Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Populist Poppycock

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Populist Poppycock

Article excerpt

Recent populist exhortations to rescue government from the special interests and give it back to the people have a fatal flaw, Jonathan Rauch, author of Demosclerosis (1994), observes in the New Republic (June 6, 1994).

In America today, the special interests and "the people" have become objectively indistinguishable. Groups are us. As a result, the populist impulse to blame special interests, big corporations, and political careerists for our problems--once a tonic--has become Americans' leading political narcotic. Worse, it actually abets the lobbying it so righteously denounces.

Begin with one of the best known yet most underappreciated facts of our time: Over the past three or four decades we have busily organized ourselves into interest groups--lobbies, loosely speaking--at an astonishing rate. Interest groups were still fairly sparse in America until about the time of World War II. Then they started proliferating, and in the 1960s the pace of organizing picked up dramatically. …

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