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A Quiet Word

Lobbying, Crony Capitalism and Broken Politics in Britain

By Tamasin Cave and Andy Rowell
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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A Quiet Word by Tamasin Cave and Andy Rowell

A Quiet Word explains what lobbyism is, how it works and why it can be dangerous for democracy. The authors reveal the extent of lobbying today, detail different strategies used by lobbyists to influence governments, and offer a solution to help defend democracy.

Key idea 1 of 9

Contrary to what you might think, lobbyism isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Generally speaking, the word “lobbyism” refers to any attempts of citizens and groups of citizens to influence the political process – for example, meeting with a senator to convince her to fund your social project. But for most people, lobbyism has a negative connotation: first and foremost it is associated with big business, corruption and secretive scandals.

However, the issue is more complex.

Some say that because most of the time lobbyists represent commercial interests, lobbyists shouldn’t be heard by the government at all.

This suspicion follows from the fact that most lobbyists work for big companies like Nestlé or Google, and industries like the tobacco or the sugar industry. Seen in this way, lobbying seems to necessarily undermine good government, because most companies don’t care about the common good – the issues important to the society as a whole – they only care about profit. For example, tobacco industry lobbyists fight regulations that might prevent people from smoking, because this would reduce their profits.

However, at least in theory, lobbyism can actually help governments do a good job.

Despite its bad reputation, lobbyism can still bring about good governance by keeping politics and outside interests in touch. To make intelligent and informed decisions, politicians require insights from external actors such as businesses – and lobbyists can provide just those insights. For example, lobbyists can provide information about the current problems and threats companies face, and thus help the government adapt accordingly to support the economy. Furthermore, lobbyists are often experienced in legislation and politics themselves, which allows them to reduce the workload for politicians by helping them with tasks like drafting the paperwork for a new law.

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