Political scientist Theodore Lowi argued that as government assumed responsibility for more things, Congress would delegate authority for policy implementation to the executive branch, and the inevitable result would be a proliferation of interest groups. Indeed, not only did interest groups emerge to lobby Congress for specific programs, but they lobbied the executive for contracts to deliver services.
Lowi also concluded that a government founded on liberal principles, as it is in the United States, is unable to prioritize values. This owes to the fact that on a philosophical level, each person's conception of the good is just as valid as any other. To treat everybody equally means that someone arguing for food for the hungry will not get preference over someone arguing for corporate subsidies. The old constitutional system, as Lowi referred to it, would not extend beyond its limited function. But once government found itself responding to new crises, delegating authority, and dealing with multitudes of interest groups, it would give priority to the cause with the largest and most powerful interest group behind it. If corporate subsidies are backed by a powerful interest group, they have a higher order of importance than feeding the hungry, even if it turns out that a majority of citizens disagree with these priorities. The end result is that interest groups distort democracy because representatives do not represent us equally. Rather, they are more responsive to interest groups.
But not everybody agrees with this position. Political scientist Robert Dahl has suggested that even if interest groups represent different groups on different issues, the effect is pluralism in action. Dahl studied community power structures in New Haven, Connecticut, in the 1950s. He observed that three separate interest groups emerged around each of three policy issues. In each case the actors, with the exception of the mayor, were different. This meant that individuals were...
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