What if our political system is rigged to favor what interests groups and rich people want? That's usually the kind of thing that one reads from left-wing conspiracy theorists. Unfortunately, it's also the conclusion of two mainstream political scientists who studied two decades worth of proposed policy changes at the federal level. Their paper is alarming reading.
You can read my summary of the study in US News & World Report here.
And a copy of the paper by Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern can be found here.
To what extent does the current political system favor privileged interests? Here is what the authors of the study have to say:
“In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”
The focus has to shift from special interests telling us that what they do is in the public interest to an independent, unbiased cost-benefit of what really is in the public interest. As usual, special interests cannot be allowed to define what the public interest is, or just like they do now, they will say the public interest is whatever they need it to be to serve their interests.