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The Forum > General Discussion > Corporate lobbyists get results; why not Citizens' lobbyists?

Corporate lobbyists get results; why not Citizens' lobbyists?

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The real business of politics these days is not done by politicians; their job is merely public entertainment and propaganda promotion. The real business is done behind the scenes by ministerial advisers, corporate lobbyists, union reps and spin doctors.

Wealthy individuals with real power and influence seldom stand for public office. When they need political influence, they buy it, sometimes buying politicians direct, more usually the cooperation of political advisers and consultants, as do the large corporations. Hence the common saw that Australia has the best politicians money can buy; and they've all been bought.

Parliamentary elections today are are farce - public spectacles to preserve the illusion of democracy, but with no real consequence when two parties with near-identical policies are the only choice. The only way in which the voting public can regain political influence is to follow the corporate lead by establishing Citizens' Lobby Groups to maintain political pressure and influence continually, rather than only at election time. Unless this is done, corporate interests will continue to gain the ascendancy, eventually dominating and controlling society completely.

How can these groups be formed and deployed to maximum effect?
Posted by Beelzebub, Wednesday, 13 October 2010 6:52:11 AM
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Beezl
Your point about the power of corporate lobby groups is sound but we are already awash with citizen lobby groups from many sectors. Eg. disability, environmental, gender, sporting, religious, ethnic etal. We are literaly teeming with lobby groups it is just that the corporate ones on the whole have more sway.

GETUP is one lobby group that grew from the grass roots and lobbies on all sorts of human rights issues from environment, constitutional and electoral reform, abortion, asylum seekers etc. But it does not represent all points of view and a citizen lobby group, like any group, are also fraught with conflicting ideas and wants.

I am not aware of a general Citizen's Lobby that argues for greater participation from citizens within a democracy (without an ideological agenda) but is that what you are proposing?
Posted by pelican, Wednesday, 13 October 2010 7:27:08 PM
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> we are already awash with citizen lobby groups
Yes, it's true.

> a citizen lobby group .. are also fraught with conflicting ideas and wants.
Their proliferation and inner conflicts are probably the main cause of their lack of effectiveness.

> the corporate ones on the whole have more sway
There is a very good reason for this.

> .. argues for greater participation from citizens .. is that what you are proposing?
At the moment my proposal is quite open-ended. I'd like to set down here a general principal that I learned from J. K. Galbraith many years ago. No matter what you think of his politics, he was a very erudite, insightful, and experienced economist, diplomat, and political player. He also had a shrewd and ironic sense of humour.

He maintained that every organization and individual can only exert influence on its environment in proportion to its inner discipline. The obvious example is the military; it is capable of deploying lethal force on its environment for the simple reason that it has recourse to lethal force in disciplining its members. At the opposite end of the spectrum he placed political parties (and he had a lifetime of experience to draw on), which he said were largely ineffective because they lacked inner discipline. If you apply the same criterion to sporting teams, bureaucracies, even individuals, I believe you'll find that it's true.

In the present case, corporate lobby groups are more effective because they possess a higher degree of inner discipline. It's true that their discipline may arise from base motives, including self-interest and greed, but the principle applies nevertheless. I'd guess that many existing lobby groups pursue laudable objectives for admirable reasons, but lack the inner cohesiveness and discipline needed to make them effective. An important step in forming an effective lobby group must therefore be to establish a basis and structure for its internal discipline.
Posted by Beelzebub, Wednesday, 13 October 2010 8:26:23 PM
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The original idea of representative government was of course that Parliament would be the all-encompassing citizens' lobby group.

Thatís because when it originated, the King was the legislature. Since then the real power has passed to Parliament, and then from Parliament to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and then to the leaders of the main political parties. So the centre of power keeps on shifting.

But thereís a more fundamental problem. Taking Galbraithís view, it still doesnít say why itís desirable to have the most disciplined groups having most leverage in dictating terms to everyone else. Why is that preferable to the people not being ordered around in the first place?
Posted by Peter Hume, Thursday, 14 October 2010 3:44:55 PM
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Thankyou Peter Hume for also knowing the real reason Westminster is structured the way it is;

Anyway Beelz, it's a yes and a no answer.

In short answer is citizen lobbyists can't offer donations, shares and executive positions post-retirement the same way a corporate lobbyist could, if they so felt like it.

Nor could a citizen's lobbyist convince a politician of a backlash for not doing things their way- removal of businesses (jobs), economic problems (affecting shares a politician may have invested in), or have hordes of cultists at their fingertips like the Brethren do to make life difficult.
I imagine most corporate lobbyists can, in fact warn of a financial crisis of policy goes the wrong way (true or otherwise).
Citizen lobbies can't threaten public action in the current climate because both parties have plenty of safe-seats, and only need to impress a few nutty wowsers to get into government.

On the other hand, organizations like GetUp instead potentially affect politician's conduct by instead lobbying to the voting public via ads- this has potential to get politician's to rethink how far they'd get away with some policies- although most people assume way too much that politicians believe staying in parliament is the be-all and end-all of their personal careers- which unfortunately, is VERY wrong, and the politicians are aware of it and often happy to risk it.

Nonetheless, public lobbying IS the right approach, because at the end of the day, no matter how limited a democracy is, it is still in the hands of the people; and to get people to engage the process (and do something more than decide whether the Liberals, Labor or possibly the Greens are worse), is the ultimate way to expect change in this country.
Posted by King Hazza, Friday, 15 October 2010 9:04:58 AM
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Beelz, ditto on what Hazza proffered.

The only "private" lobby group that comes to mind in a modern democracy, discounting the private vested interest groups previously mentioned is the Mafia from the 1920's to the early 1960's in America. These guys could primarily deliver a voting bloc, but they donated cash to politicians through legitimate businesses they controlled as well.
Posted by sonofgloin, Friday, 15 October 2010 1:20:27 PM
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