Impact On Interest Groups On Twentieth Century

Ame Essay, Research Paper

Impact on Interest Groups on Twentieth Century American GovernmentInterest Group is defined as “an organized body of individuals who tryto influence public policy.” This system is designed so that interest groupswould be an instrument of public influence on politics to create changes, butwould not threaten the government much. Whether this is still the case or notis an important question that we must find out. Interest groups play manydifferent roles in the American political system, such as representation,participation, education, and program monitoring. Representation is thefunction that we see most often and the function we automatically think ofwhen we think of interest groups. Participation is another role that interestgroups play in our government, which is when they facilitate and encouragethe participation of their members in the political process. Interest groupsalso educate, by trying to inform both public officials and the public at largeabout matters of importance to them. Lobby groups also keep track of howprograms are working in the field and try to persuade government to takeaction when problems become evident when they monitor programs. Thetraditional interest groups have been organized around some form ofeconomic cause, be it corporate interests, associates, or unions. The numberof business oriented lobbies has grown since the 1960s and continues togrow. Public-interest groups have also grown enormously since the 1960s. Liberal groups started the trend, but conservative groups are now just ascommon, although some groups are better represented through interest groupsthan others are. There are many ways that the groups can influence politicstoo. The increase in interest group activity has fragmented the politicaldebate into little pockets of debates and have served to further erode thepower of political parties, who try to make broad based appeals. PACs alsogive money to incumbents, which means that incumbents can accumulatelarge reelection campaign funds, that in result, discourages potentialchallengers. As a result, most incumbents win, not because they outspendtheir challengers, but because they keep good potential opponents out of therace. Conservatives are one of the big groups that influence politics and formany reasons. Conservative thinking has not only claimed the presidency; it hasspread throughout our political and intellectual life and stands poised tobecome the dominant strain in American public policy. While the politicalascent of conservatism has taken place in full public view, the intellectualtransformation has for the most part occurred behind the scenes, in a networkof think tanks whose efforts have been influential to an extent that only fiveyears after President Reagan’s election, begins to be clear. Conservative think tanks and similar organizations have flourishedsince the mid-1970s. The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) had twelveresident thinkers when Jimmy Carter was elected; today it has forty-five, anda total staff of nearly 150. The Heritage Foundation has sprung from nothingto command an annual budget of $11 million. The budget of the Center forStrategic and International Studies (CSIS) has grown from $975,000 ten years

ago to $8.6 million today. Over a somewhat longer period the endowment ofthe Hoover Institution has increased from $2 million to $70 million. At leasttwenty-five other noteworthy public-policy groups have been formed ordramatically expanded through the decade; nearly all are anti-liberal. No other country accords such significance to private institutionsdesigned to influence public decisions. Brookings, began in the 1920s withmoney from the industrialist Robert S. Brookings, a Renaissance man whoaspired to bring discipline of economics to Washington. During the NewDeal the Brookings Institution was marked-oriented–for example, it opposedRoosevelt’s central planning agency, the National Resources Planning Board.Only much later did the institution acquire a reputation as the head ofliberalism.Through the 1950s and 1960s, as Americans enjoyed steady increasesin their standard of living and U.S. industry reigned over world commerce,Washington came to consider the economy a dead issue. Social justice andVietnam dominated the agenda: Brookings concentrated on those fields,emerging as a chief source of arguments in favor of the Great Society andopposed to U.S. involvement in Vietnam. In the Washington swirl wherefew people have the time to read the reports they debate, respectability isoften proportional to tonnage. The more studies someone tosses on the table,the more likely he is to win his point. For years Brookings held a dominanceon tonnage. Its papers supporting liberal positions went unchallenged byserious conservative rebuttals. As the 1970s progressed, a core of politically active conservativeintellectuals, most prominently Irving Kristol, began to argue in publicationslike The Public Interest and The Wall Street Journal that if business wantedmarket logic to regain the initiative, it would have to create a new class of itsown –scholars whose career prospects depended on private enterprise, notgovernment or the universities. “You get what you pay for, Kristol in effectargued, and if businessmen wanted intellectual horsepower, they would haveto open their pocketbooks.”1The rise of Nader’s Raiders and similar public-interest groups–whichachieved remarkable results, considering how badly outgunned they were;brought a change in business thinking about money and public affairs. So didthe frustration felt by oil companies, which were being fattened by risingprices but still dreamed of being fatter if federal regulations were abolished.They were willing to invest some of their riches in changing Washington’smood. Women also have a voice in their own interest groups. The WomanSuffrage movement was headed up by many groups that differed in some oftheir views. The moderate branch was by far the largest and is given most ofthe credit for the Nineteenth Amendment. Under the banner of the NationalWomen’s Party, the militant feminists had used civil disobedience, colorfuldemonstrations and incessant lobbying to get the Nineteenth Amendment outof Congress. These are just some of the ways that American politics in the twentiethcentury was influenced by special interest groups. Interest groups havegrown this much in this century and will probably keep progressing in thecoming centuries. Bibliography1.Groliers Encyclopedia on CD-Rom, 1993 Grolier Inc., SoftwareToolworks Inc. 2.Ideas Move Nations, The Atlantic Monthly, 1986


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