[discuss] Transparency and Accountability vis-à-vis ICANN and the IANA functions

Milton L Mueller mueller at syr.edu
Mon Apr 7 19:07:33 UTC 2014

> -----Original Message-----
> On 04/03/2014 10:55 PM, michael gurstein wrote:
> > As I see it there are two possible and mutually exclusive goals that
> > these processes might be pursuing:
> >
> > 1.       The "public interest" i.e. ensuring that the operation of these
> > processes maximize benefits for the broadest range of those concerned
> > with the Internet i.e. (in the current context) "everybody"/in
> > Parminder's phrase, the public
> >
> > 2.       The reconciliation of the interaction of a range of "private" (I.e.
> > sectional or "stakeholder") interests
> You seem to me to be making an error here.
> You are attempting to establish #1 via #2 (i.e. discussion on this list), yet you
> have claimed these are mutually exclusive.
> For me, that makes your claim that #1 is qualitatively better as a goal pretty
> unconvincing.

This is a very profound point, and something that naïve democrats routinely fail to grasp.
How would we ever know what is the 'public interest?' in a pure, town-hall style democracy, there would be collective deliberation, yes, and perhaps a vote - but certainly every participant in that debate would argue and think and act in ways that were grounded in their own private interest. I don't care how much they proclaim otherwise, everyone's perspective and understanding of issues is filtered through their own situation. The whole point of open, democratic and deliberative political decision making is not that it suddenly makes all individual humans into angels who miraculously know and consider only the broader collective interest; it is that it manages to aggregate and meld a bunch of private interests into a distributional bargain that serves a broader group interest. 

When Gurstein says that public interest can never emerge from open debate, discussion, bargaining etc among private interests, I just wonder how the heck he thinks he knows what the public interest is? What, exactly, gives him privileged access to knowledge of which policiies, in a complex world full of unintended consequences, will do the most good? There is a certain strain of (highly elitist) political thought which, in the end, amounts to little more than a claim that a group of privileged mandarins know what is better for all of us and have the right to impose it on us. And I'm afraid that that's exactly where certain people would like to lead us. 

There actually is no such thing as a public interest that is in no one's private interest.  

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