Jane Kaufman Winn, The Hedgehog and the Fox: Distinguishing Public and Private Sector Approaches to Managing Risk for Internet Transactions, 51 Admin. L. Rev. 955 (1999), https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/faculty-articles/168
Administrative Law Review
In his essay The Hedgehog and the Fox, Isaiah Berlin used an ancient Greek proverb comparing these animals as a metaphor to express a deep division among thinkers and writers in their understanding of the human condition. In this essay, I extend the metaphor to contrast the differing approaches to risk management taken by the public sector in the exercise of its sovereign functions and that taken by members of the private sector in the conduct of commercial transactions. In light of the differences in these basic approaches to questions of risk management, I will evaluate some widely discussed models of public key infrastructures for administering digital signature authentication systems. The basic model most commonly discussed today can easily be assimilated to the public sector model of risk management, but does not readily permit the incorporation of the most important features of private sector risk management models. As a result, I predict that before digital signature technology will gain widespread use in business technology, further significant progress will have to be made in the design of public key infrastructures. In addition, I argue that a public sector risk management model is not appropriate for new technology distributed by private actors unless there is a consensus that such an indirect subsidy is in the public interest generally, not just in the interest of certain private promoters of the technology.
Furthermore, before the public sector adopts digital signature technology, political issues outside the scope of risk management policies will have to be addressed. For example, political issues such as the degree of protection to be granted to citizens' privacy rights within such an infrastructure will have to be resolved before a determination can be made whether the use of such a technology is genuinely in the public interest.