Today (Monday June 1) we will be dealing with the fourth and fifth chapters of Mill's book "On Liberty". In the fourth chapter he introduces a third version of the "liberal" principle and discusses "the limits to the authority of society over the individual", to quote the title of the fourth chapter and the language used in the first chapter to identify the subject-matter "On Liberty". The fifth chapter is called "Applications" and in it Mill discusses many social issues from a "liberal" point of view. Important paragraphs dealing with the economy and with the "liberal" political model are included in the fifth chapter, and the concluding paragraph is also notable.
Today, then, we will finish Mill's "On Liberty", but you will not be ready to do Assignment B until we have dealt with some extracts from Nietzsche's "Twilight of the Idols" that present his thoughts on social freedom, which include an attack on "liberalism". We will deal with those extracts in the next session, and also in the next session you will get some practice with composing the dialogue about Mill's "liberalism" that is Assignment B. The extracts from "Twilight of the Idols that we will be dealing with are sections 38-51 of the chapter called "Expeditions of an Untimely Man". The chapter containing those sections is available here
Soon I will send you Worksheet C, which deals with Nietzsche and Skinner.
If you have not already done so, you should next read the fourth and fifth chapters of "On Liberty", together with sections VI. and VII. of Worksheet B. After the reading has been done you should answer the following questions, which comprise Test 6. To do the test, reply to this message and put your answers in the body of your message. DO NOT USE AN ATTACHMENT. You can send me your answers at any time today.
To throw light on the third version of the "liberal" principle that Mill presents in the third paragraph of the fourth chapter of "On Liberty", give three examples of acts which would generally be considered to cause serious harm, but which are legal and are not forbidden by any tacit understanding.
Why does Mill have several versions of the "liberal" principle rather than just one?
In the fourteenth paragraph of the fourth chapter of "On Liberty" Mill discusses some Moslem countries' legal prohibition of eating pork. "The practice is really revolting to such a public" says Mill, adding "They also sincerely think that it is forbidden and abhorred by the Deity". Nevertheless Mill is against the legal prohibition of eating pork in countries in which the practice, as he says, evokes disgust. He says that "with the personal tastes and self-regarding concerns of individuals the public has no business to interfere". This is the kind of reason that he gives for opposing many limitations on social freedom that he is against. Mill wants to be socially free to eat pork when in a Moslem country. The Moslems might reply that they wish to be socially free to live their lives without being disgusted, and that people have plenty of alternatives to eating pork.
(a) Is the law against eating pork directed against the tastes of pork-eaters?
(b) Is the law against eating pork directed against the "self-regarding concerns" of pork-eaters?
(c) Are there acts which a person performs to satisfy a personal desire which ought to be forbidden?
(d) Why does Mill not use the third version of the "liberal" principle to deal with the issue of whether people should be free to eat pork in a Moslem country?
In the seventeenth paragraph of the fourth chapter of "On Liberty" Mill says this:
"There is confessedly a strong tendency in the modern world towards a democratic constitution of society, accompanied or not by popular political institutions. It is affirmed that in the country where this tendency is most completely realized—where both society and the government are most democratic—the United States—the feeling of the majority, to whom any appearance of a more showy or costly style of living than they can hope to rival is disagreeable, operates as a tolerably effectual sumptuary law, and that in many parts of the Union it is really difficult for a person possessing a very large income, to find any mode of spending it, which will not incur popular disapprobation. Though such statements as these are doubtless much exaggerated as a representation of existing facts, the state of things they describe is not only a conceivable and possible, but a probable result of democratic feeling, combined with the notion that the public has a right to a veto on the manner in which individuals shall spend their incomes. We have only further to suppose a considerable diffusion of Socialist opinions, and it may become infamous in the eyes of the majority to possess more property than some very small amount, or any income not earned by manual labour."
What would a classical socialist have to say about these remarks?
5. In the seventeenth paragraph of the fourth chapter of "On Liberty" Mill also says this:
"It is known that the bad workmen who form the majority of the operatives in many branches of industry, are decidedly of opinion that bad workmen ought to receive the same wages as good, and that no one ought to be allowed, through piecework or otherwise, to earn by superior skill or industry more than others can without it. And they employ a moral police, which occasionally becomes a physical one, to deter skilful workmen from receiving, and employers from giving, a larger remuneration for a more useful service."
(a) What would a classical socialist have to say about these remarks?
(b) What would a classical socialist have to say about incomes policy, for a classical socialist society in which money was used for the purpose of distributing goods and services to people?
(c) How should the problem of freeloading be handled in the home and in society generally?
In the fourth paragraph of the fifth chapter of "On Liberty" Mill says that "leaving people to themselves is always better, cæteris paribus, than controlling them". This striking pronouncement, as well as the last sentence of "On Liberty", highlights the difference between the cultural models of Mill and Skinner, who wants to impose a high degree of control over people. Like Nietzsche, Skinner thinks that the average person will not use social freedom well, and that controls designed by experts will produce better results. Compare a salesman who is allowed to choose his own approach to selling and a salesman who has to follow a script created by an expert. Which approach do you think is better, for the salesman and for the client? Justify your answer to this question.
In the eighteenth paragraph of the fifth chapter of "On Liberty" Mill says that "there is no one so fit to conduct any business, or to determine how or by whom it shall be conducted, as those who are personally interested in it". He says this in an effort to dissuade his readers from asking the government to act on their behalf. Businesses often complain that vocational schools do not train people in exactly the way that the businesses need. So why do the businesses not train their skilled workers themselves?
In the twentieth paragraph of the fifth chapter of "On Liberty" Mill argues further for limited government, talking of "the great evil of adding unnecessarily to its power". He says: "Every function superadded to those already exercised by the government, causes its influence over hopes and fears to be more widely diffused, and converts, more and more, the active and ambitious part of the public into hangers-on of the government, or of some party which aims at becoming the government". He adds: "And the evil would be greater, the more efficiently and scientifically the administrative machinery was constructed—the more skilful the arrangements for obtaining the best qualified hands and heads with which to work it." How does this thinking relate to the idea that the "liberal" political model is the appropriate vehicle for achieving government that is in the general interest?