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'The existence of pressure groups makes government more democratic; the activities of pressure groups also make democratically elected governments more effective

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'The existence of pressure groups makes government more democratic; the activities of pressure groups also make democratically elected governments more effective.' Discuss Before deciding whether pressure groups democratise government or make them more effective, it is essential to define what a pressure groups consists of. A modern democratic society involves active citizenship, an open government, the right to vote over the age of 18 years, community, free speech, participation and pluralism. Although elections provide an effective opportunity for people to play a part in politics they are only held once every four years, therefore pressure groups provide continuous involvement in politics. Pressure groups provide an open freedom for citizens, especially minority groups. When like-minded individuals organise events such as demonstrations, campaigns and petitions, governments have no option but to sit up and take notice. Moreover, as pressure groups are based on a single issue, which a large group of people support, they can put their time and effort into being heard by the government. In the USA however, the term "pressure group" is not favoured amongst academics. They see it as a tool that implies force rather than persuasion, thus refer to them as "interest groups"1. This issue will be discussed further in the American politics part of this essay. ...read more.


Human psychology is such that challenging power is for a cause you believe in is worth it. Pressure Groups in the USA As mentioned in the introduction, pressure groups within the USA are seen as interest groups. In the USA nine out of ten people belong to at least one interest group. On average, an American belongs to four groups. The success of interest groups is mainly due to four broad factors; the diverse and heterogeneous American society, weak opposition parties, the fragmented and decentralised structure of the US government and the expansion of government activity.3 In the US many of the poor, particularly those from ethnic origins do not feel aligned to any party. This is especially true as a two-party system operates in the USA, in the 2000 General Election it was recorded that only 40% of the poorest fifth of the country voted, therefore many prefer to belong to an interest group. To a certain extent this contradicts British society as it is usually the poorest in society who feel the need to vote and express their opinions. This is possibly because British society does not hang under the loom of national censorship. Political power in the USA is federal and therefore decentralised, allowing for more access points for ordinary citizens to lobby. ...read more.


Since Thatcher's government believed it had a mandate to govern, many politicians have called for pressure group lobbying to be regulated. This is something that could have both benefits and costs for the government. In effect pressure groups provide a consistent link between the voters and the government, particularly between elections. By regulating their lobbying powers you break this link and many voters could become discontent with the government. However by regulating lobbying the government can make decisions it wants to without the worry of lobbying from pressure groups. It can be argued that this may make the government less democratic. In addition if people want to lobby, government regulations are unlikely to stop them. Therefore it would most certainly be foolish to regulate lobbying in both Britain and the USA as both governments are dependant on the pressure groups to stay in power. Conclusion When weighing the positives and negative aspects of pressure group existence it can be sad that in general they do enhance democracy and make it more effective. Pressure groups play an essential role in a modern democratic society by giving people a voice if they do not intend to join a political party. Moreover it is essential to realise pressure groups intend to influence policy, not control it. Therefore the governmental powers remain whilst the keep a firm grip on their voters though pressure groups. ...read more.

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