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The major positive aspect of interest groups is that they give the people better ways to influence their representatives on a day to day basis. One fundamental aspect of democracy is that the people should control the government. However, it is difficult to do so when all we do is vote every 2 years, 4 years, or 6 years depending on the office. Interest groups fill this gap. Interest groups lobby members of government every day. This makes government officials aware of the people’s opinions and desires every day instead of just at election time. This makes our system more democratic.
The major negative is that interest groups can give money too much of a role in politics. Interest groups work best when they have a lot of money. They use it to hire good lobbyists and to give campaign contributions, among other things. If money becomes very important, then only the people and groups that have a lot of money will have their voices heard. This can reduce the quality of democracy by favoring the voices of the rich over those who have less money.
An additional advantage to the interest group is that it provides strength in numbers in a way that is different from the geographical strength in numbers that our system of elected representatives is based upon. People who band together to promote their special interest may be widely scattered, with too few people in a congressional district, for example, to have any influence through the electoral process. A fairly non-controversial example of this would be people interested in genealogy, who lobby the government to promote the availability of records that are valuable to them, such as birth certificates and death certificates. It is wildly unlikely that this would be an issue in a campaign or that there would be enough genealogists in a particular district or state to sway a campaign. Yet, for this group, this is an important matter it wishes to weigh in on. Another example would be AARP, which represents the interests of senior citizens. In a given state or congressional district, there is usually not a majority of senior citizens that could be a dispositive factor in an election. So, senior citizens from all over the country join together and have the power of their numbers to try to influence policy and law in a way that benefits them. Without the ability to gather sufficient numbers geographically, people on their own are not likely to have much influence at all.
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