Home DH-Debate

Democracy - Pro et Contra (3)

John Stuart Mills Arguments for Democracy

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill John Stuart Mill was born in England and lived most of his life there. He died in Avignon in France. Together with his father, James Mill, and the friend, Jeremy Bentham, he represented the philosophical school, "Utilitarianism".

Any action in our lives is associated with both happiness and pain. When happiness exceed pain, we will get "utility", which we prefer.

This is similar to a financial action that is associated with both revenue and cost. When revenue exceed cost, we will get profit, which we prefer.

Mills political guideline was to support such laws, which would create maximum increased utility for as many people as possible.

John Stuart Mill had a seat in parliament, and he was the leading liberal representative. During the last one hundred and fifty years, he has been the big role model for the English liberals.

In 1859 he published his principal political work, "On Liberty". Faithful to his utility philosophy, he argued in favour of creating the widest possible freedom of speech for the maximum number of people. He wrote, that the state can restrict a citizen's freedom of expression, when it is clear, that the use of this expression would cause even greater harm to others.
Liberated woman in conflict with police Women's suffrage in the seventeenth century Stuart Mill defended the rights of minorities in a democracy and argued for equal rights for women.

John Stuart Mill has probably never felt serious doubt about the legitimacy of democracy. His main concern has rather been, if the democratic system was democratic enough.

But he probably felt, that he as a philosopher and Member of Parliament had to put forward arguments for a democratic system of society.


John Stuart Mills Argument I: "The laws of a democracy is of better quality than the laws of other society systems:"

John Stuart Mill was a member of the English parliament Democratic legislative methods are better than law practices of an aristocracy or a monarchy.

Since all groups in a democratic society have some political power, it will force lawmakers to take into consideration the interests of all these groups, their rights and attitudes.

Democratic legislative methods involve a lot of people in the creation of law. A Bill will be exposed to sound criticism from all interested groups. Democratic politicians can take advantage of evaluations and critical reviews from many different sides.

Therefore, the laws in a democratic system in general will be better than the laws of other social systems.

From Mill's "Considerations on Representative Government" (1861) page 74 - abridged.

PRO Democracy

John Stuart Mill was a very open person. It is said that there was not one trend in the contemporary life of society, not in some way represented in his writings.

He loved the intellectual quest for truth, for the right solution. He listened carefully to opposing arguments. He was always open to that he might have overlooked a fact, or there could be a flaw in his logic.

Democratic legislative methods involve a lot of people. Therefore, a lot of information will come to light. In a free society with a relatively free press, any bill, therefore, will be thrown on light, criticized and debated from all sides and by all political groups.

Thanks to this critical process, the democratic laws will achieve quite optimal formulations.

Our modern society is rapidly developing, and it is immensely important to adapt existing laws to the conditions of the new changing community.

Democratic legislation is not a revolutionary process. We do not throw all out and start from scratch every time.
Greetings from the welfare state Today's legislators stand on the shoulders of their predecessors. Virtually every new bill represents a modernization and improvement of older, existing laws.

For these historical reasons, the tax laws for example can well seem somewhat unclear and unmanageable.

But the laws about tax collection, public expenditures and transfer payments are laws of good quality. They are very much able to create the foundation for a happy life for the Danes.
Despite the high taxes the Danes feel happy One opinion survey after another has shown that the Danes are one of the world's happiest people. This is despite the high tax burden and the slightly complicated tax laws.

In fact, the continuous democratic improvement process is an iterative procedure that successively has sanded off the rough parts of the tax collection system.

First such details, that have appeared very unjust, have been improved. In the next sequential step, those details, which seemed a little less unjust, have been modernized. In this way the welfare system year by year, sequence by sequence, has been steadily adjusted and optimised, still better working and still more acceptable for the people.

Today, the taxes, the payments and other parts of the welfare system of society are so well adjusted that the vast majority of the Danes feel that the system is fair.

That is why so many Danes declare, that they in general feel happy, in spite of the heavy tax burden.

An ultimate objective of policy must be to make people rich and happy. And when the people declare that they generally feel happy, then legislation must be considered a success.

CONTRA Democracy.

Basically, democracy is a form of organized corruption.

In connection with an election, specific political parties and individual candidates turn to selected groups of voters. Some parties address the self-employed and senior officials; some present themselves as advocates for the business people, others address workers and government employees. The candidates make promises, which favour their chosen groups of voters. If a candidate or a party then wins an election, they must return the favour of their chosen group of voters on the expense of the people as a whole.

Candidates are proposed as representatives for specific cities or provinces of the nation.

In return for the favour of their voters from these cities and provinces, they are expected to show particular understanding for the special problems in their selected parts of the country during the legislative work of the period.

Therefore, the legislative process in a democracy tends to be compromises between different interests, and does not so much reflect an objective approach supporting the long term interest of the nation as a whole.
The nation must be built by law - the opening chapter of the ancient Jutland Law The opening chapter of the ancient "Jutland Law" tells how a good law must be: "The law must be honest and fair, endurable according to the customs of the country, appropriate and useful and clear so that everyone can know and understand, what the law says. The law should not be done or written to anyone's particular advantage, but to the best interests of all, who live in the country."

The laws about taxes are the most important laws in a democracy, and they certainly do not meet the criteria of "Jutland Law".

It is a typical result of decades, indeed centuries of compromises. There are no tax rules without exceptions. Often there are also exceptions to the exceptions.

It's completely confusing. No living persons have full knowledge of all the tax legislation's nooks and crannies. There are experts in personal taxation, in business taxation and experts in corporate taxation. But none are experts in tax laws as a whole. This topic is simply too large and unmanageable.

Thus, the democratic legislative method during decades has created some of our most important laws by extending existing laws by footnotes, exceptions and requirements for certain conditions, compromise after compromise and exceptions from the exceptions.

There are three arguments for taxation:

- To finance government expenditures.
- To influence people's behaviour.
- To establish a just distribution of income.

Initially a political coalition might create a tax law to finance government spending on defense, custom, police, education etc.

In the next legislative period, a new political coalition may change the law with the intent to influence people's behaviour. They might reduce the tax on interest in order to boost the economy or increase the tax on alcohol in order to discourage the citizens in becoming alcoholics.

In a future period, a third political coalition can decide to raise taxes on the wealthy in order to create justice.

After some time it will start all over again, with special regards being mixed up with the tax laws, perhaps more favourable taxation of export companies, new tax deductions for farmers or the like.

Tax is just as it is, and it is difficult to change.

So one have to say that John Stuart Mill was completely wrong. Democratic legislative approach does not seem particularly suited to create good laws.


John Stuart Mill's Argument II: "Participation in a Democracy Cultivates the Character of the Citizens"

Democracy works on improving people's character.

In a democratic system, citizens are more inclined to stand up and speak for themselves. They know that the final decisions will depend on them much more than it would be the case in an aristocracy or a monarchy. People are aware that in a democracy, their attitudes and opinions really make a difference, therefore they will in general think more carefully and rationally over the political problems.

In political discussions, they may listen to others. When they want to convince others about their own opinions, they must necessarily to some extent base their arguments on these other's interests and living conditions. Under such circumstances, the citizens will really consider justice and the common good of the society to greater extend.

Rousseau also believed that participation in a democracy, improves people's character.

From Mill's "Considerations on Representative Government" (1861) page 74 - abridged.

PRO Democracy

In modern democracies, citizens involve in political discussions at the highest moral level.
Citizens in democracies feel responsibble for the World's future The democratic citizens of the present are deeply and selflessly concerned with problems connected with the living conditions of future generations. Global warming is causing genuine concern. Everyone is worried about the impact of increased sea levels and increased extend of deserts. Many are involved in Greenpeace and other voluntary environmental organizations.
Citizens in democracies feel themselves responsible for the refugees Earth's millions of refugees stir up a sincere feeling of responsibility in the citizens of modern democracies. They are members of countless volunteers associations that aim to help the developing nations and the planet's poor.

Flea markets in supports of the poor people of the Earth are arranged everywhere. Collections for victims of disasters, famine and floods take place often. Famous artists organize concerts where the proceeds will go to refugees throughout the world.

There are many associations with idealistic purposes, which citizens of democracies support with great energy and voluntary funds. Just think of the world environmental organization "Greenpeace" which monitors the world's environment and bravely protect whales. Think of "Amnesty International" which consistently protects refugees, ethnic groups, minority religions and human rights throughout the world.

Yes, people in democracies voluntarily take on themselves also responsibility for animal rights. Famous actors give strong support in the campaigns against the use of fur. Reportedly women in fur can't walk in the streets of London without being addressed about their crime against the animals.
Democratic citizens feel responsible animal rights Hardly any social event, celebration or party can take place without the future of the planet, refugees, human rights of minorities or similar issues will be lively discussed.

Citizens in democracies are simply idealistic and willing to sacrifice for a good cause. It is perfectly reasonable to argue that they possess better moral qualities than citizens of other society systems.
Democratic citizens fight for the rain forrest

Contra Democracy.

There is no doubt that modern citizens of Western democracies themselves believe that they are at a very high moral level. But one is allowed to ask whether this morality is true. Partly in the sense of whether it really is something we can take to our hearts, and partly in the sense if the facts and the logic that presupposes the moral requirements are true.

Western democratic inhabitants believe for example that it is morally right to allow millions of poor Africans and Middle Eastern Muslims to settle in their countries, because it is such a pity for them that they are poor in their African homelands.

But when, in the goodness of our hearts, we allow the massive immigration into the West, we will at the same time make our communities more African and Muslim, thereby endangering the prosperity and security of our own children and grandchildren. What is most morally right: To help a few percent of Africans out of poverty, or to secure the prosperity, security and existence of our own descendants? Do we really feel in our hearts that it is right to support the immigration?
Skib med Afrikanske velfærdsemigranter Many believe that it is directly immoral to help complete strangers at the expense of our own for whom we are responsible.

Moreover, it is not true that we practice very much kindness by allowing Africans to settle in our countries. For the same money that it costs to entertain these so-called refugees in the Western countries, many times more people could helped in their own countries.

The West's democratic inhabitants believe that it is morally right to sacrifice their wealth to reduce the CO2 content of the atmosphere and thereby save the entire Earth from collapsing due to uncontrollable temperature rise. It is a beautiful thought to save the entire planet that we in our hearts must be in favor of - but is it true that the planet is in immediate danger of collapsing due to uncontrollable temperature rise caused by our sinful consumption?.
School strike for the climate The whole CO2 theory that presume this moral requirement is in all likelihood unsustainable. The Earth's atmosphere today contains about 360 ppm CO2, which is 0.036% by volume. It is 3.6 ten-thousand-parts, which is a very small part of the atmospheric air. It is contrary to all common sense to believe that a marginal change in this very small volume can increase an alredy insignificant greenhouse effect and thereby cause the Earth's temperature to rise or fall.



See also arguments for not to vote: Why not vote?

And Joern K. Balterzen 's mathematical calculations of the responsibilities in a democracy:

Binary Math Against Democracy - JK Baltzersen articles

Back to start of article

20191113
Passed W3C Validation