Whose interest do we represent?

When I was a kid my parents would take pains to let me know what was in my best interest. This was because they knew. Of course they knew, they were the experienced ones.

Thirty plus years on and I look at my two sons and I have little idea of what is in their best interest. If I don’t understand the motivation for hardstyle techno music that currently consumes my 14 year old, how can I know if it is in his best interest.

Sure I know more about what might harm my kids than they do and can advise, even police some activities. I can also tell them what I found or have seen to be bad for folk, but can I really know what is in their best interest?

I don’t think so because I am not them. I advise against the bad, caution where there is risk, but I can’t know what is best for them.

The other day I was in a meeting where a representative of a conservation NGO made a remark to the effect that “saving threatened species was in the public interest”.

Wow, I thought, quite a claim. My reflex was to react and mount a challenge. How could one group with, right or wrong, a minority view, claim the public interest was theirs? I calmed my instinct and just smiled.

But now I am curious. If I find it hard, or even illogical, to know the best interest of my sons how can I know the public interest?

Makes you think.

2 thoughts on “Whose interest do we represent?

  1. I think you are making a good point, Mark. A lot of people who claim to know what is in the public interest seem to adopt the old paternalistic line that father knows best. Even if they have special insights, they are just citizens who are trying to persuade others to accept their point of view.

  2. The best interest claim for conservation might be irksome, but at least it has some logic behind it. We know that the manipulation of the natural world to produce our food and fibre disrupts natural processes, reduces renewal times and risks degradation. Conservation (even preservation) of undisturbed nature is smart and obviously in everyone’s best interest as it helps to provide both a buffer against the impacts and a reservoir of organisms to keep renewal going.

    What is interesting is the best interest claim for other environmental challenges.

    Is a policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our best interest?

    Or is a failure of planning regulations to restrict development on floodplains in our best interest?

    Slippery stuff this best interest.

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