Like all the industrialized countries, the population of the United States is ageing significantly, with elderly people accounting for an increasing number and proportion of the total.
In contrast to continental Europe, where the state is meant to embody the common good and where in practice it has developed a major role as protector of the elderly and infirm, in the United States the common good is supposed to emerge from the free interplay of pressure groups which may hold more or less conflicting views and be more or less powerful. Consequently American pensioners defend their cause above all via lobby groups, the best known being the AARP.
In this article, Jean-Philippe Viriot-Durandal first discusses the special role of these lobby groups in the American democratic process, and then looks at how they have helped to shape the policies on old age in the United States. He describes the main pressure groups and shows how they operate with regard to both Congress and the executive branch.
However, the lobbies are not satisfied merely with defending a given cause. Still taking as his example the pressure groups for the elderly, the author shows how American policies are ultimately the result of compromises and short-term coalitions achieved after bitter negotiations.