[discuss] The emergence of public interest (was Re: [bestbits] Putting the Public’s Interest Back Into the “Public Interest”)

Andrew Sullivan ajs at anvilwalrusden.com
Thu Apr 3 00:11:37 UTC 2014

On Wed, Apr 02, 2014 at 04:11:02PM -0700, michael gurstein wrote:

> sure how it fits with the “MS model” where the position of many is
> that if there is a “public interest” at all, it emerges like King
> Arthur’s sword, mystically out of the concatenation of individual
> private stakeholder interests.

Not only do I think that's an unfair characterization of what at least
one of us has said on this list, but I think it betrays a fairly
careless reading of the post at http://infojustice.org/archives/32460.

First, one of the central complaints of that post appears to be that
"the public interest", whatever it is, is not obviously being
represented in the Trans Pacific Partnership and similar talks.  Why
is this?  Why, it's because the United States Trade Representative
(and other similar representatives from other countries) are the only
people who are involved in the actual negotiation.  Whatever a
multi-stakeholder model is, it does not contain the critical problem
that only governments are allowed in the room.  Therefore, this blog
post is actually a demonstration of what several of us have been
saying: a multi-stakeholder approach can address the problem of
exclusion of various points of view.

Second, the very blog post contains the very point that several of us
have been making: "In sum, perhaps ITACs need to be a little more
messy and 'cross-cutting' so as to serve the public’s interest in
informed and rigorous policy debate and discussion inside those
organizations that are charged with representing the US."  That's
just what anything that we can reasonably call
"multi-stakeholder" is like.  

The point that I made earlier was that "the public interest" isn't
some mystical thing, but it isn't separate from all the various
participants, either.  "A public" is not a discrete thing.  This is
hardly a new insight: I think you can find this sort of observation in
ancient Greek philosophizing on the _demos_ and the _hoi polloi_.  I
don't understand why it's the least bit controversial.

Best regards,


Andrew Sullivan
ajs at anvilwalrusden.com

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