Lesson Objectives:- Interest groups
- Constitutional protection of interest groups
- Social movements
- Reasons for joining an interest group
American government not only allows participation in Interest Groups, but encourages it.
An Interest Group is an organized group of individuals sharing common objectives who actively attempt to influence policymakers.
A huge part of politics is the Political Party, a group of political activists who organize to win elections, operate the government, and determine public policy.
Another huge part of politics is the Lobbyist, an organization or individual who attempts to influence the passage, defeat, or content of legislation and the government's administrative decisions.
There are about a hundred thousand interest groups across the country. There are many "pressure points" in American government that bring interest groups into existence.
The 1st Amendment protects the rights of interest groups with two guarantees:
The right of citizens to "peaceably to assemble."
The right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Studies show that two-thirds of the American population belong to some form of interest groups even if they are not political. Teacher's associations and even insurance agent associations are among these. Interest Groups range from local groups for something specific to national organizations that serve a broader purpose.
If you think of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, you have a clear understanding of social movements.
A Social Movement is a movement that represents the demands of a large segment of the public for political, economic, or social change.
The women's movement of the 1960s was another form of social movement. The National Organization for Women was brought together with one of their goals being to end gender-segregated job advertisements.
There are various reasons for joining an interest group:
When people join an interest group for companionship with people who share the same interests, they are motivated by Solidarity Incentives.
People also join for Material Incentives like joining the AAA in cases of automotive emergencies. The AAA leads the way in trying to influence laws concerning drivers.
Other interest groups have a clear political purpose. Purposive Incentives are in place when an interest group has an explicit political goal.
One problem interest groups face is the Free-Rider Problem, which is the difficulty that they face in recruiting members when the benefits the group achieves can be enjoyed without joining the group.
In other words, a free rider enjoys the benefits the interest group fought for without having to join or contribute to the group.