Considerations on Representative Government
This book contains Mill's arguments in favor of a representative form of government, which was in Mill's view the ideal form a government should take. Mill thought that the best government was whatever kind would contribute to the most happiness in a society, both on an individual and an overall level. Democracy in particular creates the most overall happiness because, in Mill's thinking, it encourages individuals to participate in society. By taking active and intelligent interest in social issues, individuals develop their natural "human sympathies," learn to consider the common good, and are able to enjoy the benefits of working together with others. These types of social feelings of well-being--so important to utilitarians like Mill--simply aren't possible under other forms of government.
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John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) was a pioneering British politician and social reformer. First published in 1861, this volume contains Mill's detailed discussion of his theories of democracy and the ... Read full review
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Page 281 - A PORTION of mankind may be said to constitute a Nationality, if they are united among themselves by common sympathies, which do not exist between them and any others — which make them co-operate with each other more willingly than with other people, desire to be under the same government, and desire that it should be government by themselves or a portion of themselves, exclusively.
Page 171 - ... choice, wherever there are real diversities of aptitude, the great number will apply themselves to the things for which they are on the average fittest, and the exceptional course will only be taken by the exceptions. Either the whole tendency of modern social improvements has been wrong, or it ought to be carried out to the total abolition of all exclusions and disabilities which close any honest employment to a human being. But it is not even necessary to maintain so much in order to prove...
Page 98 - Instead of the function of governing for which it is radically unfit, the proper office of a representative assembly is to watch and control the government; to throw the light of publicity on its acts; to compel a full exposition and justification of all of them which anyone considers questionable; to censure them if found condemnable, and, if the men who compose the government abuse their trust, or fulfill it in a manner which conflicts with the deliberate sense of the nation, to expel them from...
Page 91 - There is hardly any kind of intellectual work which so much needs to be done not only by experienced and exercised minds, but by minds trained to the task through long and laborious study, as the business of making laws.
Page 83 - There is a radical distinction between controlling the business of government, and actually doing it. The same person or body may be able to control everything, but cannot possibly do everything ; and in many cases its control over everything will be more perfect, the less it personally attempts to do.
Page 46 - ... by free institutions, should at times sigh for a strong hand to bear down all these obstacles, and compel a recalcitrant people to be better governed. But (setting aside the fact, that for one despot who now and then reforms an abuse, there are ninety-nine who do nothing but create them) those who look in any such direction for the realization of their hopes leave out of the idea of good government its principal element, the improvement of the people themselves.
Page 104 - ... first, general ignorance and incapacity, or, to speak more moderately, insufficient mental qualifications, in the controlling body; secondly, the danger of its being under the influence of interests not identical with the general welfare of the community.