6) Brussels versus the Beltway: Advocacy in the United States and the European Union, by Christine Mahoney
A somewhat technical but none the less interesting analysis of my world of work.
Every chapter has an interesting and sometimes provocative insight from her data. One that jumped out at me was that while American lobbyists don’t very often (but do sometimes) argue to lawmakers that their constituents will care about a particular issue, this argument is literally never used by EU lobbyists, at least the ones Mahoney talked to. The fact is that even MEPs are not really accountable to voters, but rather to their political party selectorates, which are only weakly responsive to MEPs’ actual legislative activities; and other EU officials have no direct accountability to the electorate at all. So it is not surprising but it’s interesting to see it brought out so strongly.
Another point is that insider networking tactics – lobbying visits, seminars, cocktail parties – are used much more frequently by Brussels lobbyists (as I can see daily in the cafes around my office) than by their DC counterparts. Mahoney speculates that this is because of the tighter regulation of US lobbyists’ activities; I’m more inclined to feel that the more weirdly participative nature of the EU policy process, and the superior quality of catering in Brussels restaurants, are germane factors here.
Another fascinating point was that there is a strong correlation between the propensity of lobbyists to mobilise mass public support on a particular issue, and their ultimate failure to achieve their goals, on both sides of the Atlantic. I suspect this is because once you have taken your issue outside the closed circles of the epistemic community, you have almost admitted in advance that you have lost.
This is of course a world that I work in myself, though I inhabit its wilder fringes – only a very few of Mahoney’s 49 policy issues have to do with external relations, and none of those is as specific as the stuff I work and have worked on. Still, it’s interesting to see it subjected to someone else’s searching analysis. My one complaint about the book is that it gives only the barest description of the actual policy-making process; if you don’t already have a degree of familiarity with both the EU and US structures, you won’t get much out of this.