1. A continuing problem for labor unions is the free-rider problem. The free
rider is one who receives the benefits of a group but does not join it. An
example is a worker who does not join the labor union but still receives the
union-negotiated wages, benefits, and vacations. Unions, of course, want
anyone who receives the benefits to belong to the organization (this is called
a closed shop). Many states have passed right-to-work laws that forbid a
closed shop. Should people who enjoy the benefits of a union be required to
join? Can a union be effective if people are not required to join?
2. The tobacco lobby has always been one of the largest and most powerful in
Washington. Not only does it give money to strategic legislators, but it has
had the strong support of those who have tobacco farmers in their districts.
suddenly tobacco is on the defensive. Why do you think the tobacco lobby
lost some of its power? Does its loss of influence predict the fall of other powerful lobbies such as Social Security, education, and national defense? Why or why not?
3. Some observers believe that interest groups in America are slowly eroding
democracy—that is, that most groups are interested only in personal gain,
not the national interest. What arguments can you think of in favor of
our pluralist (interest-group-driven) type of government? Now list all the
ways you can think of in which interest groups impede democracy. Which
system would you prefer: one with many groups or one with few?
4. James Madison asserted that in a free society the clash among competing
interests, each pursuing selfish goals, would result in policies that served the
common good. Is free competition among competing interests actually the
best way to promote the common good? Is such free competition typical in
the United States today?
5. How do interest groups differ from political parties? Which political process
is preferential— one that is dominated by parties or one in which groups are