Lobbying is a practice that we all do every day in some way. It is the action of seeking to influence someone or something on a specific issue. If you’re trying to negotiate a discount at a store where you always shop, then you’re lobbying the employee at the store to help you save some money.
When we talk about lobbying from a general standpoint, however, it usually involves the practice of political lobbying. Political lobbyists work to create beneficial legislation for those they represent.
In 2013, official spending on lobbying activities in the United States totaled $3.2 billion. Trade associations, public relations firms, and policy advocates are all examples of lobbyists who are involved in this process.
Here are some of the pros and cons of lobbying to think about and discuss.
List of the Pros of Lobbying
1. It is a way to control the power of the majority.
When there is a clear majority in a governing position, they can pass whatever legal legislation they wish. There does not have to be any thought as to how that legislation affects others. It only needs to reinforce their position of being in charge. The act of lobbying helps to reduce this effect by providing stories of those who would be affected by certain changes. Specific groups can advocate for themselves, creating more fairness within the governing process.
2. It is performed in a manner that is consistent by all groups.
There will always be lobbyists who use unethical or illegal methods to gain influence over politicians. For everyone else, there is a defined system which creates consistency for all parties. In general terms, the harder you work to advocate for your position, the more likely you are to generate results that are beneficial to your cause. You still have the option to voice your own opinion. You just get to offer suggestions at the same time.
3. It builds relationships with elected officials.
Many elected officials go into government to represent the best wishes of their district. Most will also use their personal conscience to direct how they vote on certain pieces of legislation. Lobbying efforts work to establish relationships with these officials to create consistency in idealism. When politicians feel like their communities are in-sync with their beliefs, it becomes easier to vote on items that benefit local groups.
4. It gives the average person a stronger voice in government.
Lobbying is the process of bringing together like-minded people together to create momentum toward a specific cause. Anyone can contact their elected official to offer their position on any subject. It is easy for a politician to ignore the voice of one person. Through lobbying, one person still offers a voice to the politician to hear. Instead of representing only themselves, however, the lobbyist may represent tens of thousands of people.
5. It is a way to offer solutions.
Elected officials are not always aware of the needs of certain groups within their community. Lobbyists make it possible to shed light on problematic situations. They can also offer solutions which can make an immediate, positive impact for those affected. That makes it easier for legislation to be crafted because the elected officials can rely on the research of the lobbyist instead of their own research to find a way forward.
6. It allows people to become politically active.
Numerous organizations work on lobbying each year. They need help to reach out to elected officials about the causes which are important to them. These organizations provide a way for everyone who is interested in lobbying to become politically active. Some employers invite workers to become politically active in this way as well and advocate for more lobbying work, even during scheduled work hours.
7. It generates revenues which help others.
Lobbying does more than gain the attention of a specific politician. It also gains the attention of the rest of a society when it is done right. Many forms of lobbying, from protests to petitions to marches, create public attention for the cause in question. These activities help to raise money for that cause and spread awareness to others. This process allows more people to be politically active without paying a heavy financial burden to make that happen.
8. It allows anyone to be involved.
You do not need any special training to be a lobbyist. All it takes is a willingness to fight for the things you believe are right. Anyone can write letters to their politicians. You can send an email to one right now. You could pick up the telephone to call your representative about an issue that is important to you. Lobbying is a process which invites everyone to the table to have a conversation.
9. It can be started without any cost to the individual.
Many people get involved with lobbying through an investment of time. Financial burdens are not necessary to be an active lobbyist. As long as you have access to a computer or a telephone, you can immediately contact someone to begin the lobbying process. Without these items, you can still lobby elected officials with a letter and the cost of a stamp. When managed correctly, lobbying is a cost-effective way of reaching out to politicians to spek your mind.
List of the Cons of Lobbying
1. It is based on the needs of the minority.
The majority in government does not need lobbyists because they can self-advocate. If anything, the majority uses lobbyists to create publicity for a specific point of view. That means most lobbying efforts involve the needs of the minority instead. What could be useful to one minority group may not be useful to others. The NRA opposes restrictions on gun rights, for example, when a majority of the population supports such restrictions.
2. It is an effort to accomplish a specific goal.
Lobbying is about advocating for personal needs only. That means there is no thought given to other elements within a society. The goal is to have their opinion heard, then to have a solution implemented. Because other lobbyists are doing the same thing, it can be a process which generates a lot of noise and very few conversations.
3. It can only be effective for a specific group.
To be effective at lobbying, money is required. Groups that have deep resources at their disposal will generally be more successful at it than groups with limited resources. Although there are exceptions to every circumstance, many of the concerted lobbying efforts that take place in governments globally are designed to favor the wealthy or privileged classes. The poor and those in poverty are often left to their own devices to find the support they require.
4. It can be illegal.
Lobbying can be an effective method of encouraging new opinions and legislation. It may also be ineffective. To make the greatest possible impact, lobbyists may choose to bribe certain politicians to gain a specific result. They might threaten people to conform to the solutions being proposed. Corruption and fraud are possibilities found in the world of lobbying as well. That can make it difficult to separate the ethical lobbyists from the unethical ones at times.
5. It changes how the government operates.
With billions of dollars being spent on lobbying efforts in the United States each year, the government may focus more on the will of the lobbyists than the will of the people. When this situation occurs, it creates a state that is referred to as “hyper-pluralism.” Even if communities are highly critical of legislation being passed, if the lobbyists are for that legislation, the government may act on their behalf instead of looking out for the best interests of society.
6. It requires experience to offer a solution.
Just because anyone can get involved in a lobbying effort does not mean their voice will be heard. People tend to listen to lobbyists when there is personal experience behind the conversation. If someone is unable to prove that they have the credentials to discuss a specific topic or present a knowledgeable solution, then their opinion is often discounted for someone with more expertise. Even the appearance or perception of inexperience, even if not justified, can be enough to stop a lobbying effort before it gets started.
7. It may not work.
Even the best lobbyists get rejected from time to time. There is no guarantee that someone will listen to what you have to say. Some may pretend to listen, then go in a separate direction. Lobbying is a world that is filled uncertainty.
The pros and cons of lobbying show us that it can be a force for good when it is being ethically practiced. It can also create unexpected harm for certain groups in society when the government takes action for one lobbyist group, but not others. When there is a balance in governing, there is an opportunity to create a thriving society. That is the ultimate goal of the lobbyist.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.