<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Tradeoffs also occur as a result of conflict between groups representing the competing interests of citizens. Many Americans believe that the U.S. must become less dependent on foreign sources of energy. Many also would like people to have access to inexpensive sources of energy. Such people are likely to support fracking: the process of hydraulic fracturing that gives drilling companies access to natural gas trapped between layers of shale underground. Fracking produces abundant, inexpensive natural gas, a great benefit to people who live in parts of the country where it is expensive to heat homes during the winter. Fracking also creates jobs. At the same time, many scholars argue that fracking can result in the contamination of drinking water, air pollution, and increased risk of earthquakes. One study has even linked fracking to cancer. Thus, those who want to provide jobs and inexpensive natural gas are in conflict with those who wish to protect the natural environment and human health ( [link] ). Both sides are well intentioned, but they disagree over what is best for people.

Gail Bambrick. 11 December 2012. “Fracking: Pro and Con,” https://now.tufts.edu/articles/fracking-pro-and-con.

Image A is of a person holding a sign. The sign reads “Don’t frac up our water. Chemicals used/ 5000 gallons per well. Benzene, carcinogen. Toluene, central nervous system depressant. Xylene, neurotoxin. Image B is of a poster that reads “Fracking. What is it? And why is it important to you?”
A person in Ohio protests fracking (a). An announcement of a public meeting regarding fracking illustrates what some of the tradeoffs involved with the practice might be (b). (credit a: modification of work by “ProgressOhio/Flickr”; credit b: modification of work by Martin Thomas)

Tradeoffs are especially common in the United States Congress. Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives usually vote according to the concerns of people who live in their districts. Not only does this often pit the interests of people in different parts of the country against one another, but it also frequently favors the interests of certain groups of people over the interests of others within the same state. For example, allowing oil companies to drill off the state’s coast may please those who need the jobs that will be created, but it will anger those who wish to preserve coastal lands as a refuge for wildlife and, in the event of an accident, may harm the interests of people who depend on fishing and tourism for their living. At times, House members and senators in Congress may ignore the voters in their home states and the groups that represent them in order to follow the dictates of the leaders of the political party to which they belong. For example, a member of Congress from a state with a large elderly population may be inclined to vote in favor of legislation to increase benefits for retired people; however, his or her political party leaders, who disapprove of government spending on social programs, may ask for a vote against it. The opposite can occur as well, especially in the case of a legislator soon facing re-election. With two-year terms of office, we are more likely to see House members buck their party in favor of their constituents.

Finally, the government may attempt to resolve conflicting concerns within the nation as a whole through tradeoffs. After repeated incidents of mass shootings at schools, theaters, churches, and shopping malls, many are concerned with protecting themselves and their families from firearm violence. Some groups would like to ban the sale of automatic weapons completely. Some do not want to ban gun ownership; they merely want greater restrictions to be put in place on who can buy guns or how long people must wait between the time they enter the store to make a purchase and the time when they are actually given possession of the weapon. Others represent the interests of those who oppose any restrictions on the number or type of weapons Americans may own. So far, state governments have attempted to balance the interests of both groups by placing restrictions on such things as who can sell guns, where gun sales may take place, or requirements for background checks, but they have not attempted to ban gun sales altogether. For example, although federal law does not require private gun dealers (people who sell guns but do not derive most of their income from doing so) to conduct background checks before selling firearms to people at gun shows, some states have passed laws requiring this.

“Gun Show Background Checks State Laws,” http://www.governing.com/gov-data/safety-justice/gun-show-firearms-bankground-checks-state-laws-map.html (February 18, 2016).

Summary

Many question whether politicians are actually interested in the needs of average citizens and debate how much influence ordinary people have over what government does. Those who support the elite theory of government argue that a small, wealthy, powerful elite controls government and makes policy to benefit its members and perpetuate their power. Others favor the pluralist theory, which maintains that groups representing the people’s interests do attract the attention of politicians and can influence government policy. In reality, government policy usually is the result of a series of tradeoffs as groups and elites fight with one another for influence and politicians attempt to balance the demands of competing interests, including the interests of the constituents who elected them to office.

Questions & Answers

meaning of pervasiveness
Ogbuku Reply
military coup in Nigeria
Rabiu Reply
the historical development nationalism in Nigerian and it implication on contemporary in Nigerian
Ringtim Reply
the political philosophy that ordinary people can govern themselves
Trapper Reply
we know what's best for us... with humility, GOD's Word, "Do no Harm to Others" Civil and Respectful people can and should manage their own lives.. This is one of the main Tenents of our Constitution. The Federal Government is supposed to regulate Commerce, Treaties & Protect rights of Citizens
Martin
What is plutocracy
Amidat Reply
what is the answer
Emmanuel Reply
Advantages of public opinion
Edith Reply
what does abolish mean
Helpful Reply
What is government
Hassan Reply
what is constitution
Haruna Reply
It's the law of our land
shelley
The Constitution is the law of the land regarding the governance of America. However, it is not The complete Law in itself. The laws that we follow, both federally and state-wide, come from the foundations laid down by the Constitution and it's articles.
Helpful
what is on party system
Owan Reply
function of political parties
Amoah Reply
Functions of political parties
Amoah Reply
function of political parties
Amoah
function of political parties
Amoah
function of political parties
Amoah
function of political parties
Amoah
what does the idea of trade offs mean about whether pluralist theorists or elite theorists are correct
selina Reply
what is theocracy
Obadiah
what's one party system
Owan
powers of the judiciary
Princewill Reply
powers of the judiciary
Princewill
what is bicameral legislature
Moses

Get the best American government course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'American government' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask