Government » American Interest Groups and Lobbying » Collective Action and Interest Group Formation

Collective Action and Interest Group Formation

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain the concept of collective action and its effect on interest group formation
  • Describe free riding and the reasons it occurs
  • Discuss ways to overcome collective action problems

In any group project in which you have participated, you may have noticed that a small number of students did the bulk of the work while others did very little. Yet everyone received the same grade. Why do some do all the work, while others do little or none? How is it possible to get people to work when there is a disincentive to do so? This situation is an example of a collective action problem, and it exists in government as well as in public and private organizations. Whether it is Congress trying to pass a budget or an interest group trying to motivate members to contact lawmakers, organizations must overcome collective action problems to be productive. This is especially true of interest groups, whose formation and survival depend on members doing the necessary work to keep the group funded and operating.

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