Saturday, May 20, 2006

Happy birthday, John!

Today, May 20th, is John Stuart Mill’s 200th birthday. J.S. Mill is arguably1 one of the most important figures in liberalism.2

Let’s take a moment to remember Mill. The following are excerpts of his “On Liberty and Other Essays”:
[T]he sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection.

The objections to government interference … may be of three kinds … [F]irst is, when the thing to be done is likely to be better done by individuals than by the government … [T]here is no one so fit to conduct any business, or to determine how or by whom it shall be conducted, as those who are personally interested in it. … [S]second is, though individuals may not do the particular things so well, on the average, as the officers of government, it is nevertheless desirable that it should be done by them, rather than by the government, as a means to their own mental education. … [T]hird is, the great evil of adding unnecessarily to [the government’s] power. Every function superadded to those already exercised by the government, causes its influence over hopes and fears to be more widely diffused, and converts, more and more, the active and ambitious part of the public into hangers-on of the government, or of some party which aims at becoming the government.

Sounds like he’s our man.

But no so fast. JSM was an ardent nationalist:

Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they speak different languages, the united public opinion necessary to the working of representative government cannot exist.

That's from "Considerations of Representative Government".

Ain't really the man. Ain't really.

More clever and informative at Catallarchy.

1 "Arguably" being the operative, considering Mill's tendency toward "soft-socialism" -- Rawls as an avid follower. See e.g. Hayek's criticism on Mills.
2 Note, I said "liberalism", not "libertarianism".

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