Why John Stuart Mill is still important

By John Ruberry

I have been thinking about John Stuart Mill lately, a true liberal by the way, meaning he was open-minded, ever since Little Marathon Pundit returned from London a month ago. It was there she came across, at Victoria Embankment Gardens, a bronze statue of Mill.

Then a week and a half ago, Mark Levin, in an overall discussion about political theorist Isaiah Berlin, brought up this great philosopher. Mill was a 19th century Englishman. Berlin, who was born in Riga, Latvia, as a child witnessed the Russian Revolution in St. Petersburg. He and his family settled in England in 1921.

On his February 22 radio show, which is available on iTunes, Mark Levin called Mill “a great libertarian.”

Contemporary academics, most of whom are tin-eared leftists, see Mill as just an “old dead white guy.” On the other hand Mill was prescient of the tyranny of left.

Mill witnessed the growing threat, even then, of the so called reformers, and early on that show Levin read from Mills’ On Liberty. “Some of those modern reformers, who have placed themselves in strongest opposition to the religions of the past, have been no way behind either churches or sects in their assertion of the right of spiritual domination.”

Keep in mind nearly everyone living in western civilization during Mill’s time was a believer, although he was not one.

Levin then brought up Mill’s warning of an elite with “aims at establishing a despotism of society over the individual, surpassing anything contemplated in the political ideal of the most rigid disciplinarian among the ancient philosophers.”

Then Levin zoomed in on, although he didn’t phrase it as such, what Mill called “the tyranny of the majority.” Of course the leftists are not a majority–part of their delusion is that they believe they represent the masses.

Apart from the peculiar tenets of individual thinkers, there is also in the world at large an increasing inclination to stretch unduly the powers of society over the individual, both by the force of opinion and even by that of legislation. And as the tendency of all the changes taking place in the world is to strengthen society, and diminish the power of the individual, this encroachment is not one of the evils which tend spontaneously to disappear, but on the contrary, to grow more and more formidable. This disposition of mankind, whether as rulers or as fellow-citizens, to impose their own opinions and inclinations as a rule of conduct on others, is so energetically supported by some of the best and by some of the worst feelings incident to human nature, that it is hardly ever kept under restraint by anything but want of power; and as the power is not declining, but growing, unless a stronger barrier of moral conviction can be raised against the mischief, we must expect, in the present circumstances of the world, to see it increase.

Writing at the same time in England was Karl Marx, who believed that a self-appointed few should, in Mill’s words, force their “own opinions and inclinations as a rule of conduct on others.”

Over a century and a half after John Stuart Mill wrote On Liberty, we have a ruling class, consisting of radicals like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as a complicit and corrupt media, who want to impose their will on everyone else, because they maintain people, particularly Donald Trump voters, are too stupid to know how they should conduct their lives. These leftists want to ram down our throats unpopular and outrageously expensive proposals such as government-controlled health care, which they euphemistically call “Medicare for all,” and the Green New Deal.

America became the greatest and most powerful nation ever not by kowtowing to the foreign philosophy of socialism but by living under the principles set forth by great thinkers like Mill. Call it freedom or call it cowboy capitalism–or whatever you want. It works. 

Why is Mill important? Why is a conversation about liberty important?

“Because either we become acquainted with liberty,” Levin asserted in that discussion, “or we’re going to lose it.”

The Mill statue rests on a limestone base–his engraved name on it is eroding.

So is the memory of Mill. 

Meanwhile, the lust for power by the leftist elites, Levin said on that February show, is “insatiable.” The end result of their utopian dream is Venezuela under Nicolas Maduro.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.