An untypically pessimistic quote from Mill. A man, an engineer who was a contemporary, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, made the point that he installed steam powered donkey engines to raise the anchors on the “Great Britain” because “It would have been too much work for the seamen to do so with man-powered capstans”. Even though she was steam powered, she still carried masts and sails though. Brunel was a realist!
Profound, and, sadly, very true!
I have heard a more modern and extreme version, which says that saving the people in the Horn of Africa from starvation now, merely speeds up the ultimate over-population of the Planet and impending doom for mankind in general.
Malthus touched the edges of that kind of thinking in his theories on population growth, but he was objective about it, at least!
Just so long as the mutual distrust and hostility between the two does not produce chaotic results and instability. John Mill didn’t mention that, but then he had not seen the situation which has arisen in Britain since the end of the Second World War!
"The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.
I read John Stuart Mills’ work, “On Liberty” (which I believe is still in print), at College, fifty years ago. He made a lot of sense then, and looking back over the intervening years, I think he is even more relevant now! He was warning about “Big Brother”, and Governmental control of the populace, a long time before George Orwell wrote “Animal Farm” and “1984”.
He was good at putting people on guilt trips, wasn’t he? If you hurt someone, you are guilty. If you don’t stop someone ELSE hurting them, you are still guilty.
It is just as well he wasn’t a Member of the Judiciary!
"As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.
John Stuart Mlll was an incisive observer, for sure, and ahead of his time. More recently, and in translation from the French, Prof Hugues Leroux expressed it in a more modern idiom:- “It is easier to level down than to level up”.
It is more simple to suppress one mans’ new ideas and beliefs, than to convert a whole population to them, and mediocrity thus becomes the norm. Sad, isn’t it?
Except, perhaps, when the action is not governed by rules, or such rules as exist are ignored? The Rules of War, and the Geneva Convention, seek to govern the more dreadful consequences of conflict. Certain tyrannical Arab dynasties seem not to accept that any end is desirable, except the preservation of their own dominance. John Stuart Mill was perhaps fortunate that he did not live in the present time.
"A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.