To what extent do pressure groups promote pluralist democracy?

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  • To What Extent  Do Pressure Groups Promote Pluralist Democracy?
    • They Do Promote Democracy
      • Groups are internally democratic in the sense that leaders are accountable to members.
      • There are groups for most groups of people or groups concerning most issues.
        • You can be part of more than one group.
      • They supplement electoral democracy; they keep government in touch with public opinion between elections and give a political voice to minority groups and articulate concerns that are overlooked by political parties.
      • They may have replace political parties as the main way in which people express their views- some pressure groups try to keep their membership about 1 million; more than the main political parties put together e.g. RSPB (1 million) and the NSPCC  (3 million).
      • Widens political participation- idea of grass-roots activism and decentralised organisation.
      • Education- promotes political debate, discussion and argument-improves the quality of public policy.
      • Take Some Power Away From The Government-to prevent an over mighty government; act as a check on government power and defend rights and freedoms. They are independent from the government
      • Maintain Stability-They provide a channel of communication between citizens and government- they help to uphold political stability by ensuring government responds to popular demands and concerns- function as a 'safety valve' in the political system.
    • They Don't Promote Democracy
      • Groups can be considered to not be internally democratic in the sense that leaders are not elected as pressure groups are not elected to work closely with government.
        • Some groups have more of an advantage than others, depending on if their aims match up with the aims of the government. This means some groups experience privileged government access and are put right at the centre of policy formulation and implementation.
          • Insider groups may not actually be representing the views the people are really interested in or really care about (as shown by pressure group membership e.g. Howard league for penal reform only have 3,000 members.
      • Some groups may be more powerful than others, not just because of their ideologies but because of their wealth or size aswell.
        • Wealth- Groups with a lot of wealth can hire professional lobbyists and PR consultants, putting them at an advantage to those groups who may not have such ability.
        • Size can have a huge effect; can mean you have more supporters, more people to go on marches and demonstrations (to represent you), get more money from subscriptions, can claim to represent public opinion if you have a lot of members.
          • Not all about size, e.g. Howard league for penal reform, all about the density e.g. BMA, trade unions have more members than the CBI but the latter is more powerful.
          • Chequebook groups-members are passive.
      • Highlighting minority views can lead to tyranny of the minority-the interests of minority groups prevailing over the interests of the mass of the public. Narrow self interest.
      • Undermines Parliament- They bypass the respresentative process, they make the policy process 'closed'- because decisions are made secretly and are not subject to public scrutiny.
    • Pluralism- Wide Dispersal of Power, no elite groups. Government is 'neutral' in he sense that it is willing to listen to any group or interest.


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