“Clothed with a Public Interest”

Interesting phrase, very germane, I think, to questions of labor and technology in industries like transportation, media, music, etc.

See The Commission on Freedom of the Press,  A Free and Responsible Press (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947)

(largely the work of Zechariah Chafee, I think: Section XI. “The Work of the Press as Clothed with a Public Interest.”

In new conditions of Cold War and media consolidation: “And the service of news, as distinct from the utterance of opinion, acquires an added importance. The need of the consumer to have adequate and uncontaminated  mental food is such that he is under a duty to get it; and, because of this duty, his interest acquires the stature of a right.It becomes legitimate to speak of the moral right of men to the news they can use. Since the consumer is no longer free not to consume, and can get what he requires only through existing press organs, protection of the freedom of the issuer is no longer sufficient to protect automatically either the consumer or the community. The general policy of laissez faire in this field must be reconsidered” (125)

Origins of phrase–I think important popularizer was Munn v. Illinois (1877), precedent-setting property law case.

James Ely:

Upholding the Illinois law, the Supreme Court again adopted a deferential attitude toward state authority to control the use of private property. Speaking for the Court, Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite ruled that “when private property is devoted to a public use, it is subject to public regulation.”‘ Whether this public interest doctrine applied to a particular enterprise was considered a matter for legislative judgment. Although recognizing that the owner of property “clothed with a public interest” was entitled to reasonable compensation, Waite further declared that the determination of such compensation was a legislative task, not a judicial one. The only protection of property owners against legislative abuse was resort to the political process.

The Guardian of Every Other Right, 87-88.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: