John Stuart Mill

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John Stuart Mill : biography

20 May 1806 – 8 May 1873

Mill supported legislation that would have granted extra voting power to university graduates on the grounds that they were in a better position to judge what would be best for society. (For he believed that education itself, not the intrinsic nature of educated people, qualified them to have more influence in government.)

The qualitative account of happiness that Mill advocates thus sheds light on his account presented in On Liberty. As Mill suggests in that text, utility is to be conceived in relation to humanity "as a progressive being", which includes the development and exercise of rational capacities as we strive to achieve a "higher mode of existence". The rejection of censorship and paternalism is intended to provide the necessary social conditions for the achievement of knowledge and the greatest ability for the greatest number to develop and exercise their deliberative and rational capacities.

Media Principia

Mill also had a significant impact within the psychological field with his development of axiomata media later modified into the middle principle otherwise known as Media Principia. Media Principia for Mill distinguished ethnology (the concrete science of character formation) from Psychology. The middle principle according to Mill although came from empirical data, but due to ethnologists ways of mediation between universal laws of psychology and empirical data, has made it more flexible to change.

Economic philosophy

Mill’s early economic philosophy was one of free markets. However, he accepted interventions in the economy, such as a tax on alcohol, if there were sufficient utilitarian grounds. He also accepted the principle of legislative intervention for the purpose of animal welfare. Mill originally believed that "equality of taxation" meant "equality of sacrifice" and that progressive taxation penalised those who worked harder and saved more and was therefore "a mild form of robbery". (PDF)

Given an equal tax rate regardless of income, Mill agreed that inheritance should be taxed. A utilitarian society would agree that everyone should be equal one way or another. Therefore receiving inheritance would put one ahead of society unless taxed on the inheritance. Those who donate should consider and choose carefully where their money goes—some charities are more deserving than others. Considering public charities boards such as a government will disburse the money equally. However, a private charity board like a church would disburse the monies fairly to those who are in more need than others.(Strasser,1991)

Later he altered his views toward a more socialist bent, adding chapters to his Principles of Political Economy in defence of a socialist outlook, and defending some socialist causes. Within this revised work he also made the radical proposal that the whole wage system be abolished in favour of a co-operative wage system. Nonetheless, some of his views on the idea of flat taxation remained, albeit altered in the third edition of the Principles of Political Economy to reflect a concern for differentiating restrictions on "unearned" incomes, which he favoured, and those on "earned" incomes, which he did not favour.

Mill’s Principles, first published in 1848, was one of the most widely read of all books on economics in the period. As Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations had during an earlier period, Mill’s Principles dominated economics teaching. In the case of Oxford University it was the standard text until 1919. The text that replaced it was written by Cambridge’s Alfred Marshall.

Economic democracy

Mill promoted economic democracy instead of capitalism, in the manner of substituting capitalist businesses with worker cooperatives. He says:

The form of association, however, which if mankind continue to improve, must be expected in the end to predominate, is not that which can exist between a capitalist as chief, and work-people without a voice in the management, but the association of the labourers themselves on terms of equality, collectively owning the capital with which they carry on their operations, and working under managers elected and removable by themselves.Principles of Political Economy with some of their Applications to Social Philosophy, IV.7.21