Most of us are aware that there are a lot of public problems that need to be addressed.
Despite our country's reputation as a nation of joiners, most of us never act to solve a problem, organize a group, or even join one.
Social scientists call this a collective good, that is, a good or benefit that can't be denied to others.
Collective goods like safe roads, public safety, and better education can be enjoyed by anyone.
It's hard to convince people to join a group because they're going to get the benefits anyway.
The larger the number of potential members involved, the more this holds true, because each will have trouble seeing that his or her efforts will make a difference.
Collective action can be overcome by a shared perception of a serious common problem or threat, an abundance of time and money to support a cause, and effective leadership.
Many people who share interests never come together in an interest group.
The key triggering mechanism for interest group formation is a disruption in the political, social, or economic environment that threatens the members of a group, for instance, government action to regulate businesses and professions.
The formation of one group to promote a particular interest is often seen as a threat to the formation of a group on the other side.
The resources available to prospective interest group members seem to be the key.
Those with more money can pay for the web sites, social media campaigns, publicity, legal assistance, and professional lobbying that get the message to Washington and the public that the group means business.
Those with more resources are more likely to understand the political process, to have the confidence to express their views, and to appreciate the value of organizing into an interest group to push their agenda.
The formation of an interest group can be stimulated by effective and charismatic leaders.
The strong, effective leadership of interest group entrepreneurs can be crucial to a group's ability to organize, no matter what its resources are.
Material benefits, solidary benefits, and expressive benefits are included in the incentives.
Slow Food USA represents people who want to preserve local, authentic ways of growing and eating food.
The organization holds local and international events dedicated to eating.
These events are designed to attract new members.
Members can use the material benefits as rewards.
Information is one of the most common material benefits.
Many groups publish a magazine or newsletter filled with information about issues important to the group and pending legislation that is relevant to the group's activities.
Group activities, group benefit policies, and gifts are some of the benefits that interest groups offer.
The National Rifle Association offers discounted insurance policies.
Over 300 nature treks are included in the package of benefits offered by the Sierra Club.
Ten free trees are given to members when they join the foundation.
Politics is an enjoyable activity for many people, and the social interactions occurring through group activities provide high levels of satisfaction and are a strong motivating force.
Local chapter meetings, lobbying missions to Washington or the state capital, or group-sponsored activities are some of the reasons for solidary incentives.
The venue through which friends are made and social interactions occur is provided by the interest group.
Many people are attracted to the American Civil Liberties Union because they believe in protecting individual civil liberties.
The National Right to Life Committee believes that all abortions should be illegal in the United States.
They join the group to express their views and ideals.
The National Rifle Association recruits many of its members because they are committed to the cause of protecting an individual's right to bear arms.
Material incentives like its magazine and solidary incentives come from group fellowship.
The combination of these incentives makes the National Rifle Association one of the strongest interest groups in Washington, D.C.
Many observers of American politics disagree with Madison's conclusion that interest groups are a curse upon the system, to be contained and mitigated.
It's possible that the most important thing about you is not where you live, but congressional representation sticks to our interests as they are related to the place we call home.
Interest groups help represent their members' views to Congress, the executive branch and other agencies.
Interest groups make sure that the concerns of their members are heard in the policymaking process.
Lobbying is the central activity of interest groups and it involves a variety of ways of bringing pressure to bear on government.
Opportunities for participation in government are limited by the Constitution.
citizen participation in politics is provided by interest groups They are a way for people who share the same interests to pool resources and channel their efforts for collective action.
Participation in the group can be much more effective than individual political action.
One of the more important functions of interest groups is to educate policymakers about issues that are important to the interest group, and then to educate their members about the issues that are important to them.
Members of Congress can't hope to become experts on all of the issues they have to deal with.
They often find themselves legislating about things they don't know.
Information in hearings and briefings on issues that are often the experts can fill the void.
Interest groups have to educate their members about new laws and developments that may affect them.
They maintain web sites, social media, and mailing lists that allow them to inform their members of relevant news and call them to action when necessary.