Benefits and Incentives

Benefits and Incentives

1. Free rider problem

A general theory is that individuals must be enticed with some type of benefit to join an interest group. However, the free rider problem addresses the difficulty of obtaining members of a particular interest group when the benefits are already reaped without membership. For instance, an interest group dedicated to improving farming standards will fight for the general goal of improving farming for every farmer, even those who are not members of that particular interest group.

Thus, there is no real incentive to join an interest group and pay dues if the farmer will receive that benefit anyway. For another example, every individual in the world would benefit from a cleaner environment, but an environmental protection interest groups do not receive monetary help from every individual in the world. This poses a problem for interest groups, which require dues from their members and contributions in order to accomplish the groups’ agendas.

2. Selective benefits

Selective benefits are material, rather than monetary benefits conferred on group members. For instance, an interest group could give members travel discounts, free meals at certain restaurants, or free subscriptions to magazines, newspapers, or journals. Many trade and professional interest groups tend to give these types of benefits to their members.

3. Solidarity incentives

A solidary incentive is a reward for participation that is socially derived and created out of the act of association. A selective solidary benefit offered to members or prospective members of an interest group might involve such incentives as “socializing congeniality, the sense of group membership and identification, the status resulting from membership, fun, conviviality, the maintenance of social distinctions, and so on.

4. Expressive incentives

People who join an interest group because of expressive benefits likely joined to express an ideological or moral value that they believe in, such as free speech, civil rights, economic justice, or political equality. To obtain these types of benefits, members would simply pay dues, and donate their time or money to get a feeling of satisfaction from expressing a political value. Also, it would not matter if the interest group achieved their goal; these members would merely be able to say they helped out in the process of trying to obtain their goals, which is the expressive incentive that they got in the first place. The types of interest groups that rely on expressive benefits or incentives are environmental groups and groups who claim to be lobbying for the public interest.

5. Latent interests

Some public policy interests are not recognized or addressed by a group at all. These interests are labeled latent interests.

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