Fluctuating Fortunes: The Political Power of Business in America

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Press:Beard Books Beard Books (January 1, 1989)
Publication Date:1989-1-1
Author Name:David Vogel


The dynamics of business-government relations in the United States between 1960 and 1988.


Business & Money,Processes & Infrastructure,Government & Business,Economics,Economic Conditions,Education & Reference

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  •     Vogel argues that both the pluralist model, and the argument posed by Lindblom (corporations have an inordinate amount of power in democracies) are flawed. Vogel's major critique is that both approaches see the power of business as being stable. Rather, he argues that the power of business varies and these variations follow a distinct pattern over time.Vogel argues that changes in political and economic conditions affect the power of business in government. He writes, "One of the most crucial factors that has affected the relative political influence of business is the public's perception of the long-term strength of the American economy" (290). To illustrate this point, Vogel discovers an ironic relationship between economic performance and the strength of business power. As economic success increases, the power of big business weakens. Additionally, the inverse is also true. This relationship can be explained in that when the public sees economic prosperity and growth, they assume that big business and corporations should be required to contribute some of their acquired wealth to social programs and other aspects of the public good. As such, the masses expect government to remove some of the power of corporations. On the other hand, when an economic downturn emerges the masses expect the government to encourage business productivity through tax relief, tariffs, and other incentives (9). Due to this relationship, Vogel argues that we often see a shift in the political pendulum from a position of staunch business support, to one in which the power of corporations are curtailed.In addition to the impact of economic and political changes, the power of business is influenced by the "changing structure of American politics" (10). For example, Vogel cites the rise in political activism on the part of interest groups corresponding with the decentralization in Congress and the weakening of political parties. These changes, especially the rise of consumer and environmental groups who were lobbying representatives of Congress weakened the position of corporations. As a response, big business adopted the strategies of the smaller interest groups, and ultimately developing the idea of Political Action Committees to make a more lasting impact on Congress.

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