The phrase “public interest” is often used very loosely especially when it comes to politics. Given that “public interest” is defined by Frank J. Sorauf in his article The Public Interest Reconsidered in five different ways, the misuse would bound to happen.
In American politics, the phrase “public interest” has become a powerful tool that is constantly being utilized. This tool is used by parties to convince the general public that the decisions they make are in the name of “Public Interest” meaning although one might not realize it, but it is for the better good. In a way, public Interest been molded into “a symbol for righteousness and morality” in politics according to Sorauf.
In current events, President Obama has trying to convince and rally the public around how an intervention is necessary in Syria ever since chemical weapons were found being tested. “It is for the best for the US if we intervened in Syria” is what President Obama is trying to convey. In this case, public interest is being used as the “Wise or Superior Interest.” This definition is most often used within politics where the use of superior knowledge and wisdom claims a priority of the interests of the public.
However, when speaking of public interests as a commonly-held value where public interest is majority’s interest, Americans disagree with President Obama’s stance. According to a poll done by Reuters, 60% of Americans surveyed believe that the US should not intervene with Syria while a meager 9% believe that President Obama should act. In this definition, President Obama’s belief that an intervention of Syria is necessary will no longer the interest of the public, but an interest of his own.
As you can see, debate often arises when it comes to “public interest.” With just two ways to define public interest, comes two contradicting ideas. Whether President Obama is doing this for or against public interest, it is up to the supporter to decide. From a certain perspective, one could say the phrase “public interest” can be compared to a multipurpose tool. The phrase “public interest” itself can be like the base of the tool. Meanwhile, the tip of the tools are like the different definitions. One would be able to switch out the tips or definitions depending on the situation and purpose of using “public interest.”
In the end, the definition of public interest can vary from person to person, from one use to another. Each use can vary from perspective to perspective. So how does that leave your opinion of public interest?