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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Trent Dillihay Final Project Post 2: John Stuart Mill

Trent Dillihay Final project post 2:

The Politics of John Stuart Mill


While it may seem strange initially to discuss politics in a project about a philosopher, the fact is that Mill and his Utilitarian ideals were intrinsically linked to politics, with Mill even serving as an MP for a term. As you might expect, Mill’s political ideology was based on his Utilitarianism, to the point that he believed that all forms of government ought to be judged by how much they promoted utility and the human development Mill believed would result from it. Mill believed that utility and human development depended on individual liberty, which he believed was an essential right, especially in the realm of freedom of thought and discussion, and individuality. The best form of government, in Mill’s view, was one that actively encouraged those values, and for Mill, that government was a representative democracy. He hated authoritarian and aristocratic systems, and openly despised the elements of those systems still present in the Britain of his day. However, he also argued that it would take time to develop an ideal system properly, and that some dictatorial forms of governance were sometimes necessary to pave the way for an ideal system. He particularly advocated this in the British colonies, but openly spoke out against colonialism when he felt it had gone too far, a practice which eventually cost him his seat in Parliament. At the same time, Mill thought that democracies had a potentially fatal weakness in that they can sometimes suppress opinions held by the minority and become in the process tyrannical. Mill’s answer to this was that a system of local government, organized in a federal style system, where elected, well-educated officials were chosen based on merit and experience by an equally well-educated population of voters. Mill also had views on the rapid industrialization in Britain during his lifetime, which he thought had created an economic system that hindered human happiness and development due to the constant pursuit of wealth by factory owners at the expense of workers. Mill thought there was a need to balance economic growth with human development, and advocated reforms that would give workers a shared ownership of their company’s wealth, so that economic growth more directly benefited and motivated them into further development. Finally, one of Mill’s more unexpected viewpoints is that he was what we might now call an early environmentalist. He argued that, in addition to balancing growth with human well-being, it also needed to be balanced for its environmental effect, as it could have a serious negative impact on people otherwise. As part of this, Mill believed in controlling population growth, to the point of controversially advocating birth control, and believed that if this was not properly controlled it would inevitably cause serious harm and starvation to the worst-off as resources were strained.


A Little History of Philosophy by Nigel Warburton

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