On Liberty

Mill's Alternative

In his essays "Considerations on Representative Government" and "On Liberty", John Stuart Mill makes a convincing argument in favor of representative democracy. The system he proposes strikes the necessary balance between the "philosopher kings" advocated by Plato and the directly democratic rule by the "general will" that Rousseau argues for. Mill sees a system like Plato's to essentially be leadership by a "good despot". Although it may be well intentioned, Mill believes that this system will never adequately address the desires of the people. And even though he largely agrees with the principles of direct democracy advocated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, he shows that this is not realizable in a state system. Despite aspects of Mill's proposal with which I do have concern, what he presents is a vision of a real alternative. Mill's system could actually transcend the problems of mingling a utopian direct democracy with an effective despotism.

Mill's vision of government is one of an elected ruling body entrusted with making the laws of the state, the representatives who comprise this body being chosen through a process of universal suffrage. All citizens are given...

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