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Public Choice and the Challenges of Democracy

Edited by José Casas Pardo and Pedro Schwartz

This timely and important volume addresses the serious challenges faced by democracy in contemporary society. With contributions from some of the world’s most prestigious scholars of public choice and political science, this comprehensive collection presents a complete overview of the threats democracy must confront, by both contesting accepted ideas and offering new approaches. Using theoretical and empirical evidence, this book will be a significant addition to the current literature, providing original and enlightening perspectives on the theory of democracy.
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Chapter 7: Diffuse and Popular Interests versus Concentrated Interests: The Fate of Environmental Policies in Divided Government

Giorgio Brosio


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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