The idea of the “marketplace of ideas” in which truth wins out through competition with error has a strong tradition in the U.S. Suggested in nascent form by Milton and Mill, US Supreme Court decisions appeal to it in free speech decisions, and it frequently appears in commentary and everyday conversations. It continues to hold axiomatic status in the U.S., at least outside of a set of college campuses.
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.
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.
“Mike” (the name he has on his website) Bloomberg’s commencement speech at Harvard is quite a work of art. It criticizes liberal dogmatism on elite campuses and conservative dogmatism in our legislatures. In both dogmatic cases, the cause is fearful intolerance of diversity. In both cases, the cause is a lack of confidence in the truth of one’s own opinion. Bloomberg reminded the audience of what John Stuart Mill wrote on On Liberty, of “the clearer perception and livelier perception of truth” that’s “produced by its collision with error.”
When last month during an FA Cup quarter-final, the 23 year old Zaire-born former under-21 England international footballer, Fabrice Muamba, collapsed after a heart attack, a palpable wave of sympathy broke out for him among supporters of both teams at the north London stadium where the match was being played.
Unfortunately, that wave of sympathy did not extend to one inebriated 21 year old British biology undergraduate who had been following the match. He promptly tweeted a disgusting and highly abusive comment about the incident, followed by still more disgusting responses to those who tweeted to him in protest at what he had written.
His original tweet ran: ‘LOL [Laugh out loud) **** Muamba, He’s dead!’