Public Interest

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A Public Interest is an interest that can be attributed some community.



  • (Wikipedia, 2014) ⇒ Retrieved:2014-9-28.
    • Public interest, according to the Random House Dictionary, is "1. the welfare or well-being of the general public; commonwealth. 2. appeal or relevance to the general populace: a news story of public interest." [1] Economist Lok Sang Ho in his Public Policy and the Public Interest (Routledge, 2012, published 2011) argues that the public interest must be assessed impartially and, therefore, defines the public interest as the "ex ante welfare of the representative individual." [2] 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. [3] 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..." [4]

      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.

  2. Ho, Lok Sang, Public Policy and the Public Interest, Routledge, 2011
  3. Rawls, John (1971) A Theory of Justice, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  4. 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.


    • The public interest refers to the "common well-being" or "general welfare". The public interest is central to policy debates, politics, democracy and the nature of government itself. While nearly everyone claims that aiding the common well-being or general welfare is positive, there is little, if any, consensus on what exactly constitutes the public interest, or whether the concept itself is a coherent one.