11
THE PUBLIC INTEREST: THE PRESENT AND FUTURE OF THE CONCEPT1

DAVID BRAYBROOKE

"The public interest" is not the supreme goal of public policy and administration. Nor do all things that are morally required of government fall under its head: it is not a comprehensive consideration in public policy. It is not even--and it never has been--a goal of public policy; and though it is not--and never will be--obsolete as an occasional consideration, it cannot be counted on to indicate more than a range of possibly suitable policies, and its helpfulness is in fact currently in suspense. Yet there are many familiar cases in which it is a straightforward consideration with a stable meaning, and operates with impressive force and clarity.

____________________
1
I have tried out some of the ideas contained in this work on Professors Stuart Hampshire, H. L. A. Hart, and Charles W. Hendel; and I thank them for their reactions and comments. I owe a substantial debt, in my refusal to treat "the public interest" as a transcendent or all-embracing standard of policy, to Brian Barry, now of the University of Birmingham, and the line which he takes on this subject in his D.Phil. thesis "The Language of Political Argument." Barry has since supplied some helpful criticisms of this work as originally presented, which I have taken into account in revising it.

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