Public interest

Last updated

The public interest is "the welfare or well-being of the general public" and society. [1]

Contents

Overview

Economist Lok Sang Ho in his Public Policy and the Public Interest [2] argues that the public interest must be assessed impartially and, therefore, defines the public interest as the " ex ante welfare of the representative individual." [3] Under a thought experiment, by assuming that there is an equal chance for one to be anyone in society and, thus, could benefit or suffer from a change, the public interest is by definition enhanced whenever that change is preferred to the status quo ex ante. This approach is "ex ante", in the sense that the change is not evaluated after the fact but assessed before the fact without knowing whether one would actually benefit or suffer from it.

This approach follows the "veil of ignorance" approach, which was first proposed by John Harsanyi but popularized by John Rawls in his 1971 Theory of Justice. [4] Historically, however, the approach can be traced to John Stuart Mill, who, in his letter to George Grote, explained that "human happiness, even one's own, is in general more successfully pursued by acting on general rules, than by measuring the consequences of each act; and this is still more the case with the general happiness, since any other plan would not only leave everybody uncertain what to expect, but would involve perpetual quarrelling..." [5]

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales argues that applying a detailed definition is likely to result in unintended consequences, in Acting in the Public Interest(2012). Instead, each circumstance needs to be assessed based on criteria such as the relevant public, wants, and constraints. The key to assessing any public interest decision is transparency of the decision-making process, including balancing competing interests.

Law

Brandeis (center) in his office 1916. Brandeis office 1916.jpg
Brandeis (center) in his office 1916.

“Public interest law” is a term that became widely adopted in the United States during and after the social turmoil of the 1960s. It built upon a tradition exemplified by Louis Brandeis, who before becoming a U.S. Supreme Court justice incorporated advocacy for the interests of the general public into his legal practice. In a celebrated 1905 speech, Brandeis decried the legal profession, complaining that “able lawyers have to a large extent allowed themselves to become adjuncts of great corporations and have neglected their obligation to use their powers for the protection of the people.” [6] In the late 1960s and 1970s, large numbers of American law school graduates began to seek “relevance” in their work — wishing to have an effect on the social issues that were so visibly and hotly debated within American society at that time. They defined themselves as public interest lawyers in order to distinguish themselves from the “corporate adjuncts” referred to by Brandeis. [7]

Public interest law does not describe a body of law or a legal field; the term was adopted to describe whom the public interest lawyers were representing, rather than what matters they would work on. Instead of representing powerful economic interests, they chose to be advocates for otherwise underrepresented individuals. Consequently, a significant current in public interest lawyering has always emphasized the need to provide legal services to those living in poverty. The term has grown, however, to encompass a broader range of activities of lawyers and non-lawyers working toward a multitude of objectives, including civil rights, civil liberties, women's rights, consumer rights, environmental protection, and so on. Nevertheless, a common denominator for public interest lawyers in the United States and in a growing number of countries remains the ethic of “fighting for the little guy”—that is, representing the underrepresented and vulnerable segments of society. [8]

Government

Public interest has been considered as the core of "democratic theories of government” and often paired with two other concepts, "convenience" and "necessity". [9] Public interest, convenience and necessity appeared for the first time in the Transportation Act of 1920 and also appeared in the Radio Act of 1927. After that, these three concepts became critical criteria for making communication policies and solving some related disputes.

See also

Related Research Articles

Classical liberalism is a political ideology and a branch of liberalism which advocates civil liberties under the rule of law with an emphasis on economic freedom. Closely related to economic liberalism, it developed in the early 19th century, building on ideas from the previous century as a response to urbanisation and to the Industrial Revolution in Europe and North America.

Jurisprudence theoretical study of law, by philosophers and social scientists

Jurisprudence or legal theory is the theoretical study of law. Scholars of jurisprudence seek to explain the nature of law in its most general form and provide a deeper understanding of legal reasoning, legal systems, legal institutions, and the role of law in society.

Justice Concept of moral fairness and administration of the law

Justice, in its broadest context, includes both the attainment of that which is just and the philosophical discussion of that which is just. The concept of justice is based on numerous fields, and many differing viewpoints and perspectives including the concepts of moral correctness based on ethics, rationality, law, religion, equity and fairness. Often, the general discussion of justice is divided into the realm of social justice as found in philosophy, theology and religion, and, procedural justice as found in the study and application of the law.

Utilitarianism is a family of consequentialist ethical theories that promotes actions that maximize happiness and well-being for the affected individuals. Although different varieties of utilitarianism admit different characterizations, the basic idea behind all of them is to in some sense maximize utility, which is often defined in terms of well-being or related concepts. For instance, Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, described utility as "that property in any object, whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness...[or] to prevent the happening of mischief, pain, evil, or unhappiness to the party whose interest is considered." Utilitarianism is a version of consequentialism, which states that the consequences of any action are the only standard of right and wrong. Unlike other forms of consequentialism, such as egoism and altruism, utilitarianism considers the interests of all humans equally.

Social justice Concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society

Social justice is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society, as measured by the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity, and social privileges. In Western as well as in older Asian cultures, the concept of social justice has often referred to the process of ensuring that individuals fulfill their societal roles and receive what was their due from society. In the current global grassroots movements for social justice, the emphasis has been on the breaking of barriers for social mobility, the creation of safety nets and economic justice.

John Rawls American political philosopher

John Bordley Rawls was an American moral and political philosopher in the liberal tradition. Rawls received both the Schock Prize for Logic and Philosophy and the National Humanities Medal in 1999, the latter presented by President Bill Clinton, in recognition of how Rawls' work "helped a whole generation of learned Americans revive their faith in democracy itself."

Freedom of association encompasses both an individual's right to join or leave groups voluntarily, the right of the group to take collective action to pursue the interests of its members, and the right of an association to accept or decline membership based on certain criteria. Freedom of Association, The Essentials of Human Rights describes the right as coming together with other individuals to collectively express, promote, pursue and/or defend common interests. Freedom of Association is both an individual right and a collective right, guaranteed by all modern and democratic legal systems, including the United States Bill of Rights, article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and international law, including articles 20 and 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 22 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work by the International Labour Organization also ensures these rights.

Best interests or best interests of the child is a child rights principle, which derives from Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which says that “in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration”. Assessing the best interests of a child means to evaluate and balance “all the elements necessary to make a decision in a specific situation for a specific individual child or group of children”.

In philosophy, economics, and political science, the common good refers to either what is shared and beneficial for all or most members of a given community, or alternatively, what is achieved by citizenship, collective action, and active participation in the realm of politics and public service. The concept of the common good differs significantly among philosophical doctrines. Early conceptions of the common good were set out by Ancient Greek philosophers, including Aristotle and Plato. One understanding of the common good rooted in Aristotle's philosophy remains in common usage today, referring to what one contemporary scholar calls the "good proper to, and attainable only by, the community, yet individually shared by its members."

The tyranny of the majority is an inherent weakness to majority rule in which the majority of an electorate pursues exclusively its own interests at the expense of those in the minority. This results in oppression of minority groups comparable to that of a tyrant or despot, argued John Stuart Mill in his 1859 book On Liberty.

Legal aid is the provision of assistance to people who are unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system. Legal aid is regarded as central in providing access to justice by ensuring equality before the law, the right to counsel and the right to a fair trial. This article describes the development of legal aid and its principles, primarily as known in Europe, the Commonwealth of Nations and the United States.

<i>On Liberty</i> Book by John Stuart Mill

On Liberty is a philosophical essay by the English philosopher John Stuart Mill. Published in 1859, it applies Mill's ethical system of utilitarianism to society and state. Mill suggests standards for the relationship between authority and liberty. He emphasizes the importance of individuality, which he considers prerequisite to the higher pleasures—the summum bonum of utilitarianism. Furthermore, Mill asserts that democratic ideals may result in the tyranny of the majority. Among the standards proposed are Mill's three basic liberties of individuals, his three legitimate objections to government intervention, and his two maxims regarding the relationship of the individual to society.

Liberty Ability of individuals to have agency

Broadly speaking, liberty is the ability to do as one pleases. In modern politics, liberty is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behaviour, or political views. In philosophy, liberty involves free will as contrasted with determinism. In theology, liberty is freedom from the effects of "sin, spiritual servitude, [or] worldly ties". Sometimes liberty is differentiated from freedom by using the word "freedom" primarily, if not exclusively, to mean the ability to do as one wills and what one has the power to do; and using the word "liberty" to mean the absence of arbitrary restraints, taking into account the rights of all involved. In this sense, the exercise of liberty is subject to capability and limited by the rights of others. Thus liberty entails the responsible use of freedom under the rule of law without depriving anyone else of their freedom. Freedom is more broad in that it represents a total lack of restraint or the unrestrained ability to fulfill one's desires. For example, a person can have the freedom to murder, but not have the liberty to murder, as the latter example deprives others of their right not to be harmed. Liberty can be taken away as a form of punishment. In many countries, people can be deprived of their liberty if they are convicted of criminal acts.

<i>The Subjection of Women</i> 1869 English essay by J. S. Mill, based on ideas he developed with his wife Harriet Taylor Mill; argues for equality between the sexes, largely on utilitarian grounds; attacks marriage laws and the idea that women are naturally worse at some things

The Subjection of Women is an essay by English philosopher, political economist and civil servant John Stuart Mill published in 1869, with ideas he developed jointly with his wife Harriet Taylor Mill. Mill submitted the finished manuscript of their collaborative work On Liberty (1859) soon after her untimely death in late 1858, and then continued work on The Subjection of Women until its completion in 1861. At the time of its publication, the essay's argument for equality between the sexes was an affront to European conventional norms regarding the status of men and women.

<i>The Law of Peoples</i> work by John Rawls

The Law of Peoples is American philosopher John Rawls' work on international relations. First published in 1993 as a short article, in 1999 it was expanded and joined with another essay, "The Idea of Public Reason Revisited" to form a full-length book. Rawls's basic distinction in international politics is that his preferred emphasis on a society of peoples is separate from the more conventional discussion of international politics as based upon relationships between states. It is an attempt to show "how the content of a Law of Peoples might be developed out of a liberal idea of justice similar to, but more general than, the idea I call justice as fairness".

Sociology of law sub-discipline of sociology or an interdisciplinary approach within legal studies

The sociology of law is often described as a sub-discipline of sociology or an interdisciplinary approach within legal studies. Some see sociology of law as belonging "necessarily" to the field of sociology, but others tend to consider it a field of research caught up between the disciplines of law and sociology. Still others regard it neither a subdiscipline of sociology nor a branch of legal studies but as a field of research on its own right within the broader social science tradition. Accordingly, it may be described without reference to mainstream sociology as "the systematic, theoretically grounded, empirical study of law as a set of social practices or as an aspect or field of social experience". It has been seen as treating law and justice as fundamental institutions of the basic structure of society mediating "between political and economic interests, between culture and the normative order of society, establishing and maintaining interdependence, and constituting themselves as sources of consensus, coercion and social control".

Covington & Burling LLP is an international law firm with offices in Beijing, Brussels, Frankfurt, Dubai, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Seoul, Shanghai, and Washington, DC. The firm advises multinational corporations on significant transactional, litigation, regulatory, and public policy matters.

Louis Brandeis American Supreme Court Justice

Louis Dembitz Brandeis was an American lawyer and associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Jewish immigrant parents from Bohemia, who raised him in a secular home. He attended Harvard Law School, graduating at the age of 20 with what is widely rumored to be the highest grade average in the law school's history. Brandeis settled in Boston, where he founded a law firm and became a recognized lawyer through his work on progressive social causes.

A cause lawyer, also known as a public interest lawyer or social lawyer, is a lawyer dedicated to the usage of law for the promotion of social change to address a cause. Cause lawyering is commonly described as a practice of "lawyering for the good" or using law to empower members of the weaker layers of society. It may or may not be performed pro bono. Cause lawyering is frequently practiced by individual lawyers or lawyers employed by associations that aim to supply a public service to complement state-provided legal aid.

Public interest law loosely, refers to legal practices undertaken to help poor or marginalized people, or to effect change in social policies in the public interest, on 'not for profit' terms. In general terms it means a legal action initiated in the court of law for the protection of Public Interest.

References

  1. "Public interest", Random House Dictionary .
  2. Routledge, 2012 (first published in 2011).
  3. "Public Policy and the Public Interest: 1st Edition (Hardback) - Routledge". Routledge.com. Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  4. Rawls, John (1971) A Theory of Justice, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  5. Francis E. Mineka and Dwight N. Lindley (ed.), The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XIV - The Later Letters of John Stuart Mill 1849-1873 Part I, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972, Vol. XV, p. 762, 1862.
  6. Edwin Rekosh, et al.,ed. "Pursuing the Public Interest, A Handbook for Legal Professionals and Activists" (http://www.pilnet.org/component/docman/doc_download/35-pursuing-the-public-interest-a-handbook-for-legal.html); Scott L. Cummings, The Politics of Pro Bono, 52 UCLA L. Rev. 1, 13-14(2004)
  7. Rekosh, supra; See also Joel F. Handler, Ellen Jane Hollingsworth & Howard S. Erlanger, Lawyers and the Pursuit of Legal Rights 24-39 (1978); Note, The New Public Interest lawyers, 79 Yale L.J. 1069, 1069-70 (1970)
  8. Scott L. Cummings & Ingrid V. Eagly, After Public Interest Law, NWU L. Rev. 1251, 1251-1259, 2075-2077(2006)
  9. Napoli, Philip M. (2001). Foundations of Communications Policy. Principles and Process in the Regulation of Electronic Media. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press