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Is the “Public’s Interest”

in the “Public’s Best Interest”

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The “public interest” refers to out-comes best serving the long run sur-vival and well being of a society. Specific actions taken such as real world policies are affected by and made in the name of “public interest”. Public interest issues change over time as a society changes and it’s needs change. But are “public interest” poli-cies always in the “public’s best inter-est?

Public interest groups in the United States perform important functions. Public interest groups identify prob-lems and often bring about change. They help governments by providing policy makers with information essen-tial to making laws and they educate legislative members and the public re-garding specific issues. They share a desire to affect government policy and they put pressure on policy makers to pass laws to benefit their cause. Their goal could be a policy that exclusively benefits one segment of society (e.g., government subsidies for farmers) or a policy that advances a broader public purpose. (e.g., improving air quality)

Problems with “Public Interest” Public interest groups have a great capacity for good but they can also create change producing very different results than those anticipated. These groups, in their drive to promote awareness and change, can many times distort realities or only show one side in order to move people, public opin-ion, and politicians in a specific direc-tion. In desperation to further their cause, “public interest” groups can cre-ate anger and fear.

Public interest groups often move to create the illusion of working for the public good, but they can be in direct contradiction to the "public’s best inter-est”. One important example of this is in the wood, pulp, paper products and

printing industry. Fueled by strong public interest and supported with en-forcement by the EPA, unions, federal and state regulations, all applying a great amount of economic and public pressure to protect the environment, have diminished the United States wood and pulp industry. There has been a dramatic reduction of new mills opening in the United States, other mills reducing operation days, and some mills totally closing. A strong “public interest” initiative to protect the environment has decreased paper manufacturing in the United States, al-lowing China and Indonesia to make paper for U.S. markets, creating an eco-nomic downturn in the U.S. paper in-dustry that is detrimental to the “public’s best interest”. To achieve what is in our best interest, economic stability cannot be accomplished with-out homeland manufacturing. Our best interest could be achieved at a global level by boycotting the purchase of foreign manufactured paper that does not meet the U.S. EPAmanufac-turing standards. The United States has reduced emissions dramatically, while other industrial growing coun-tries have increased emissions three fold. With the “public interest” as the driving force to protect the United States environment and reduce pollu-tion, our government has moved in an extreme direction. The cost to the United States is loss of jobs, loss of tax revenue, loss of a leadership position as a global paper product provider, and diminished scientific development to improve the paper manufacturing process.

Trees contribute to many of our land’s ecosystems and they should be pro-tected, but an average of 4,000 acres of forest is being converted to commercial development every day of the year, year after year. Without government incentives to hold on to these areas,

owners of America’s woodlands are feeling the financial pressure to sell their land to commercial developers at an alarming rate. Groups like the “Print Grows Trees”, campaign to sup-port print on paper and give woodland owners the financial incentives they need to keep America’s woodlands safe from commercial development.

Unions: “Public’s Best Interest”? Unions protect wages, benefits, working conditions and job retention. However, their inability to compromise in negotiations has cre-ated job loss. In recent times, unions have also demanded that workers ac-cept lower wages and benefits, claim-ing that this is the way to save jobs and remain competitive. One example is the AFL-CIO and SEIU, unions who have refused concessions and accepted layoffs, claiming that state and federal democratic representatives will answer the problems of newly unemployed workers.

Positive Results of “Public Interest” Policies

Public interest initiatives have begun to help paper companies save the forests by diverting waste from landfills, de-creasing the overall carbon footprint of paper products and decreasing de-pendency on coal and other fossil fuels. The paper industry’s goal is to recover and recycle 60% of all paper that Amer-icans consume. Using old paper to make new paper uses thirty to fifty percent less energy than making paper from new trees. Pollution is also re-duced by 95% when used paper is re-cycled to make new sheets. The process of making paper for print in the United States utilizes more than 60% bio-fuels. Bio-fuels are environ-mentally friendly because they are neutral with respect to the emission of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide given off by burning bio-fuels is balanced by

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