New Thinking in Political Economy series
Edited by José Casas Pardo and Pedro Schwartz
Chapter 7: Diffuse and Popular Interests versus Concentrated Interests: The Fate of Environmental Policies in Divided Government
7. Diﬀuse and popular interests versus concentrated interests: the fate of environmental policies in divided government Giorgio Brosio 1 INTRODUCTION According to a popular view in the literature on pressure groups, popular and diﬀuse interests are destined, on frequent occasions, to succumb to concentrated interests. This should be even more likely in systems of divided government, such as presidential and/or bicameral systems. Divided government favours the prevalence of the status quo, since it compounds the diﬃculties of ﬁnding an agreement on new policy formulations, when the two chambers and/or diﬀerent branches have divergent views on the issues at stake. Environmental policies could represent in principle a case where concentrated interests prevail over diﬀuse interests. In fact, while environmental policies are surely a response to diﬀuse and popular interests, they impose huge costs on industrial ﬁrms to install technologies that reduce the emissions of pollutants. Firms are potentially capable of resisting successfully the introduction of environmental policies and legislation. The costs of organizing producers into an eﬀective lobbying group are quite small. Producer organizations already exist and can easily be employed on a new front. The same can be said of labour in the concerned ﬁrms. We are thus in the typical position where producers, and their allies, can outbid consumers and no, or only weak legislation, can be expected. The reality, however, is that a substantial amount of environmental legislation has been enacted in most countries, particularly in the industrialized ones with divided...
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