Form of government and lobbies in UK and UE. A comparative perspective.
Il presente contributo – che riprende ed amplia una relazione tenuta ad un convegno internazionale – analizza il rapporto tra forma di governo e lobbies nell’ordinamento della Gran Bretagna ed in quello composito dell’Unione Europea. L’analisi evidenzia come vi sia una stretta connessione tra la forma di governo di questi ordinamenti e il modello regolatorio del rapporto tra decisori pubblici e portatori di interessi. In tal senso sono stati individuati due modelli contrapposti: quello della regolazione-trasparenza (basato su un insieme di norme finalizzate a rendere trasparente il processo decisionale), e quello della regolazione-partecipazione (basato su norme finalizzate non solo a rendere trasparente il processo decisionale ma anche ad assicurare la partecipazione delle lobbies al processo decisionale). In questo contesto, emerge il sistema italiano caratterizzato da una normativa frastagliata e, per così dire, “strisciante”, con un “andamento schizofrenico”.
1. Lobbies, Pressure Groups and Parliaments
“Interest Group”, “Lobbying”, “Pressure Group”, in the common use, we often hear these keywords used as synonyms or interchangeably. But distinctions are important, particularly in this case, and not just under a terminological point of view, but even from a conceptual one. Moving from this clarification is important for any kind of reflection on lobbying, especially under the constitutional lens adopted for the present paper.
“Interest Group” is a group of people who share the same aim and pursues certain claims towards other groups. In this case, the substantive “interest” assumes a clear connotation just when it is blended with an adjective: “private”, “public”, “social”, “religious”, “local” etc. Therefore it is the adjective who describes the nature and the range of the group (Mattina, 2010).
“Pressure Group” is an interest group that dialogues with public decision-makers in order to influence the legislative process and to obtain advantages or to prevent disadvantages (not just economical). There is thus a very relevant difference between the two Groups which consist on the object of their pressure activities.
The legal activity of persuasion to the public decision-maker can be defined “Lobbying”. It is an expression that has its root in the far past (see The Oxford Universal Dictionary, p. 1228) as low as the Latin times of “labia” (1553) indicating the space inside catholic monasteries, where priests used to meet and talk with each other. The word entered into the political vocabulary in 1600, referring the wide room at the entrance of the House of Commons. A place where MPs, journalists and lobbyists used to make conversation. It was in 1832 that “to lobby” became a verb, meaning the persuasion activity exercised by the lobby agents towards politics in Campidoglio, the meeting place of the United States Congress. During the Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, after the Civil war, “lobbying” has became a consolidate concept in the American political context. President himself used to meet people in a specific area of the Willard Hotel, enjoying a good cigar and drinking brandy.
But why and when the Western society needed lobbyists? It’s not an easy question, but we can affirm that it occurred during the development of Industrial democracies, and in particular through the transformation of the State – notably from Liberal to “Social State” – lobbies emerged. Within the “Mercantile State” (Shumpeter) where State directs and guides public policies and where the citizens needs became larger, lobbies has represented a sort of natural phenomenon. The general interest thus become the result of a negotiation process between different stakeholders, and it’s not any more considered “an expression of the general will” (Article 6 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man an the Citizen, 1789) under the ancient vision of Rousseau that culminated with the so called Law “Le Chapelier” (1791), that banned the intermediate bodies and any kind of other interpreters between Parliament and citizens.
This point of view, that can be described as a model of “Jacobin” Constitutionalism, is opposite to the “Anglo-Saxon” Constitutionalism one, where the general interest doesn’t pre-exist as a sort of abstract entity but it is instead the result of a consultation and negotiation process at the end of which the politician is responsible in front of citizens (accountability).
Lobbies are part of the democratic system such as political parties, operating in the space between citizens and public Institutions, relating with political actors, trade unions and local authorities. Due to the interaction among different groups, political decisions truly representative can be taken (Ekstein H., 1963, p. 191). So which are the differences between political parties and lobbies? First of all, let’s say that the latters follow their private interests, without assuming any responsibility in performing public faculties. Political parties are “open”, lobbies are not as private and “closed” association. A lobbyist doesn’t want to manage political power, rather to have preferential access to that power in order to exercise his influence. Instead a politician wants to be a legislator, a public decision-maker and the political elections are the only way to reach his goal, in fact “political parties, which can be seen as collection of interest groups, seek to direct the energies of groups and movements through the electoral process to win control of government in order to implement a broad–based political platform” (Thomas C. S., 2001, p. 7).
2. Form of Government and lobbies: a general introduction
Lobbies have a direct “influence” on the Form of government, because they play a role in the relationship between the bodies involved in addressing the political system, so “in order to understand pressure groups, one needs to look not just at the behavior of the groups but also at the behavior of government” (Grant W., 1989, p. 17). Studies on the regulation of pressure groups – at the same way of studies on political parties – constitute “an essential element of the bourgeois society” and they “certainly belong, as object of the scientific research, to the Constitutional law” (Mangiameli S., 1993, p. 140 author’s translation). In the light of these considerations, we can also operate some generalizations and distinctions related to the different Form of government involved.