John Stuart Mill is a pretty complicated figure in the history of liberty. The phenomenon of Donald Trump is a pretty complicated development in American politics currently. Both had demanding fathers, successful professional careers, and an impact on the world around them, in ways intended and unintended. It’s doubtful Mr. Trump seriously thought he’d get this far as a candidate, and I wonder if Mill could have envisioned how much his contributions to the history of ideas would have promoted the growing rift between utilitarianism and liberalism.
I am obliged to Patrick Lynch for his thoughtful reply to my four posts concerning drug policy.
Mill’s “very simple principle” is important for two reasons. First: This harm principle is, at least in my experience, adduced quite often in some form or other by those who argue that drugs should be produced, sold, and consumed like any other commodity. In trying to reach this conclusion, advocates are right to quote it because of the second reason: Once the principle is breached, it has been admitted that public authorities, however they are constituted, may legitimately interfere in the matter. This having been conceded, it becomes a question of the best policy to follow, and not one of applying a simple, fundamental, and universal principle to the problem.
There are two main arguments, one philosophical and the other practical, for the legalization of drugs whose consumption is currently prohibited. I will take up the former here, and the latter in a separate post.
One of the great advantages of the ever-increasing plethora of rights conferred upon us by government (except that of keeping the product of our own labor) is that it requires lawyers to adjudicate between them when they conflict, as they so often do. It prevents unemployment among the ever-increasing number of lawyers: and you have only to consider the career of Robespierre to know where the disgruntlement of lawyers may lead.
Christopher Lazarski comes to Liberty Law Talk to discuss his deep inquiry into Lord Acton's attempt to understand the dimensions and nature of liberty as it unfolded in Western history. In this podcast, Lazarski underscores Lord Acton's historical quest to find the conditions of liberty, as well as his formal understanding of what constituted liberty. The conditions of Acton's ordered liberty we can describe as "arbitrary law," national history, and a bottom-up development of positive law. Arbitrary law was Acton's way of describing divine and natural law, which he believed a pillar in support of political liberty because it was law…
One of libertarianism’s more admirable traits is its spiritedness, a welcome addition in a grey world. My blogging colleague Mike Rappaport adds thoughtfulness to spiritedness in his various elaborations on libertarianism. Lately he has asked what a libertarian immigration policy might be and has responded to Michael Lind’s provocation that there are no libertarian countries.
Mike’s responses raise questions fundamental to the adequacy of libertarian thinking. I speculate that a kind of universalism originating in the Declaration of Independence underlies his thinking, but that a decisive Lincolnian correction is needed.
In his autobiography, John Stuart Mill relates the mental crisis that he experienced as a young man when he asked himself whether he would be happy if all the reforms that he thought necessary were granted or achieved. Would they necessarily fulfill him?
The answer, obviously, was ‘No,’ and Mill, having been nothing if not a man of the most complete integrity, suffered a nervous collapse. ‘The end had ceased to charm,’ he wrote, ‘and how could there ever again be any interest in the means? I seemed to have nothing left to live for.’
Few people, however, are as intelligent or scrupulous as Mill; but like him, they need something to live for. Indeed, the struggle for existence (or subsistence) having been more or less won – how, without a great deal of determination, do you starve in a modern society?
In the New York Review of Books, Cass Sunstein reviews Sarah Conly’s Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism, just out from Cambridge University Press. I haven’t read the book, and I do not intend to do so. I already own two other books, and this one is $95—the equivalent of two cartons Camel Filters.(Not even close, in terms of marginal utility.) In contrast, Professor Sunstein’s laudatory review arrived for free, via internet, and I have read it with great profit.
Some have questioned or criticized this website over the past few days for posting this short essay by Theodore Dalrymple, where he made, to my mind, an interesting argument about the variety of book shops still evident in small towns and villages in France. Such book shops are not, in Dalrymple’s judgment, as nearly abundant in his native Britain despite its more open book market. France, he noted, has a law mandating that book retailers cannot charge under a certain price for books. Could this, strangely, be the reason why there are more French book retailers, and more variety and…