A Special Interest Group You Like Is Still a Special Interest Group

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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7 Responses

  1. Avatar James Hanley
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    says:

    if I had my druthers, the phrases “special interest group” and “public interest group” would not even be in our lexicon

    That’s pretty much what I say in my American Gov’t class. I ask students “who gets to define what the public interest is?” Just because a group claims–or even believes–it’s values are in the interest of the public does not mean they are. As to “special” interests, I find “special” is meant as a pejorative. The term I prefer is specialized interests, because these groups tend to have narrowly defined goals and purposes. E.g., whatever other interests NRA members may have, their organization is organized around the specialized issue of gun rights.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      @James Hanley, I’d probably have quite enjoyed your American Gov’t class.

      Slightly OT, but given your background I’m curious as to your thoughts on the following statement, which has been represented to me as a majority sentiment amongst PoliSci academics who specialize in corruption issues (and which is a big influence on my thought:
      “The greater threat to American democracy is not the influence of interest groups on parties, but rather the influence of parties on interest groups.”

      This might not be the best formulation of it, but the premise is basically that interest groups wind up supporting politicians and parties who already back their cause, but in order to get a politician or party to actually make their cause a priority, they wind up sacrificing all sorts of stuff, largely becoming party hacks whose first priority is protecting their party rather than actually advancing their agenda.Report

  2. Avatar angullimala
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    says:

    EVERYONEs interest is a special interest. That term is just stupidReport

  3. Avatar Katherine
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    says:

    1. There are no such things as “special” and “public” interest groups: anyone seeking a particular outcome in a particular government action is an interest group, pure and simple.
    2. Interest groups, even self-described “public” interest groups, seek nothing more or less than the advancement or protection of their leaders’ and members’ preferred outcomes.

    I’d agree, but with the caveat that there should be a distinction between groups who derive their political influence from a large and committed membership (eg, the NRA, unions, pro-life groups, pro-choice groups) and groups who gain influence from great wealth regardless of their small numbers (bankers, hedge funds, large corporations). The former are in accord with the spirit of democracy – influencing government on behalf of [substantial segments of] the people – while the later are contrary to it.Report

    • Avatar lukas in reply to Katherine
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      says:

      @Katherine, well, large corporations and hedge funds tend to have broad coalitions of investors. I do not think the difference is that easy to maintain.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to lukas
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        says:

        @lukas, Yes, Lukas, but most of those investors are silent and uninfluential owners via mutual funds, pensions or 401 ks’. I don’t believe anyone genuinely believes that corporate boards and managers actually put the interests of their share holders first. The #1 spot of course is the interests of the corporate managers and board directors.Report

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