Monday, August 25, 2014

A critique of the patron saint of libertarianism

John Stuart Mill is the patron saint of libertarianism (a word Americans use for what Europeans more correctly--and historically--refer to as simply "liberalism"). Mill's Enlightenment rationalist view of freedom has exercised a mischievous influence of American political thought.

The always excellent Imaginative Conservative has an excellent critique of Mill:
As long as there have been “libertarians,” there has been hero worship of John Stuart Mill. This Nineteenth Century utilitarian author, most famously of On Liberty, has been looked to as a kind of fount of holy writ for individualism. And Mill was an individualist. Unfortunately, he was not a supporter of liberty in any meaningful sense.
It is somewhat odd, frankly, that Mill should enjoy the reputation he does, given the depth and breadth of the written record of his opinions and proposals advocating an administrative state with unchecked power to regulate people’s daily lives. What is more, excellent studies by Joseph Hamburger and, more recently, Linda Raeder, have shown the character and statist intentions of his life’s work. Still, some of the many passages so frequently quoted from his works might give evidence, to those who do not read more and with moderate care, that he was a friend to individual freedom and reasoned, principled service to mankind ...
Read more here.

No comments: