. In both the United Kingdom and the United States of America, membership to political parties has decreased, meanwhile membership to pressure groups have increased. Pressure groups differ from political parties in that they do not seek to win political office; in addition, they concern themselves with sectional policy rather than a wide range, and therefore pressure groups aim to protect or advance a shared interest. The first amendment of the US constitution claims citizens have the "right of speech, petition and association". Seeing as the constitution is sovereign, it plays an essential role in protecting the rights of organised interests. Americans favour the term interest group to pressure group, as the word pressure implies force. In the USA, nine out of ten people belong to an interest group and on average an American belongs to four. The diverse and heterogeneous nature of the USA, the weak parties, fragmented government and the expansion of government activity have all led to the expansion and the success of pressure group activity. There is a misconception that the relationship between pressure groups and government is always adversarial, however in reality, they are advantageous in that, governmental ministers and civil servants often consult pressure groups for information in order to make good policies. ...read more.

Middle

Groups in the UK target Members of Parliament from both Houses; the MPs from the Lords as they conduct more debates, and MPs from the Commons so they can pose questions for them at Question Time, and this is considered undemocratic. Many groups are in regular contact with MPs; Baggot's research showed that 12% of insider groups were in contact with Cabinet Ministers weekly, and 45% monthly; 14% were in contact with Junior Ministers weekly and 67% monthly; 25% were in contact with Senior Civil Servants weekly and 49% monthly and finally 55% of pressure groups were in contact with Junior Civil Servants weekly and 76% monthly. There has been concern over the amount of influence pressure groups can have over MPs which led to the Nolan Report in 1995. MPs had to claim the extent of their earnings, MPs were forbidden from asking questions from outside interests, MPs were restricted on what they could say on behalf of outside interests and the had to declare their interests. "Tory sleaze" remained; Neil Hamilton (Junior Trade Minister) accepted money from Ian Greer Associates (a well-known lobbying company, and agent to Harrods Owner Mohammed Al Fayed) in return he would get British citizenship for Al Fayed. It is common for pressure groups to form informal contacts, which are members of the "ruling elite". Marxists claim that this is how the biggest decisions are made, behind closed doors Lobbying is another strategy employed by pressure groups. ...read more.

Conclusion

When these individuals unite, they are able to provide checks on individual ministers and government and publicise their poor practise. This is particularly advantageous in the UK where there is a lack of checks. Pressure groups allow continuous participation from the general public, there are other opportunities for citizens to participate in politics such as referendums, however these are rare in the UK; and there are elections which are held at least every four years. Some see pressure groups as selfish challengers to a legitimate government who have a mandate to govern. Margaret Thatcher was quite opposed to pressure group; she felt that she "did not need advice". Some see pressure groups as undemocratic as they feel the rich and powerful groups such as the CBI exploit them. In the USA the use of PACs are somewhat damaging to democracy as they hold much influence due to money playing such a vital role in US politics. Lobbying can be argued as being undemocratic to an extent, as former congressmen use their contacts to get favourable policies for the companies they represent, and the policies may not benefit the US public as a whole. When weighing the positive and the negative aspects o pressure group existence, they generally enhance democracy and make it more efficient. Pressure groups play an essential role in a modern democratic society, and suits the needs of those who do not wish to join a political party. Moreover, it is important to realise that pressure groups only seek to influence the formulation of policy, not control it. ...read more.

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