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What are the consequences of pluralism and federalism for the policy-making process in the US? Evaluate these consequences with reference to at least two policies.

What are the consequences of pluralism and federalism for the policy-making process in the US? Evaluate these consequences with reference to at least two policies.

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In this essay I intend to address the question by looking at two large policy areas, foreign and health policy, and assess how pluralism and federalism impact on the influence and mobilisation of interest groups on policy-making in the US and also evaluate how democratic it is.
In this essay I intend to address the question by looking at two large policy areas, foreign and health policy, and assess how pluralism and federalism impact on the influence and mobilisation of interest groups on policy-making in the US and also evaluate how democratic it is.

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
What are the consequences of pluralism and federalism for thepolicy-making process in the US? Evaluate these consequences withreference to at least two policy areas.
‘Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you makeit less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade therights of other citizens’ (Madison, The Federalist Papers, No.10). This statement byJames Madison provided a solution to the Constitutional framers’ fears that the power of interest groups in the political arena would lead to a clash between power andfreedom. Thus, Madison advocated the theory of pluralism in which ‘a constitutionencourages multitudes of interests so that no single interest can ever tyrannise theothers. The basic assumption is that competition among interests will produce balanceand compromise, with all the interests regulating each other’ (Lowi et al, 2000, p.307).In this essay I intend to address the question by looking at two large policy areas,foreign and health policy, and assess how pluralism and federalism impact on theinfluence and mobilisation of interest groups on policy-making in the US and alsoevaluate how democratic it is. I will firstly extend on the definition of pluralismoutlined above and also explain federalism and its impact on interest groups in theUS. I will elaborate my discussion outlining foreign policy and later health policy,and discuss the importance and consequence of interest groups operating in a pluralistand federalist regime on the policy-making process.In America today, pluralism has a profound impact on the policy-making process asintense competition between organised groups try to shape public policy within andwithout government. However, the large number of interest groups competing for influence in the US does not necessarily mean that all interests are fully and equallyrepresented and we can see that the political format works more to the advantage of some types of interests than others. Indeed, ‘…the organisation of private interestsinto groups is inevitable, but the results are biased in favour of the wealthy and the powerful, who have superior education, opportunity and resources with which toorganise’ ( Lowi et al, 2000, p.330). However, according to Madison’s theory, to1
 
regulate interest group politics is to limit freedom and to extend government power.The alternative to Madison’s pluralism is corporatism which is widely used inEuropean states. Corporatism involves ‘the unionisation of interests and thesystematic management by the state and centralised employee and employer unions, presumably to the benefit of all three actors’ (Siaroff, 1999). This model is successfulfor ‘insider’ interest groups with direct access, but has failed for smaller ‘outside’lobby groups. Thus, pluralism has been the preferred model for mobilising smaller, peculiar interests in US policy-making.Federalism in the United States provides many different access points for groups tolobby their interests such as: Congress, Executive Presidency, Courts, RegulatoryAgencies and state politics. It is believed that this access and multiplicity promotesthe common good for American politics. Indeed, as long as there is a powerfulgovernment in the US, there will be a large network of interest groups lobbying itfrom every direction. However, one may counter argue that federalism and the stronginfluence of particular interest groups on the federal government decreases democracyas it essentially does away with the idea of rule by the parliament based on electoralmajority.In order to fully understand the profound influence and consequences of certaininterest groups operating in such a pluralist and federalist system, it is enlightening tolook at America’s foreign policy and the important actors influencing the policy-making process. America’s global role and its position as a superpower comes withvarious responsibilities and is often called upon to intervene in cases of war betweenstates such as the Israel and Palestine conflict which I will discuss below.For foreign policy-making in the US, it is more difficult for groups to mobilise their interests as the President is the commander in chief and holds the utmost primacy,thus, lobbying is a much tougher task for these groups. However, some of thesegroups are highly influential and successful at lobbying their interests, controversialas they may be.Undoubtedly, the most influential and thriving interest group lobbying for foreign policy is the Israel lobby which is a coalition of individuals and organisations, most2
 
 prominently, AIPAC (American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee). AIPAC is rankedsecond after the AARP in Fortune Magazine’s top most influential interest groupslobbying in the US. The lobby also attracts Christian evangelicals who believe Israel’srebirth is the fulfilment of biblical prophecy and thus, support its expansionist agenda.The fruits of the Israel lobby can be seen as Israel is the largest recipient of economicand military aid since World War Two, amounting to $140 billion and receives onefifth of the foreign aid budget which amounts to $500 annually for every Israeli.The power, influence and subsequent consequences of the Israel lobby on foreign policy-making are outlined in Walt and Mearsheimer’s controversial ‘WorkingPaper’, ‘The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy’(2006). This paper was highlycontested and resulted in a reply from Alan Dershowitz in his paper, ‘Debunking the Newest and Oldest Jewish Conspiracy’(2006). Although the Walt-Mearsheimer paper has received much criticism for its poor logic, anti-Semitic tone, and somewhat propaganda edge, it provides a very good basis for understanding the extent of theIsrael lobby in America’s pluralistic and federalist system. Therefore, I believe that itis a worthy work which I will reference in this essay along with the counter factualargument put forward in Dershowitz’s paper.Without any doubt, the Israel lobby has more power and resources than any other group in influencing US foreign policy. ‘They enjoy a disproportionate amount of influence when they are committed to an issue to which the bulk of the population isindifferent’ (Walt-Mearsheimer, 2006, p.9). This perhaps, is a major reason why theyhave been successful as perceived non-crisis area interests do not affect the averageAmerican. The US political system offers this group substantial power to influencethe policy process by directly lobbying elected representatives, voting a certain way inelections and even directly mobilising the executive branch. The lobby also providessubstantial campaign contributions and although the group make up only 3 percent of the population, ‘…The Washington Post estimated that Democratic presidentialcandidates depend on the Israel lobby to supply as much as 60 percent of themoney’(Walt-Mersheimer, 2006, p.12). Thus, the US system enables this group tohave substantial access points to the federal government.3

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