English / Mill And Classic Laissez-Faire Liberalism
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Autor: anton 13 December 2010
Words: 1047 | Pages: 5
Laissez-Faire Liberalism was/is an idea for a social movement
where citizens are able to conduct their market and personal lives as they see
fit without government interaction, which was widely promoted by A. Smith and
J. S. Mill. The only time it would be appropriate for the government to step
in is when it was crucial for the safety of the country or social structure
of the group in question. Liberals believed without a doubt that this movement
would result in the greatest possible efficiency of resources being used and
would allow the society to have its material wants satisfied to the fullest.
Citizens who contributed to this social structure were the ones who pursued
their own desires.
In all, the argument for laissez-faire is based upon the premise that free trade
and unregulated economic activity will enhance economic growth by stimulating
competitive enterprise. From what can be gathered, laissez-faire was produced
as a reaction to mercantilism. Mercantilism was the system of commercial controls
in which industry and trade, especially foreign trade was merely seen as means
of strengthening the state. This new capitalism tells us that happiness is pleasure
and to achieve this pleasure we need to satisfy our desires. Then in the consumers'
cases they need to buy goods to fulfill their desires where at the same time
the capitalists who are trying to make a profit off these consumers are trying
to fulfill their own desires. When it all works out it becomes a round about
subject. The capitalist who isn't going out of his way to purposely make the
consumer happy is still, in the end, doing just that. One capitalistic
entrepreneur makes a profit off of a consumer, which fulfills the entrepreneur's
desires, which in turn makes him happy. The consumer obtains a desired good
from the entrepreneur, which satisfies the consumer's desire, which in turn
makes him happy.
Wolff explains that the selfishness of this system would achieve what altruism,
selflessness, was never fully able to, which was to rationally and efficiently
produce the greatest happiness possible for the greatest number of people.
Its not much of a coincidence that about the time the American colonies were
beginning to show their want for independence from England that the laissez-faire
movement began to pick up wide spread support. Some of the major supporters
were the founders of America.
For a quick background, John Stuart Mills was the son of James Mill, a Scotsman
who came to London and became a leader in a radical group movement to further
the utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham. James raised his son to continue
in his footsteps as philosophical leader. Shortly after his eighteenth birthday
in 1823, John threw himself into his father's work and began an active literary
career. His father got him a junior position in the company he worked for and
John quickly climbed the business ladder to eventually take over his father's
position. In 1826, John Stuart began to feel the pressures of walking his father's
path at such a young age and slipped into a deep state of depression. His mental
state continued for many months and all the while never leaving his job. Inside
he felt that his goals were not all they had been cracked up to be and only
through the poetry of Wordsworth was he able to find comfort.
The "position" taken by J. S. Mill was that he had come to question
many of the supporting ideas behind laissez-faire liberalism and Utilitarianism.
He took over where his father and David Ricardo had left off. Mill was also
an activist in self-development where he saw laissez-faire policies as the vehicle
for individual freedom.
Mill goes on to face moral dilemmas as he begins to doubt and disagree with
certain points of Utilitarianism, the philosophy he was brought up to defend.
Where his father's version of Utilitarianism explains that no one pleasure is
better then another, Mill explains in his essay, "Utilitarianism,"
that different people require different types and different quantities to supply
them with their needed pleasure. Obviously some pleasures must be different
then others in quantity and quality.
J. S. then denies and rejects the ideas that the individuals who take part in
our economy can be counted on to be "self-interested" to the point
that they increase growth and production to the highest possible level. Mill
explains that with those who are self-interested there are also those who are
subject to keeping a routine schedule so in certain cases these few will continue
to shop where it is convenient and routine. This in turn can surely not lead
to the highest possible level of growth.
In Mill's last argument he stresses that the government should have no control
over our personal lives. He sums up his thoughts on the subject by saying, "Laissez-faire
should be the general practice: every departure from it, unless required by
some great good, is a certain evil."
When I sit back and look at this Mill's philosophy as a whole I'm not nearly
as overwhelmed as I feel I should be. Once all the different parts are separated
down it is easy to analyze them. I'm somewhat torn on the whole idea though.
For the life of me I can't come to accept the idea that the government should
have no control over our market transactions. I agree that they shouldn't have
any control in our personal lives such as what we do at in the privacy of our
own homes with consenting adults, but without control over our market, Bill
Gates would own half the country if not all of it. The idea of no governmental
control over the market might have been nice back in Mill's time, but now the
market is too busy, too big for there to be no regulations. Its hard enough
keeping crooks that hold large portions of the market from controlling the lives
of the little people even with governmental regulations so just imagine how
much more the middle and lower classes would be ostracized if these capitalists
were able to run completely free.
When Mill deciphers the qualities and quantities of pleasure I tend to agree.
Even though we are all human there is such a diversity of people that to say
one pleasure for one person is just as good for another person is to say that
a layperson would get that same amount of pleasure from reading Stephen Hawking
as an astrophysicist would. What more needs to be said then that?
Again I have to agree with Mill that the actions of the market's adventurers
cannot be calculated, but merely predicted. Human nature's ability to be completely
irrational at times is just enough to throw off any sort of attempt at calculating
our behaviors especially in a market place.
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