The Governmental Process: Political Interests and Public Opinion

By David B. Truman | Go to book overview

11
The Dynamics of Access in the
Legislative Process

"EVERY opinion," Mr. Justice Holmes observed in one of his great dissents, "tends to become a law."1 In thus adumbrating his conception of the legislative process Holmes pointed to a distinctive feature of modern representative government. Especially in the United States, the legislature, far more than the judiciary or the executive, has been the primary means of effecting changes in the law of the land. In consequence, the legislature traditionally has been the major focus of attention for political interest groups. Though this interest in legislation has not been an exclusive preoccupation, the established importance of group activities in legislatures is reflected in a popular synonym for the political interest group, the word lobby. Though for tactical reasons many groups profess slight or no concern with lobbying, legislative activity has been for the layman the distinguishing feature of the political interest group.

It follows that access to the legislature is of crucial importance at one time or another to virtually all such groups. Some groups are far more successful in this pursuit than others. Moreover, access is not a homogeneous commodity. In some forms it provides little more than a chance to be heard; in others it practically assures favorable action. Some groups achieve highly effective access almost automatically, whereas it is denied to others in spite of their most vigorous efforts.

It will be appropriate, therefore, to begin an exploration of the

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1
Lochner v. New York, 198 U. S. 45 ( 1905).

-321-

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