Pressure groups have many features about them that determine whether they are democratic or undemocratic. If we have to determine whether Pressure Groups benefit democracy or not, we have to know what part they play in our society. As we know, pluralists have a very positive view on pressure group politics; believing that they promote healthy debate and discussion. This is true in some aspects of society and our democracy, but pressure groups also have many undemocratic features about them. Firstly, the most important democratic feature of pressure groups is their way of representing the people in our society.
Their main function is to represent our interests and those who are of minority, making sure that their voice gets heard, whether we take an active part or not. To demonstrate how representative they really are, in virtually all our activities, there is probably a group which is seeking to secure favourable legislation or decisions and to avoid unfavourable ones. However, some pressure group leaders may not truly represent their members. Trade union leaders were charged with this and it remains a danger.
Furthermore, party politicians are made accountable for their actions through the electoral process and through representative institutions; which is seen as vey democratic. Pressure Group leaders are not accountable, which means that if they don’t fulfil their representative aims we can’t do anything about it which conveys that pressure groups are undemocratic. However, pressure groups are seen as very democratic when it comes to participation, and how they are making many more people partake in politics, and make politics more aware to people.
A passive citizenship is often seen as an extreme danger to democracy; many people do not involve themselves in political activity; producing the strong probability that the government will become dictatorial, safe in that they know that they’re power will probably not get challenged. Pressure groups are therefore important because firstly they prevent excessive accumulations of power and to ensure that government remains accountable to the people. It is known that especially young people enjoy taking part in demonstrations which is evidence for pressure groups trying to get people more politically aware as active.
However, pressure groups are queried as undemocratic; due to their disproportionate influence. Some pressure groups do not conform to democratic principles around the nature of influence. If all groups enjoyed the amount of influence which their size and importance warranted, the outcome might be considered democratic however, some groups wield more power that their relative importance. For example, the farming community accounts for a tiny proportion of the total population but farms are responsible for much of our food supply.
Finally, pressure groups most important democratic feature is the fact that they make sure all of us, in small or large groups, are taken account of, awarded an equal status, and protected. If this does not work, we will simply be ruled by the majority, which ultimately means that nothing would change. Majority rule also, is not a true democracy. Seeking majority support, political parties will inevitably have to ignore the interests of many minorities. Pressure groups therefore play a very vital part in ensuring that party rule is not converted into tyranny and minority groups are heard.
Another undemocratic factor however that can balance how democratic pressure groups really is their size and finance. It is clear that some pressure groups are considerably more wealthy than others, having an unfair advantage. Everyone from sectional interests inevitably gain funds whereas charities have to get their funds from the public. It is seen as undemocratic, because with particular wealthy groups, they have adopted the practice of donating money to political parties in order to seek a sympathetic government. An example of this is the event “cash for peerages” where it was alleged that money was being donated in return for peerages.
Furthermore pressure groups size is seen as a very undemocratic factor because even though some pressure groups have a sheer amount of numbers to go on to protest, it does not always reflect the public opinion. For example, The ban on hunting with dogs for example, 300,000 took to the streets and put the government into panic. However, the majority of those people wanted a full ban on fox hunting. In conclusion, weighing up the democratic and undemocratic features, overall, pressure groups do benefit democracy. Firstly they promote healthy debate and discussion.
Pressure groups have made many more people politically aware and have increased the amount of political participation through demonstrations, protest, marches and even petitions. They may even be the reason for the increase of election turnout in 2010 elections due to them making people more politically aware. Another way that pressure groups benefit democracy is their role of representation towards minorities as well as everyone in our society. Even though pressure groups do have some aspects to them that are seen as very undemocratic, pressure group politics is a very healthy way of strengthening our government.