The Voice For John Stuart Mill

The biggest winner from the referendum on the weekend is John Stuart Mill. 

There’s a strand of left-wing orthodoxy these days that deprecates free speech and brands opposing viewpoints as dangerous wrongthink. This firebrand mode of thinking is excellent at producing an engaged cabal of supporters, but its fruits will often face oblivion in the privacy of one’s own voting booth. 

The Yes campaign was undermined by its intellectual siege mentality. In the face of an implacable campaign, only the people already beyond the pale could raise legitimate objections, and so these objections were thought to be invalidated solely by the lack of virtue of those who raised them. 

Although John Stuart Mill is a dead white man, the Yes campaigners could do with reading his arguments for free speech and actually engaging with the viewpoints of the opposing side. When political decisions are made privately, it’s better to reduce the fervent engagement of your own tribe to garner more lukewarm support from the other.

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Nicholas Gruen
Admin
6 months ago

All fair enough. It certainly describes several of the books I saw in bookshops which marketed themselves with “all you need to know about the voice” but, at least on my browsing, rarely rose above anodyne propaganda.
However as far as the battle on the airwaves is concerned, the players are more or less forced into pretty mind numbingly one dimensional assertions. Our media doesn’t really do deliberation any more — though radio sometimes rises to the occasion. As I argued in my essay on the competition delusion, these days the media’s role in the centre of the discussion isn’t to deepen engagement but to serve up arousing grabs of various echo chambers — including chat between them.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
6 months ago

With Marcia in tow fresh from trashing Peter Sutton for having the temerity to expose Pascoe. A serious anthropologist whose book she’d written a preface to previously, now traduced as a racist.

Dark Emu Documentary.png
johnrwalker
johnrwalker
6 months ago

Antonios
” A sense of superiority based solely on a lack of curiosity”
Is and has perhaps always been the defining quality of Australia’s rulling class.
No?

R. N. England
R. N. England
6 months ago

The next chair at the University of Melbourne after Indigenous Agriculture seems certain to be Indigenous Literature.
The answer to the question, “Can we have too much freedom of speech?” is possibly, “Yes, when we are drowning in an ocean of lies”.

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
6 months ago

Somewhat parenthetical to your main point, I think your strongest observation is that secret ballots are incredibly important.
The fact that most committee decisions are open is part of the explanation for the extreme partisan decisions that are taken, which perhaps most do not support. When Budweiser decided to use Dylan Mulvaney as their grotesque poster child, I suspect that 90% in the room knew it would be a train wreck. But where is the incentive to dissent? Even when you are proven right, nobody will thank you because nobody will admit it was really a mistake.
If everybody had, by law, to vote in referenda on-line and have their vote publicly shared on FB, then I suspect that yes would have won handsomely.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
6 months ago
Reply to  Chris Lloyd

I’m not sure of your last claim. If it was so wouldn’t the polling have been biased towards ‘Yes’? In fact it was, but not very much — this final poll predicted a 41.6% yes vote and it was around 2% less than that. Not a strong result.

Last edited 6 months ago by Nicholas Gruen
Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
5 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Polls are not publicly shared. There would be some slight embarrassment in telling a pollster you were voting no but if it were automatically posted to FB, it would be much harder. not that I am suggesting this is a good policy! Quite the opposite. Just a thought experiment.

R. N. England
R. N. England
6 months ago

Another view of John Stuart Mill, not greatly different from that of Chomsky
John Stuart Mill made his living as chief spokesman for the British East India Company at the time it was running vast amounts of opium from India to China, and waging war against the Emperor of China for trying to protect his country from its scourge. Opium is a chemical control on behaviour that causes people to hand over money, commonly in increasing amounts until the controllee dies from poisoning. Mill asserts that the act of handing over money in exchange for opium was an inalienable right of his company’s customer, which needed to be protected by waging war on the Emperor of China. The latter’s offence against the addict’s fictitious autonomy was the causus belli. Implicit in Mill’s position is the falsehood that the addict’s buying behaviour is under the control of the sacred autonomous ghost in his machine, rather than opium. He uses this argument in general form in the Bible of exploitative capitalism, sacred both to predator and prey: “On Liberty”. The controls on buyer behaviour are less obvious, but the difference between selling the public a lifestyle which eventually destroys them or their descendants and selling them opium is only a matter of time. The values expressed by Mill are the root of the West’s drug and environmental problems.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
6 months ago
Reply to  R. N. England

Thanks RN. I’ve made some fairly desultory searches for Mill’s expressed views on the opium wars, but Bing AI insists it can’t find any. Can you point me to some sources please?

R. N. England
R. N. England
6 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Thanks for picking me up on the “asserts”. I should have said “implies”. The implication comes from the callous tone of the paragraph in “On Liberty” beginning “The object of this essay”, in which he says the self-harming person should not be legally compelled to stop, or morally coerced by public opinion, without the least suggestion about what else others might do about it. It fits so well his employers’ opium business that it might as well have been designed for it.
I’m in despair about liberalism.

john walker
john walker
6 months ago
Reply to  R. N. England

“The values expressed by Mill are the root of the West’s drug and environmental problems.”
Glad we’ve sorted that one.

R. N. England
R. N. England
5 months ago
Reply to  john walker

The key weakness of liberalism is its blind eye to fraud. Fraud is normal. It has been the cutting edge of Darwinian competition within fairly stable social systems. It is the engine of selection that has driven the growth of the human brain compared with that of other primates. To have selection you need winners and losers.
Selling people drugs is a form of fraud. What seemed good at first to the customer, and was good for the dealer, turns out to have the worst possible outcome for the customer. Selling people a lifestyle that ends up making their part of the earth too hot for them or their children is another fraud.
The company that employed Mill as spokesman was responsible during that period for one of the most notable frauds in history, opium-selling on a grand scale. You don’t have to be especially bright to wonder and then discover how the great moral philosopher justified that.
We turn to science (large-scale intellectual cooperation) and away from fraud when we use our ill-gotten brains to serve a world culture and work together for its long term survival. Liberalism’s obsession with freedom and dignity is allowing us to use our brains in the traditional way, but preventing us from saving our culture.

johnrwalker
johnrwalker
5 months ago
Reply to  R. N. England

Its wonderful to realise that my fondness for caffeine (and beer) is all down to John Stuart Mill and fraud!.
And i thought all along i was just ordering plain water!
Thank you so much!

R. N. England
R. N. England
5 months ago
Reply to  johnrwalker

Yes,
Fraud is everywhere, some harmless, some cruel, and some we tolerate at our peril.

johnrwalker
johnrwalker
5 months ago
Reply to  R. N. England

Lots of yard’s flying into the neighbours chickens around here.

Nicholas Gruen
5 months ago
Reply to  R. N. England

Glad to see some old-style 2005 vintage trolling.
Really takes me back to the glory days!
But seriously folks, the particular angle you take is an important one, even if it doesn’t provide the definitive ‘key’ to modern history.
Can you refer me to any sources on it. I wrote about it here.

johnrwalker
johnrwalker
5 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

🙂✔️
More seriously in JSMs time Opium in the UK( ie laudanum )was as common and legal as aspirin.
Did JSM express any views re sending gunboats to HK to enforce UK standards on China?

johnrwalker
johnrwalker
5 months ago
Reply to  johnrwalker

PS Dalrymples The Anarchy
Have you read it?

john walker
john walker
5 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen
David Walker
5 months ago
Reply to  R. N. England

Can I ask: what are the best things you’ve seen written on the role of fraud in undermining liberal concepts?

Not Trampis
5 months ago

The largest reason why no won was people di not understand the question.

Why? they had plenty of time to do so but either were too stupid in a trumpian sense or as Ray Martin pointed out too lazy.
not sure JSM is needed to explain this.