A Part of This Complete Democracy

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Ross Baker has a piece in defense of lobbying in USA Today which reaches aaaaaall the way back to James Madison and his concerns over the potential of one interest group to dominate another to the detriment of society. Baker's right that lobbying isn't in and of itself wrong -- in fact it's part of a healthy democracy -- but not all lobbying is created equal.

As Baker writes, when you toss money into the equation, the well-being of corporate interests can frequently beat out the well-being of a valid but less well-funded interest:


James Madison recognized the tendency of Americans to advance their own economic self-interest at the expense of the general good and pondered what to do about it. He dismissed the possibility of banning these "factions," arguing that they are a byproduct of our freedom.

His solution was just to allow them to multiply and, as the country expanded, no single interest would dominate. Free to struggle for influence, they would checkmate each other.
[. . .]

The defect in Madison's architecture is not that interest groups would proliferate, but that there would be such an imbalance between those seeking to get or maintain private gain and those advocating for the needs of humbler people. There are, of course, multitudes of lobbyists who advocate the needs of the handicapped, the elderly and endangered species, but they are often out-gunned by trade associations and industry lobbyists.

The article is an interesting history of the lobbying movement, and it's strange to consider a time when lobbying was a novelty proposition and not the cynical punchline to a Washington joke.