Wednesday, November 13, 2019
John Staurt Mill - Electronic Democracy :: essays research papers
There is no difficulty in showing that the ideally best form of government is that in which the sovereignty, or supreme controlling power in the last resort, is vested in the entire aggregate of the community; every citizen not only having a voice in the exercise of that ultimate sovereignty, but being, at least occasionally, called on to take an active part in the government, by the personal discharge of some public function, local or general John Stuart Mill agreed that democracy was the form of government that could best secure the happiness of all. But the end is not just well-being, as earlier utilitarians argued, though it is that. The end that recommends it is the tendency to foster self-development and individuality. Representative government, is particular, he defended as that form which best encourages individuality. It leads people to take a more active and intelligent participation in society. It provides moral training and encourages the development of natural human sympathies. The result is the habit of looking at social questions from an impersonal perspective rather than that of self-interest. But Mill's defense of democracy was much qualified. To be sure, he was, like the earlier utilitarians, sympathetic to the fall of the ancient regime and to the ends of the French Revolution. He strove to liberalize the press still severely bound by an absurd libel law that excluded effective social criticism. But infl uenced by Coleridge he had come to see that there were virtues in social systems, even out-dated ones, else why would not have survived so long. He therefore came to appreciate the conservative arguments that unrestrained freedom is dangerous. Mill argued, reasonably on utilitarian grounds, that social institutions need to be adapted to the time and place where they operate. He even suggests that, since people must be properly fit if democracy is to function well, a despotic form of government, if well-run with this aim in mind, might prepare its people for the exercise of responsibilities of a free electorate. In his thinking about how best to administer a state as a whole, Mill argued that the best administration was one that relied upon professional skills. In a representative democracy, if you can control the majority, then you can control everyone. Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities.