How special interests are impacting public policymaking.

In many countries, business groups and special interests have greater access to decision-makers than average citizens. They lobby in favor of their interests, they use their resources to promote messages, and they even hire people who work specifically on influencing decision-makers.

There are a variety of reasons why this happens, including the unrestricted lobbying laws that exist in many countries.

The ubiquity of lobbying

Lobbying is ubiquitous in many countries. In 2017, nearly 75% of the world’s population was living in a country where lobbying is common, with slightly fewer people in nearly 25% of countries experiencing some lobbying. Most of the world’s countries are affected by lobbying; only a handful of countries have no experience with lobbying.

When people hear the word “lobby,” they often think of the United States. Lobbying is ubiquitous across the globe. In most countries, corporations, NGOs, interest groups and other organizations spend significant time and resources lobbying government officials.

What’s more, there is a growing body of evidence that businesses and other interests increasingly use these efforts to shape public policy rather than simply seeking direct policy changes.

Why do countries restrict lobbying?

In some countries, lobbying laws are stricter than in others. This can happen for a variety of reasons. One reason is that different stakeholders have different lobbying priorities. For example, in some countries, business groups have greater lobbying priorities than average citizens.

In other countries, the lobbying priorities of civil society are of greater importance. Another reason why some countries have stricter lobbying laws is that lobbying is seen as a threat to democracy and the rule of law.

Some countries restrict lobbying because they are grappling with a variety of governance challenges, including high levels of corruption, that make it difficult for government officials to make impartial decisions.

How to understand and evaluate the effects of lobbying

The first step in assessing the effects of lobbying is to understand it. In many countries, lobbying is common, but it is not well understood. This can lead to misguided policymaking and misguided public perceptions of issues.

Lobbying is often treated as a one-way street in which the goals of the interests are imposed on the policymaking process, rather than as a two-way street between those interests and government officials.

This is especially true of communications efforts. Interest groups often have their ideas about what issues are important, and they try to get their messages heard by policymakers. Another issue that needs to be addressed is how to best evaluate the effects of lobbying.

Lobbying is often used as a proxy for influence. But that is a poor proxy. People who lobby are not necessarily seeking to influence policy. If they are primarily seeking to influence public opinion, then that is very different from seeking to change government policy.

How to track the effects of lobbying

As with any public policy, it is important to track the effects of any lobbying. This can be done through a variety of means, including surveying stakeholders, surveying the public and tracking the impact of proposed policies on key indicators of public well-being.

One approach to tracking the effects of lobbying is to compare the economic outcomes for different groups. People, for example, will often have different outcomes from lobbying than will businesses or other organizations that lobby. Businesses, for example, are often lobbying for changes to laws that will increase their profits. People, on the other hand, are generally lobbying for changes that will improve their economic conditions.