Encyclopedia of Law and Economics

2019 Edition
| Editors: Alain Marciano, Giovanni Battista Ramello

Public Interest

  • Michael Hantke-DomasEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-7753-2_394


The public interest is a concept that can be traced back to the late XVIII century. Ever since the concept has been used to refer to a goal to be obtained by actions of governments and public officials alike. Such view has been strongly contested by important economic schools such as Public Choice and the Chicago School of Regulation. Based on neoclassical economics, they contend the altruism needed to deliver in the public interest, as public officials pursue their own interest and regulations are captured to benefit regulated industries but recognizes the existence of equilibria that might balance the interests at stake (like Pareto or Kaldor-Hicks criteria). In contrast, the law is more optimistic when using public interest either to proceduralize collective interest or for courts adjudication. Even more, public interest serves as justification for government intervention in economic affairs. In the last decades, the promotion of integrity and prevention of corruption have tackled self-interest of public officials, leaving space for the public interest to be pursued by governments and public officials.

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The author would like to acknowledge the helpful research assistance of Ms Francisca Henriquez Prieto.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Water Law, Policy and ScienceUniversity of DundeeScotlandUK
  2. 2.Third Environment CourtValdiviaChile