The Public Interest

What is the civic interest?

Mark T. Lilla

Fall 1985

l had just turned nine years old when the inaugural issue of The Public Interest appeared in 1965.  As I recall, my attention that fall was focused solely on the Detroit Tigers, which is my excuse for missing the first issue. In fact, it would be another ten years before I would see my first copy of the magazine, another five before I would land a job editing it.  I offer this autobiographical note, not to make our long-time contributors and readers feel any older on this anniversary, but to emphasize the fact that, like most of our contributors and readers today, I came on in midstream. For us, The Public Interest was a journalistic institution we came upon. Most of us first encountered its articles in college courses in the social sciences or public policy, or we ran across references to it in learned books and journals. While a political slant would have been obvious to those more discerning than I was at the time, for most of us who discovered it in the 1970s, The Public Interest simply was the bible in matters of public policy.  If you were serious about policy you had to read it.

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