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Special interests may develop a close relationship with one political party, so their ability to influence legislation rises and falls as that party moves in or out of power. A special interest may even hurt a political party if it appears to a number of voters that the relationship is too cozy. In a close election, a small group that has been under-represented in the past may find that it can tip the election one way or another—so that group will suddenly receive considerable attention. Democratic institutions produce an ebb and flow of political parties and interests and thus offer both opportunities for special interests and ways of counterbalancing those interests over time.

Identifiable winners, anonymous losers

A number of economic policies produce gains whose beneficiaries are easily identifiable, but costs that are partly or entirely shared by a large number who remain anonymous. A democratic political system probably has a bias toward those who are identifiable.

For example, policies that impose price controls —like rent control—may look as if they benefit renters and impose costs only on landlords. However, when landlords then decide to reduce the number of rental units available in the area, a number of people who would have liked to rent an apartment end up living somewhere else because no units were available. These would-be renters have experienced a cost of rent control, but it is hard to identify who they are.

Similarly, policies that block imports will benefit the firms that would have competed with those imports—and workers at those firms—who are likely to be quite visible. Consumers who would have preferred to purchase the imported products, and who thus bear some costs of the protectionist policy, are much less visible.

Specific tax breaks and spending programs also have identifiable winners and impose costs on others who are hard to identify. Special interests are more likely to arise from a group that is easily identifiable, rather than from a group where some of those who suffer may not even recognize they are bearing costs.

Pork barrels and logrolling

Politicians have an incentive to ensure that government money is spent in their home state or district, where it will benefit their constituents in a direct and obvious way. Thus, when legislators are negotiating over whether to support a piece of legislation, they commonly ask each other to include pork-barrel spending    , legislation that benefits mainly a single political district. Pork-barrel spending is another case in which democracy is challenged by concentrated benefits and widely dispersed costs: the benefits of pork-barrel spending are obvious and direct to local voters, while the costs are spread over the entire country. Read the following Clear It Up feature for more information on pork-barrel spending.

How much impact can pork-barrel spending have?

U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, who was originally elected to the Senate in 1958 and served until 2010, is widely regarded as one of the masters of pork-barrel politics, directing a steady stream of federal funds to his home state. A journalist once compiled a list of structures in West Virginia at least partly funded by the government and named after Byrd: “the Robert C. Byrd Highway; the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam; the Robert C. Byrd Institute; the Robert C. Byrd Life Long Learning Center; the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program; the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope; the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing; the Robert C. Byrd Federal Courthouse; the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center; the Robert C. Byrd Academic and Technology Center; the Robert C. Byrd United Technical Center; the Robert C. Byrd Federal Building; the Robert C. Byrd Drive; the Robert C. Byrd Hilltop Office Complex; the Robert C. Byrd Library; and the Robert C. Byrd Learning Resource Center; the Robert C. Byrd Rural Health Center.” This list does not include government-funded projects in West Virginia that were not named after Byrd. Of course, we would have to analyze each of these expenditures in detail to figure out whether they should be treated as pork-barrel spending or whether they provide widespread benefits that reach beyond West Virginia. At least some of them, or a portion of them, certainly would fall into that category. Because there are currently no term limits for Congressional representatives, those who have been in office longer generally have more power to enact pork-barrel projects.

The amount spent on individual pork-barrel projects is small, but many small projects can add up to a substantial total. A nonprofit watchdog organization, called Citizens against Government Waste, produces an annual report, the Pig Book that attempts to quantify the amount of pork-barrel spending, focusing on items that were requested by only one member of Congress, that were passed into law without any public hearings, or that serve only a local purpose. Whether any specific item qualifies as pork can be controversial, of course, but at least by this measure, pork-barrel spending totaled $2.7 billion in 2014.

Pork-barrel spending can be encouraged by logrolling    , an action in which all members of a group of legislators agree to vote for a package of otherwise unrelated laws that they individually favor. For example, if one member of the U.S. Congress suggests building a new bridge or hospital in his or her own congressional district, the other members might oppose it. However, if 51% of the legislators come together, they can pass a bill that includes a bridge or hospital for every one of their districts.

As a reflection of this interest of legislators in their own districts, the U.S. government has typically spread out its spending on military bases and weapons programs to congressional districts all across the country. In part, this is done to help create a situation that encourages members of Congress to vote in support of defense spending.

Key concepts and summary

Special interest politics arises when a relatively small group, called a special interest group, each of whose members has a large interest in a political outcome, devotes a lot of time and energy to lobbying for the group’s preferred choice. Meanwhile, the large majority, each of whose members has only a small interest in this issue, pays no attention.

Pork-barrel spending is defined as legislation whose benefits are concentrated on a single district while the costs are spread widely over the country. Logrolling refers to a situation in which two or more legislators agree to vote for each other’s legislation, which can then encourage pork-barrel spending in many districts.

Problems

Say that the government is considering a ban on smoking in restaurants in Tobaccoville. There are 1 million people living there, and each would benefit by $200 from this smoking ban. However, there are two large tobacco companies in Tobaccoville and the ban would cost them $5 million each. What are the total costs and benefits of this proposed policy? Do you think it will be passed?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

References

Roper Center Public Opinion Archives. “A Brief History of Public Opinion on the Government’s Role in Providing Health Care.” Last modified September 23, 2013.

U.S. Department of Commerce: United States Census Bureau. “Voting and Registration: Historical Time Series Tables; Table A-10: Reported Registration Rates in Presidential Election Years, by Selected Characteristics: November 1968 to 2012.” http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/socdemo/voting/publications/historical/index.html

Questions & Answers

suppose you are at a dinner party with your friend.The fork, spoon, knife and glasses all produce noisy sounds.What psychological factors influence the discussion between you and your friend?
Vava Reply
It may give me an impression to the other person that the person who makes the noise is nervous or either ill-mannered.
Indefatigable
I would think that people at the table are not comfortable which could be because of the environment or the topic of discussion or the thoughts working in their minds.
Ritu
depending how loud and frequently the sound are made the discussion can change
David
why functinalism?
philip Reply
which question is important in this chapter
Mahi Reply
what is the difference between retention and application and what can be done to improve the connection between the two
frederick Reply
Clues should be developed and associations be formed
philip
what is the study of personality?
Yonatan Reply
psychology
Racheal
individual traits
Utkarsh
Personality psychology
Riya
personality psychology is a branch of psychology that studies personality and its variation among individuals
Swapnil
what are the basic statistical concepts in psychological research ?
Pawanjeet Reply
mean ,median ,NPC ,t ,z test
Soumyashree
what is the NPC?
Fouad
Maen median mood stander daviation
Janat
Percentile also
Janat
NPC stans for normal probability curve
Janat
Normal probability curve (NPC)
Janat
yez
Soumyashree
Yhn koi b questione kr skta h?
Janat
is there any scale for measuring post COVID Anxiety?
Richard Reply
I'd like to know if there's any?
Zino
I've heard about Coronavirus Anxiety Scale (CAS). It works as a mental health screener but I'm not sure anyone can do the test except psychologist
divani
Thanks !
Zino
no
Hausa
Thanks Divani zahra
Mohd
explain the function how intelligence and learning function together
Truvanie Reply
Learning comes before intelligence Learning could be the process of acquiring knowledge. Or the ability to gain knowledge Whereas intelligence is the display of acquired knowledge.
Felix
I love it
Teena
Jade Baccus, this is kind of hard "to me" it is the root of living altogether, without both how can we live in a world like this? how can we make new discoveries?
Jade
intelligence: can be nourisht and remain indipendent from how much knowledge we aquire. But can be displayed thru use and application of knowledge itself
fabio
Hey, is there any classes by psychology grp
Smitha
Hlw Every0ne
Khalilur
learning can be work together with intelligence like a partner with the thinking of life
James
schools of psychology
Onogwu Reply
hi
giri
hi
Swapnil
hi
Munir
hello
Imsekar
hai
Tu
Hi
piya
hello
kajal
Hello
Mohamed
hii
grace
hi
george
hi
Anuja
hi
kajal
gud night
grace
Good night everyone
Anuja
good night 😴🌃
Swapnil
hello
Ananya
What's the point of this chat section?
Mohamed
to say hello and to feel solidarity.
Tu
the early childhood can reference the emotions?
Sammi Reply
Our early childhood experiences are important in the development of our personalities. It kind of shapes our behaviour and mannerism.
Debarpita
Especially in choosing career
Felix
😅Well that's complicated. It differs from person to person.
Debarpita
The early childhood or let's say your upbringing plays a vital role in driving your emotions. If one did not have a pleasant childhood it's highly likely they are more vulnerable to depression or some other psychological condition.
Indefatigable
how to change the emotion?
Sammi Reply
change the thought at hand .
Shawnte
Then I'm assuming the mind will begin to let go of the prior emotion.
Shawnte
Yes right. Think about something else, then emotion will follow.
Annie
then join life
Munir
I don't understand about this
Munir
Emotions run hand in hand with the mind and environment. A person can be sad or angry on a certain things going on in their mind then something can happen in the environment around them that m adds keys them happy.
Douglas
how has the new legalization of marijuana effected the anti drug programs
Summer Reply
how to change the emotional ?
Sammi
I am wrilly interisting about big problems psihycil nature between famillys/like parents bully some childe physically , even hall life and show some kinde of heath and $inaid
Zorica Reply
same
Gaea
Never give minor issues space. Time creates space, more time more space therefore if u give a small issue more time it gets more space in your mind hence breeding stress
Andrew Reply
yes yes yes so true
Gaea
hi..my brother gets angry Everytime I say no to him for anything he ask for he don't talk to me after that.. Everytime I only have to say sorry so this time I decided not to say sorry he haven't talked to me for two weeks I am so stressed what should I do
Nush
give him so time. I think you should let him figure out his own feelings. plus, you did the right thing. he needs to know that not everyone will give him what he wants.
Gaea
Don't be stressed out . You did right thing. but remember one thing don't show angry gestures to him or don't try to make him realize by teasing or scolding. If you try to be humble and patient, he may understand his mistake on his own.
PARUL
yeah
Gaea
Hi everyone! So i'm gonna be a college freshman soon and i'm gonna major in Psychology😬 but lately i've been worrying about what job i'm gonna have after getting my Bachelor's degree. Any tips or advice?
Angelique Reply
I think minimum of a masters degree is needed in order to get a job once you do mphil and phd u gonna get licence to work as a clinical psychologist and a lot more options 😊best wishes
kitty
hi...my brother gets angry with me anytime I say no to him for anything he ask for and stop talking to me every time I only have to say sorry..so I decided this time not to say sorry he haven't talked to me at all what should I do please help me
Nush
I think it's just a matter of ego and pride.they may have a kind of feeling like if they apologize it hurts their integrity and pride. Some people never admit they are wrong and it creates stress in the other person. .some people are not empathetic and they always want to feel cared n lovedbyother
kitty
so what can we do..if you are a person who always says sorry it's a good indicator that you have such a broad mind where you are ready to solve problems n you love them even though they are bad at you..basically everyone in this whole world is selfish..humans are selfish but there are some people
kitty
like you whom God created just to solve problems and lead other people in a better way..what you should do is create a beautiful bonding bw your bro ask him softly about his problems..love him more..and eventually he may become softer and lovable
kitty
if your bro is an introvert there could be chances where he has got several problems he haven't discussed with anybody which brings out their egoistic behr and blunt nature...ask him to say about his problems..make him understand the importance of apologies and empathetic behr..and try not to end up
kitty
in a fight discussing these things...u should softly deal with it..even if other people let you down or didn't say sorry to you doesn't mean that you r wrong..u are saying sorry everytime because u have a good heart..
kitty
hope this helps🐒have a good day..good life!!😊
kitty
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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of microeconomics for ap® courses. OpenStax CNX. Aug 24, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11858/1.4
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