Iron triangles in US government

Iron triangles in US politics are reasonably simple to understand but difficult to gain specific and detailed examples for. The ruling by the US Department of Commerce is a helpful nod in this direction, and definitely an example of the role of interest groups if nothing else (Unit 3 – interest groups, Unit 4 – Congress)

The US Department of Commerce this week ruled that Bombardier, an aerospace company, must pay face huge tariffs on their products when sold to the USA as they benefitted unfairly from subsidies by the UK and Canadian governments which their rival Boeing had claimed were unfair.

To begin with, the fact that the the Department of Commerce is ruling on dispute between a US and a non-US company could be seen to demonstrate the influence of Boeing. However, Boeing has also been accused of taking ‘padded contracts’ from the US government – these are contracts which are essentially artificially inflated and therefore could arguably amount to subsidies. Equally, at least in the early 2000’s Boeing had members of it’s company on advisory panels to the Department of Commerce. These inter-twined relationships are where it is possible for students to start identifying the power that interest groups in the USA can have, and how iron triangles can form.

The ‘third’ corner of the triangle is a relationship with Congress, and Boeing certainly gives evidence to Congress (example here) and indeed staffers from Congress have gone on to work for Boeing, effectively giving them an insight, and potentially relationships, within Congress (example here).

This is a short and fairly simple example, but in a topic where examples can be hard to come by, this is a rather useful one.

Click here for the BBC article