|Interest groups bring power to the people|
Our diverse society creates many differences, which give rise to different interests and views on public issues. No government can totally ignore the needs of vocal and well-organised groups in the society. Fortunately, our democratic society allows for group formation. Interest groups are not simply people who hold similar views. Interest groups are organisations that represent people who hold similar views. Interests groups are formally or informally organised associations of individuals who share one or more common characteristics, interests or demands that can be represented before government officials. Interest groups may be termed "special interests", "private interests", "pressure groups", "organised interests" or "lobbies". Interest groups can be found in any political system and may be active at the national, state, or local level. Some groups operate beyond the domestic environment and seek to influence decision makers at the international level.
Types of interest groups
o Private - These groups are powerful and spend the most money.
o Labour unions - protect workers' interests.
o Professional Associations - represent the professionals in society.
o Public Interest Groups - act on behalf of consumers and the general public.
The most important feature of interest groups is their capacity to represent the collective views of various segments of society. Their perspectives are focussed and their demands more precise than those of social movements or political parties. Factors that give interest groups influence or power:
1) Size. There is strength in numbers.
2) Organisation. The entire group is organised as a cohesive unit.
3) Leadership. Popular, charismatic leaders help influence government.
4) Status/prestige. More attention is given to established, well-respected groups.
5) Financial resources. Money is needed for ads, organisational costs and lobbying efforts.
Remember, the power is yours!
Consumer Affairs Division
Ministry of Legal Affairs
Web site: www.consumer.gov.tt
Source: Trinidad Guardian, October 27, 2002