John Stuart Mill

19th century Britain (only 150 years ago)

 p. 379

** Liberals found many problems associated with modern industrial democracies such as huge skewness in income, lack of respect for human rights of minorities and lack of checks on government and limiting the access to political participation.


** Liberals were simultaneously arguing for more collectivism on the one hand and more individualism on the other. They demand a greater degree of governmental intervention to provide for social welfare, and the same time to demand greater freedom of speech for the individual.

Mill’s Representative Government

** J.S. Mill preferred democracy because he thought men would be better under that system, even if they were not necessarily happier.


** Mill argues for a representative system comprises three levels: the people, their elected representatives, and a policy-making body.

Citizens choose their legislative agents. The legislative agents will have knowledge and judgment superior to that possessed by the electorate.


** Mill fears the frozen majority. He favored organizing a third party, which will hold the balance of power between two larger contending parties.

** Liberty here is freedom from government.


Mill’s On Liberty

** Mill argues against the tyrannical majority or the social tyranny beside the political oppression.

** The only limitation against one’s liberty should be preventing him from doing harm to others according to the “clear and present danger.” According to Mill: “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”


         Majority rule vs. tyranny of the majority.

         Toleration of unpopular ideas for four reasons:

        Oppressed may be fully true (Ex. Galileo).

        Oppressed may be partially true. (Ex. Marx).

        Oppressed may be fully untrue but it tests truth.

        Oppressed may be fully untrue but it prevents dogma.

         Mill refuses indoctrination but puts great weight on education to level up propertyless majority into full citizenship.

         Thus, Mill gives the right to political participation to women, non-propertied, religious minorities…etc.

         Mill, properly so, is the liberal founder of democratic liberalism.


** Mill gives the state the license, contrary to classic capitalism, to intervene to put minimum wage, maximum number of work hours, unemployment pensions, free education… and so on.


** He is a good example of ideal dialectic if one compares him to Marx.