Interest Group aysmmetry

This recent Yglesias post could practically have been taken from my lecture notes on Interest Groups this past week.  As you know, I’m a sucker for aysmmetries, and Yglesias highlights an important one here about the influence of business in making policy:

 A friend of mind in political science explained it to me this way. American democracy is characterized by “interest group pluralism.” But business has a “privileged position” in the pluralist dynamic. It’s perfectly conceivable for corporate managers and business lobbyists to dream of a world in which there are no labor unions or environmental pressure groups. But neither the AFL-CIO nor the Sierra Club nor anyone else to the right of Lenin is actually prepared to wage a root-and-branch war against the existence of large and powerful business enterprises in the United States. In fact, progressives are counting on the existence of such enterprises every bit as much as conservatives are. The upshot is to create an imbalance in the interest group bargaining process. Business always has a seat at the table and even the most left-wing members of congress shill for firms located in their districts. Countervailing forces not only sometimes lose the argument (as they did with Obama and smog) but oftentimes find themselves locked out of the room entirely.

Good job by Yglesias’ friend in Political Science.   Liberals don’t hate business, we know it needs to thrive for America to thrive.  We’d just prefer it to be cruising down the highway politely passing in the left lane when necessary, rather than simply running everybody over in a monster truck.   That’s what all those pesky regulations are about.  Without them, it’s pretty clear we just get a lot of monster trucks with little concern for the rest of society.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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