The influence of presidential and parliamentary government on interest groups’ behavior

The National Farmers' Associtaion (GB) and the American Farm Bureau Federation (USA)

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2016

35 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1. Introduction

2. Definitional delineation of terms within a pluralistic network

3. Structure of presidential and parliamentary government systems
3.1. Similarities of the pluralistic understanding of democracy
3.2. Historical and systematical differentiation

4. Country analysis with consideration of different stages of political participation on decision maker
4.1. Great Britain
4.1.1. Prime Minister and cabinet
4.1.2. Parliament
4.1.3. Civil Service
4.1.4. Regional characteristics
4.1.5. Electoral system
4.1.6. Summary
4.2. United States of America
4.2.1. President and cabinet
4.2.2. Parliament and presidential influence sphere
4.2.3. Courts
4.2.4. Independent Agencies
4.2.5. Electoral system
4.2.6. Summary

5. Interest groups in the agricultural sector
5.1. National Farmers‘ Union
5.1.1. Organization and competition
5.1.2. Program and strategy
5.2. American Farm Bureau Federation
5.2.1. Organization and competition
5.2.2. Program and strategy

6. Résumé

List of references

1. Introduction

Thanks to information, aggregation and interdependent politics, interest groups understand that in order to make themselves useful in manifold arrangements, with respect to politicians, parties and governments, they must provide information, expertise, donations, and develop political compromises with their members, to guarantee votes (Dettling 1976: 9).

Two excellent examples are the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) in Great Britain and the American Farm Bureau Federation (FB) in the United States. Both of these organizations participate in the political environment, with a focus on rural business and living conditions. Both associations represent their clients and influence politics in different contexts, which leads to the purpose of this essay. The overall aim is to build up a fundamental understanding of how different government systems are conceptualized, how interest groups operate at their access points abstractly from the inside, and to diagnose what actions the two interest groups already have in place which helps lead to their success. One should not just compare political institutions, but also assess the various roles and strategies of associations within presidential and parliamentary systems. In this course, different types of action, namely grassroots lobbying, buttonholing and general information exchange, are presented (Erne 2014: 237).

Accordingly, this paper begins by explaining the differences in necessary terms, followed by a differentiation method to distinguish parliamentary from presidential systems in a theoretical context. Then, Great Britain and the United States of America are analyzed with consideration to their specific interest groups in regards to their different stages of political participation. This represents the focus of this study paper. After that, two interest representation associations, namely NFU and FB are described with a special focus on their organization, competition, strategy and program. It is finished by a résumé.

As there is ongoing scientific research in regards to this topic, governments tend to develop anomalies over time in regards to their original governmental structure; this paper cannot guarantee topicality and completeness, however it will accurately analyze and connect specific practices with theory based on the predetermined limited scale of the essay.

2. Definitional delineation of terms within a pluralistic network

In the context of freedom assuring pluralism, there are five decisive, influential and policy-forming levels in closest interdependence (Steffani 1979: 33).

This political community is a complexly linked network of multiple interests. These interest groups may be entirely different in how they are oriented, structured and organized (or not organized). Based on their specific characteristics, one can differ the state parties which comprise the government and parliament. It’s the different parties, in which the last instance decrees over the instruments of power and authorization. In the contrary parties, interest groups and the public opinion belong to the more autonomous social group. Public opinion should also be defined as every individual citizen votes based on his or her sovereign decision. It is rather the public attitude, which acts ultimately within one’s relevant liability as voters. The decision-making level of all other stakeholders recognizes all those interest groups that are involved in the policy-making process in any other way. The duration and the structure has no relevance. They can influence the political will, by its position and mode of action and decision-making process. Examples include, institutions such as industrial, commercial and craft chambers, churches, banks and local authorities, as well as hardly, or not organized groups, associations and other groups. (Steffani 1979: 30-32)

3. Structure of presidential and parliamentary government systems

3.1. Similarities of the pluralistic understanding of democracy

State and society do not stand opposite any longer, but rather form a fabric, which jointly influences the political system as the sector of the political public. This is especially relevant, in regards to interest groups and parties that have particular influence on the establishment of one’s objectives and the decision-making process. Through this action they become a part of the political system. This participation is based on the structural characteristics of a pluralistic democratic understanding. Citizens are constitutionally guaranteed to be protected as minorities. In this context, they are free to found multiplicity of parties and interest groups in a competitive party system. (Steffani 1979: 6).

There is no binding ideology, which comprises ideas and ideals. No restricted agency works against extremists and there is no centralized operational control market economy. Democracy and separation of powers are in no tension, but are an expression of a pluralistic democratic understanding.

3.2. Historical and systematical differentiation

With regards to the separation of powers, vertical and horizontal aspects might be considered. The former is about the division of powers and control relationships, often in concern with federal conflict issues. The horizontal refers to the institutional division of competences, control relationships and interdependencies between various decision-making bodies. There are two key concepts which can be differentiated which describe the relationship between government and parliament. On the one hand, there are parliamentary and on the other hand there are presidential democracies. Those terms are used to analyze and evaluate complex relationships and basic structures of institutional decision-making processes and their interdependences (Steffani 1979: 7).

Differentiation can either be made historically or systematically. The basic characteristics of the presidential system were developed in the United States, while the parliamentary counterpart, was developed in Great Britain. According to the historical differentiation, systems are characterized by the degree of similarity to the above-mentioned countries and their government systems. Much more useful, is the systematic differentiation, constructed on the basis of specific criteria. It needs to be sufficiently situated on reality, unambiguous and capable of differentiation. One criterion should be chosen as the primary characteristic, completed with supplemented characteristics (Steffani 1979: 38).

Hybrid structures, as for example, Klaus von Beyme described , have their relevance , but are with respect to the scope of this paper not further described (von Beyme 1970:40 ff.).

The powers within governmental systems have four primary functional areas. Planning, approval, management and execution. These are operated by parliament, government and administration. In the division of powers between parliament and government, two basic forms can be distinguished. Firstly, the profound separation or independence (incompatibility) of parliament and government in a presidential system, and secondly, the personnel and structural interdependence of the respective institutions (integration) in a parliamentary system. The most important aspect with view to the differentiation of government structure is whether the actual government can be overthrown. If it’s possible for the parliament to remove the government out of office, one deals with the parliamentary system. This dismissal is closely linked to the establishment of government over which the parliament does not necessarily need to command. Within this context it should be emphasized that the ultimate constitutional criterion is not the establishment, but the dismissal of the government, especially the head of government (Steffani 1979: 21-22,39-40).

In the following, the essential structural features of Great Britain and the United States of America are explained taking into account the different stages of political participation with view to the spheres of interest groups influence.

4. Country analysis with consideration of different stages of political participation on decision maker

The United States and Great Britain are both highly developed industrial nations. They are democratic, pluralistic and founded on the rule of law. Pluralism is emphasized as this guarantees the formation of political parties and interest groups. Oppositions are respected and both parties and interest groups are able to compete with each other to expand its influence. The above-mentioned countries have a mixed economic system with private, cooperative and state-owned power of disposal (Steffani 1979: 62).

The following aims to inquire how lobbying can be done most effectively. This can be described and compared vis-a-vis the branches of government’s access points: the executive, the state bureaucracy, the legislature and even the courts (Erne 2014:246).

Generally it can be differentiated: the direct action/influence on legislation and administration (lobby function) through buttonholing or as part of a policy community through targeted information exchange or indirect action/influence via an instrumentalized public opinion (Pressure function) through grassroots lobbying as the second possibility (Steffani 1979: 33).

4.1. Great Britain

In the unitary state Great Britain the parliamentary government system and the debating parliament build one operative structure.

In the course of the British constitutional history, more and more constitutional organs transformed from efficient- to the dignified part. “The dignified parts give the constitution its authority and encourage people to obey it. They involve the trappings of power […] and the mystique of ceremony that underpins the central government. […] The efficient part of the constitution […] carries out the working exercise of power behind the scenes” (Alder 2015: 16).

The system of Montesquieu served as a model for the development of his separation of powers. Doctrine has consequently been weakened, since the power separating of elements, has no longer been effective. For example, Monarchy, the House of Lords and partly the House of Commons were influenced by this development. To a specific extent, even the cabinet, with the exception of the Prime Minister was also affected. This so called Westminster Model causes an accumulation of power with view to central institutions, in a particular government (Hübner/Münch 2013:123).

This effect is emphasized as Great Britain is a unitary state. The government authority covers centrally the entire country, mainly from the capital city, which then correspondently leads to a higher emergence of interest group offices there (Steffani 1979: 48-49).

This lingering concentration of executive and legislative power, as well as national association’s primary location in London, has relativized recognizable since regional institution’s responsibility for not English areas like Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh on the one hand and financial considerations on the other. Although, even associations operating mainly in these regions cannot severe their ties with the national decision-making center in London (Grant 2004: 413 f.; Plöhn 2012: 277).

The British Supreme Court has neither executive nor legislative power, as it is not allowed to take cases as it wants but has to take specific categories of cases, in contrast to the American Supreme Court. It’s therefore no part of the legislative process and not relevant for any interest group in a worth-mentioning way.

4.1.1. Prime Minister and cabinet

Under normal conditions, the Prime Minister is head of the UK government and party-leader. He is in certain areas superior to his/her American counterpart. He determines the composition of his cabinet, as the Prime Minister also represents the majority in this more or less two party system, dismisses ministers, determines the guidelines of policy, as well as the date of the dissolution of parliament and new elections (Crick 1964: 37-43; Steffani 1979: 78,80,81).

Also after the first coalition cabinet in May 2010, the Prime Minster has not lost fundamental power (Leach/Coxall/Robins 2011: 201-203). The ministers in the Prime Minister’s congressional faction are not just politically, but also through awarding posts, which are connected to a specific income, dependent/depending on the head of government (Sturm 2009: 115).

The cabinet is the country’s top executive committee. However, status within the cabinet is not equal and most Cabinets divide into a small circle of ministers who may expect to be frequently consulted by the Prime Minister. There are 21 cabinet members some 100 junior ministers of the Government who are not members of the Cabinet, including Ministers of State and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State; and unpaid Parliamentary Private Secretaries, who are equally may be invited to all Cabinet meetings as a matter of course. There are some ‘plum’ jobs like Chancellor of the Exchequer or Foreign Secretary. Other posts may become particularly important because of external circumstances or special government priorities. The junior ministers, working in cabinet committees either take decisions themselves or more often prepare matters for higher level decision. They cooperate with civil servants to underpin ministerial committees and prepare papers for the ministries’ consideration (Leach/Coxall/Robins 2011: 197-198; Burch/Holliday 1996: 44).

Individuals belonging to that group are excellent access points for groups with special interests. They act as the central coordinator of the preparation of the legislative process.[1]

4.1.2. Parliament

The British Parliament consists of two chambers: The House of Lords (Upper-House) with 803 members and the House of Commons (Lower-House) with 650 parliamentarians.

Great Britain has a two-party system, which has been challenged by the electoral success of third and regional parties in recent times; however not profoundly (Steffani 1979: 78).

As part of the legislature the upper house can legislate and check law. Nevertheless, their competences are very restrictive. The Lords cannot block the state budget or laws that already have been through the second reading (Salisbury Convention). Repeated use of the veto by the Lords can be prevented through the House of Commons with the Parliament Act. Due to this, the focus is on the Lower-House. Members of the Lower House need to be supported by the necessary parliamentary majorities to be able to take any action. As closer a government is connected to their supporting parliamentary majority, as more capable they will be to take any action. This connection is the most important function of the parties in Parliament, therefore productive work is only possible with party discipline (Steffani 1979: 51).

Interest groups are aware of this condition. Party members are often advocates for particular groups. This can be attributed to the development of corporate contacts since the mid- 20th century (Jordan/Richardson 1987: 251 f.).

Excluded from their general party program, individual party members are able to influence and direct party movements which can result in specific modified legislature. This is potentially either in favor or against a special group’s interest.

In this context, the purpose of the parliamentary opposition should be mentioned. Its goal is to pressure the government to justify its action publicly within the debating parliament. This function should not be underestimated and has a profound significance in Great Britain (Steffani 1979: 83).

Historically, members of the House of Commons were mainly locally oriented. They had strong ties with powerful interest groups within the constituencies.

One did not have to support the party leader consistently. Since 1886 conditions have changed dramatically. Since then, official protest is allowed with view to elections party discipline is strongly expected. Within this frame a national focus of politics has been developed, rather taking into account diverse national group interests than local special interests.

As a result of that, elections are not decided on prevalent special interests in the constituencies but accordingly to national party interest, as long as one deals with the English part of Great Britain. This condition represents an parliament’s group unity (Steffani 1979: 79-80).

Therefore, the essential overall message is that interest groups are rather working on a national level in the committees and ministries than working locally with view to the public opinion. This is a fundamental difference in strategically behavior in respect to their American counterparts.

After handing in a draft, a proposal and a debate in the House of Commons, the legislative process moves to the committees. Since November 2006, General Committees are responsible. These have significantly more rights than the previous Standing Committees. It’s important to know that civil servants as as experts are invited to these as they provide necessary information (Hartmann 2011: 65).

These and further committees as well as the royal commission are essential access points for interest groups to participate and influence the legislative process. Quite frequently, only interest groups do have the necessary information as they receive them directly from their members. This creates an interdependence between interest groups and legislative process institution (Hennessy 1990: 574-578; Baggot 1995: 88 f.; Plöhn 2012: 298).

Apart of that, the House of Commons is a debating parliament, which means that its most important function is to publically debate in a plenum. It is the forum of public opinion, the official stage of all large political discussions. There are manifold contributions to the debate, proposals and questions to government members as well as agenda setting (Hartmann 2011: 64).

Provisions of office space and secretaries are another instrument of an interest group’s tool kit to influence members of parliament (Plöhn 2012: 300).

All these actions combined develop worthwhile connections to opinion-forming deputies.

4.1.3. Civil Service

The term "Her Majesty's Home Civil Service" represents the ministerial administration in Great Britain. It's the permanent bureaucracy or secretariat of Crown employees that supports Her Majesty's Government. Through its networking and control of important information, they succeed in participating within the legislative process. They design drafts and implement policy (Sturm 2009: 134, 135, 137, 143).

The bureaucrats on the national level give suggestions to the cabinet. They suggest about what the ministers think about. And the ministers vote upon the suggestions that come out of the ministries and then the cabinet votes on the bill, and the bill is given to the House of Commons.

Despite the devolution policy of Margreth Thatcher and Tony Blair concerning the influence of the Civil Service, the organizational unity has remained similar (Sturm 2009: 146).

Even today, it can be observed that bureaucrats are tenaciously more involved in the design of policy than years ago (Sturm 2009: 146).

4.1.4. Regional characteristics

The shift of state competences to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to regional institutions has changed the interest groups’ access points within government systems.

Parliament in Scotland has autonomous legislative powers and meanwhile an independent decision-making system, ranging from agricultural policy to transport policy (Wood 2006: 209).

Northern Ireland has therefore decision-making autonomy in various fields. Its parliament and government structure which has similarities to the Swiss system has relevance for regional lobby activities. However, it has only a population of only 2.9 % which appears for most sector interests unimportant. Only the regional interests of the agricultural sector has national relevance (Collins 1995: 664 ff.).

The political union between England and Wales remained substantially the same.


[1] This political condition finds more remarks in the section ‘Civil Servants’.

Excerpt out of 35 pages


The influence of presidential and parliamentary government on interest groups’ behavior
The National Farmers' Associtaion (GB) and the American Farm Bureau Federation (USA)
EBC University Düsseldorf
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Comparative Government, Staatssysteme, Demokratie, Interessen, Interessenvertretung, UK, USA
Quote paper
Dennis Maurer (Author), 2016, The influence of presidential and parliamentary government on interest groups’ behavior, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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