Study Questions: Chapter 10
1. Outline the arguments made against the perception that business interests enjoy a privileged position in the interest group systems of capitalist societies.
One argument is that the privileged access of business to the corridors of power largely disappeared in the 1980s. Michael Bliss argues that other powerful vested interests are able to compete with business. David Vogel suggests that business is more affected by broad political and economic trends than it is able to affect them. Further, the strength of business influences ebbs and flows. It is strongest when the public is worried about the economy and weakest when the economy is performing well. Vogel also argues that it is successful now in the halls of power because of its ability to organize and mobilize. This was not always the case. At one time, consumer, environmental, and other public interest groups were able to work the levers of power in Washington much more effectively. Presently, business demonstrates exceptional organization prowess, but divisions within the business community serve to check its effectiveness.
James Q. Wilson also argues that “entrepreneurial politics” limits business influence. Some groups and politicians are particularly astute and can identify issues around which popular support can be mobilized in opposition to business interests.
Finally, the argument is made that on some issues, business is very influential, but on other issues, state actors are quite capable of resisting pressures from highly organized, well-heeled business interests. (pp. 316–320)
2. What are the major criticisms of pluralism?
One criticism is that the interest group system is much less open and competitive than was thought by the early pluralists. Another is that it is not accurate to equate the outcome of struggles between special interest groups with the public interest. In this regard, the neo-pluralist, Charles Lindblom, spoke of the “privileged position of business.” A third is that it is not accurate to say that the struggles among groups over issues are open and transparent. In fact, some issues do not make it to the public agenda. The ability to keep issues from public debate is an exercise of power not accounted for by pluralists. (pp. 320–321)
3. What factors serve as obstacles to corporatism in Canada?
The major obstacles are a political culture that is not favourable to the interventionist planning associated with corporatism; a parliamentary democracy that does not look favourably on a decision-making process involving only business and labour associations; the fragmentation of the business and labour communities; and, as a result of federalism, a divided state. (pp. 322–323)
4. What three resources, not including money, are necessary for interest groups to be effective at promoting their objectives?
1) electoral influence, that is, the ability to swing a significant bloc of votes; 2) capacity to affect the economy negatively, that is, the ability to “down tools” or in some way inflict economic damage. A strike would be an example here. Taking investments out of a jurisdiction would be another example; 3) group cohesion, that is, the ability to convey to decision-makers with whom the association speaks one voice and genuinely represents the views of the membership. (pp. 330–332)
5. How can federalism serve as an opportunity for interest groups to influence policy-making?
According to the “multiple crack hypothesis,” the presence of two levels of government, each of which has a range of taxing, spending, and regulatory powers, provides advocacy groups and lobbyists, and citizens, to seek from one government what they cannot get from the other. (p. 333)
6. How can federalism serve as a constraint on the ability of interest groups to influence policy-making?
Federalism induces organizations to form a federal structure, thus dividing up its resources and likely inhibiting the capacity of the association to speak with one voice. Also, jurisdiction is a key issue and when the two levels of government get focused on a policy area, interest groups are often frozen out of the policy process. (pp. 333–334)
7. Why are successful influence strategies expensive?
A successful influence strategy is expensive because lobbying often requires hiring a professional government relations firm, which can be costly. Also, if the campaign is aimed at influencing public opinion, advertising, polling, and public relations are all expensive. Thirdly, if the interest group goes the legal route, the legal process can be immensely expensive. (pp. 334–340)
8. What are the three different categories of lobbyists included in the Lobbyist Registration Act?
Consultant lobbyists, corporate in-house lobbyists, and organization in-house lobbyists (p. 337)
9. What are the career backgrounds of the lobbyists who work for major lobbying firms?
Consulting, government, business, political advisor, senior bureaucrat (pp. 338–339)
10. What range of services is Hill & Knowlton able to offer clients since its acquisition of Decima?