Politics > Determining Political Choice > Individuals in Politics: CL3 > Conflicts of Interest

Conflicts of Interest

Politics is Different

Officials in government cannot organize personal interests and formal obligations to coincide, as is usually possible in private life.

The interests of Officials are wholly personal, while
their obligations are defined solely to benefit either a group or society as a whole.

So: private interests and formal obligations rarely coincide—instead they generally sharply diverge. As a result it is easy, indeed automatic, that an Official's private life generates conflicts of interests. This needs attention if a society is to have good governance. 

The conflicts of interest in politics that may be either declared or hidden by the individuals involved.

Knowledge that secret interests of an Official are being served by a political choice generates a public outcry in any country. The social function and challenge of this Level is to harmonize purposes. So the primary ethical requirement is for private interests to be declared (i.e. openly disclosed) as the way to facilitate harmony and prevent subsequent recriminations.

Governing Officials v Others

Officials outside government (Groups C#2 & C#3) are far less exposed. They typically have a variety of interests apart from their official position. Also many of these institutions require an identification between personal interest and their formal position. For some, the work may well be a calling.

Politicians' Interests Harm Society

Elected Officials usually have interests related to investments and business, and exclusion from conflicted decisions ought to occur. But corruptly accepting money on the side is a mere peccadillo. The interests that harm society are three:

ClosedGetting re-elected

ClosedReturn of favours

ClosedAmbitions for higher office

Elected Politicians Work with Appointed Officials

Senior Public Servants have private interests related to:

Much interaction between Top Politicians and their Public Servants is likely based on each supporting or threatening the other's private interests while activating or blunting their obligations. Within and between discussions, individuals can switch their positions back and forth between obligations and interests as they think is appropriate for reaching their different goals.

See the Funny Side: Closed The CL3 interplay of obligations and interests amongst politicians and officials has been amusingly, accurately and elegantly portrayed in the BBC Series : "Yes, Minister" & "Yes, Prime Minister"Yes, Prime Minister - The Complete Collection on DVD; Jonathan Lynn and Anthony Jay: The Complete Yes Prime Minister, BBC Books, 1989.

The existing state of organized groups (CL1) and the rule of law (CL2) both interact differently with obligations (CL3S) and interests (CL3P).

Originally posted: July 2009; Last updated: 2 June 2014.

All posted material is part of a scientific project and should be regarded as provisional. Visitors are encouraged to think through the topics and propositions for themselves. Copyright © Warren Kinston 2009-2016.
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