In the early days of our country, people that held office were often farmers, businessmen, land owners, bankers; a mixed bag of people from all walks of life. Of course, there were no women, slaves, Native Americans or people who did not own land, but that’s another story. They presented a balanced and diverse view of issues even though they were mostly the opinions of the elite, who always manage to wind up in positions of power, which consequently enables them to be in positions where they can help themselves. Hell, who can afford to run for office anyway, especially in this day and age. But still, there was a time when there was some diversity in the backgrounds of those elected to create law.
However, in today’s world, lawyers have co-opted politics to the point that now, most politicians are lawyers. The oversight of the vox populi is that this is a conflict of interests. Every law that is created may serve the public but they first serve the legal community. The more laws created the more lawyers that will be needed to interpret them.
Most of us are aware of the term, “conflict of interest.” (COI) COI’s occur when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, but one of the interests corrupts the motivation for the remaining interests. A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgment or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest. Here’ the deal. Politicians continue to crack out bills and laws knowing full well that in many cases, a lawyer may be required to sort out situations that result from said laws, and it could possibly even involve some legislation the particular politician was involved in. Wow, what a coincidence.
But here’s where it gets a little cloudy and the water surrounding ethics begins to muddy. The primary goal of a professional individual or group is to represent their clients, protect their constituents or guard the lives of their patients. The highest codes of a profession are represented in the morals, values and mission statements of those professions and organizations. But there are often secondary interests that are driven by money, advancement, and all sorts of egotistical machinations. The politician may be more tied to their secondary interests than their primary interests, which creates the risk that decisions may be unduly influenced by the lawmaker’s secondary interests.
The secondary interests are not treated as wrong in themselves, but become objectionable when they are believed to have greater weight than the primary interests. The conflict in a conflict of interests exists whether or not a particular individual is actually influenced by the secondary interest. It exists if the circumstances are reasonably believed to create a risk that decisions may be unduly influenced by secondary interests.
It should be noted that lawyers are a necessary group of individuals who have selected to go into that profession. However, like some other professions and work situations, because you became certified in one field, it precludes you from another. It’s just the way it should be.
So, how long should we let the foxes watch the hen house?