Iron Triangles

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  • Special interests or specific industries, legislative committees or subcommittees, and government agencies or bureaucracies sometimes form closed, self-governing, mutually beneficial relationships known as iron triangles. Industries, associations, or lobbying organizations provide financial and other support to politicians with the expectation of receiving friendly legislation and protection from adverse bureaucratic actions. In turn, politically powerful lawmakers on oversight committees cooperate with entrenched, midlevel bureaucrats to ensure that long-established administrative policies favorable to lobbies endure, even when they run counter to the general public's interests. Terms like triple alliance, subgovernment, and policy whirlpool have been used to describe this same concept, which became quite popular among political scientists in the 1970s and early 1980s.

    One of the most familiar examples of an iron triangle involves defense contractors and ...

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