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What does "Cui Bono" Mean?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 27 October 2016
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Cui bono is a Latin phrase that means "to whose advantage or benefit." This phrase is used to indicate that the party who is likely responsible for an act is the person who stands to gain something from it. Cui bono is also used to indicate that self-interest in an act, event, or policy is a determining factor in its ultimate value. In both instances, the question of who stands to gain is applied when the phrase cui bono is used. The phrase is, however, most often used when determining those likely to be responsible for an unwelcome event.

The phrase cui bono was originally used in criminal investigations and still applies in determining probable responsibility for a crime. In figuring out who is responsible for a murder, for example, an investigator may analyze cui bono. By figuring out who is likely to benefit from the murder, investigators may have a better chance of finding the most likely suspects. They may, for example, discover that the murder victim’s spouse had a significant insurance policy on the victim or that the victim was due to testify against a gang or organized crime leader.

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The answer to the question cui bono doesn’t always lead to the perpetrator of the crime, but it can help investigators start an investigation in a logical manner. In some cases, analyzing benefit or advantage may lead to a scapegoat rather than the person truly responsible for a crime or act. Knowing that another party stands to benefit significantly and is likely to be blamed, a person may commit a crime with the intent of framing another person.

An individual might also use the phrase cui bono in determining who stands to benefit from an event. If an event occurred that was suspicious in nature, an individual may work to determine who benefited from it. For example, if a business, organization, or even a person seems to be better off after the event occurred, despite claiming no involvement in it, an individual may still suspect that the business, organization, or individual caused or contributed to the event for his own benefit.

A person may also ask cui bono when evaluating a particular policy. For example, a policy may be criticized as ineffective or even useless. In determining whether or not a policy is truly useless, a person may ask who will benefit from it. He may find that there are some people who are benefiting from a policy he considers ineffective or useless. His evaluation may reveal, however, that those who are supposed to benefit from the creation of a policy are not always those who ultimately benefit from it.

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