Visiting this site I discovered that we’ve missed JS Mill’s 200th birthday which occured on the 20th May 2006. He was a good guy and, exemplifies much of what was uplifting about the tradition of classical economics begun by our old friend Adam Smith. Like Smith, Mill abhored slavery, though Mill was more active in his opposition.
As Sandra Peart and David Levy have documented at great length both on the web and in a book, classical economists throughout the nineteenth century had a noble role supporting the anti-slavery movement.
It was because they preferred that horrible and impersonal ‘cash nexus’ between employer and employee to master and slave relationship that their discipline was first christened ‘the dismal science’ by supporters of slavery like Thomas Carlyle (whose views were supported by other people of great literary sensibility like John Ruskin and Charles Dickens).
Go and read the web account of the story if you’ve not read it before. It makes for very interesting reading. In the meantime, John Stuart Mill’s words adorn our banner every eight or nine times you visit.
Here’s a fuller reproduction of the quote – which is from on Liberty.
He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. . . . He must be able to hear the arguments of adversaries; . . . He must feel the whole force of the difficulty which the true view of the subject has to encounter and dispose of. . . . Ninety-nine in a hundred of what are called educated men 1, even those who can argue fluently for their opinions. Their conclusion may be true, but it might be false for anything they know. They have never thrown themselves into the mental position of those who think differently from them, and considered what such persons may have to say, and consequently they do not, in any proper sense of the word, know the doctrine which they themselves profess.
- do not do this