Conflict of interest? What does that mean? In the real world?
We often hear these three words in the context of holders of public office – like States members or, more particularly, members of the Council of Ministers.
First what is an “interest”? In this context it seems that synonyms would be “desire”, “wish”, “obligation”, “intention”. Let’s use “desire”.
A conflict of desire? Ah, yes. The most common conflict of desire of all occurs when a person holds an office that requires him (or her – throughout this e-mail) to serve, to have regard solely to the interests of the public or a section of the public – and that person has a desire, inside him, to serve himself.
That applies to all of us – that desire, within, to look after number one. So, when we become members of the Council of Ministers, for example, we will have a conflict of interest – shall we serve the public single-heartedly or that plus ourselves? Or just ourselves?
And the same applies with a director of a company. He has a duty solely towards the company and its shareholders. But what about my duty, my desire, towards me?
Yes, every one of us, when appointed to any role or task involving others, starts out with a conflict of interest that is endemic in humanity. A conflict with my desire to do me good – at all times, in every way.
Jersey appointed a new Council of Ministers in December. Would those folk find that their pre-existing roles (with their strong “me” desire) were obviously in conflict with their newly allocated responsibilities that must focus solely on benefitting the public of the island? Would they “see” that sufficiently clearly to act?
No alterations have been publicised – as yet – to avoid a conflict of desire.
But I fool myself more than anybody else. I say to myself, “I can handle this rightly; I am a man of integrity and shall not allow my business interests to prosper through my involvement on (for example) the Council of Ministers or a Board of Directors.”
But see above in bold print. Jesus of Nazareth (yes, the one who was summarily executed as a criminal in AD 33 but rose from the dead) had a more perceptive view of the hearts of men – more perceptive than mine, I have to admit.
Put another way he is saying is that it’s not what you eat, it’s what eats you – and what eats you is your desire for your self.
When asked that day by his key followers to explain all this, Jesus said, “What comes out of a person defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come ...... sexual immorality [desire for sex], theft [desire for gain], murder [desire to gain assets or freedom], adultery [desire for happiness], coveting [desire for goods and money], ...... deceit [desire to conceal my wrongs], sensuality [desire for sensory satisfaction], envy [desire to excel over all others], slander [desire to bring others down beneath me], pride [desire to be seen and acknowledged], .... All these things come from within, and they defile a person.”
There’s not much hope for me then in mastering my self – save one glimmer of a possibility. The man who said this had none of these inner problems – he was totally self-less. And he said to everybody, “Come to me…….” And I desperately need to be free from the tyranny of desire…..