John Stuart Mill was born with the XIXth century, in an England in full industrial boom, organized around the almighty capitalism which swelled the ranks of the proletariat. Society then questioned the merits of liberalism; some saw it as the source of all inequality, others as a means of lifting the people out of poverty.
Adam Smith , in the previous century, in the Wealth of Nations , had shown all the interest of free trade, especially between Nations, which he saw as the most effective means of producing wealth. He had shown that self- interest is one of the characteristics that drive the behavior of every human being. Also, it was necessary to organize society around this obviousness:
It is not the kindness of the butcher, the beer merchant or the baker that we expect our dinner, but the care they take in their interests. We are not addressing their humanity, but their selfishness; and it is never about their needs that we tell them about, it is always about their advantage. Adam smith
Utilitarian like John Stuart MILL
John Stuart Mill published Principles of Political Economy in 1848, the date of the publication of the Communist Manifesto by Marx . Socialist (embodied by MILL) and communist (embodied by MARX) theories were thus met by interposed books, in full revolutionary agitation. John Stuart Mill took up there the principles of the utilitarianism of Jérémy BENTHAM : A law inevitably makes people dissatisfied. It is therefore described as “bad law” by part of the population. So the legislator is faced with a cruel dilemma: how to know if a law is (globally) good? Utilitarianism is then presented as a kind of decision aid; a law, according to this theory, is « good » if it brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number. It is a kind of arrhythmic of happiness.
Utilitarianism is the principle that approves or disapproves of any action in accordance with the tendency to increase or decrease the happiness of the party whose interest is in question. Jérémy BENTHAM
For John Stuart Mill , man must strive to found a society which privileges the general interest over the particular interest, that is to say a society against nature …
The only freedom worthy of the name is that of working for our own good in our own way, as long as we do not seek to deprive others or to obstruct them in their efforts to obtain it. John Stuart Mill
Liberal like John Stuart MILL
John Stuart Mill remains a liberal, a proponent of free enterprise and private property. At the same time, however, he believes that the state must play a leading role in preventing any unacceptable increase in inequality.
The freedom of the individual must therefore be limited: he must not make himself harmful to others. John Stuart Mill
Without the law that restricts the redistribution of wealth, the rich become increasingly wealthy, only giving the poor enough to work and reproduce to prepare the next generation of workers.
Men do not want to be wealthy, but to be wealthier than others. John Stuart Mill
This is revolutionary in the England of Smith who thinks that the best state is one that remains discreet, the markets self-regulating, optimally, thanks to an invisible hand.
For John Stuart Mill , the state must act by activating a reflux of wealth towards the lower classes thanks to the tax on the rich. He therefore preaches for a democratic society, organized around free trade, the only one capable of producing wealth and which corrects its excesses by taxation and taxes. In this he is a precursor of the socialist movement;
Socialism is the modern form of protest which, at all times of intellectual activity, has been raised, more or less lively, against the unfair distribution of social benefits. John Stuart Mill .
50 years later, in 1920, at the Tour Congress, the schism will appear in broad daylight between the Socialists of Léon Blum and Marcel Semba , in favor of a reform of society to make it fairer and the Communists of Marcel CACHIN in favor of the Revolution as a means of mass destruction of the existing state.
Sustainable development like John Stuart MILL
John Stuart Mill also does not reject capitalism which, according to him, advances humanity towards mutual respect between individuals. On the other hand, he does not advocate growth at all costs: he dreams of a kind of stationary state, of « reasoned growth » which would allow men to live with dignity from their work and to have free time to devote themselves to non-profit-making activities, such as art or sport or even contemplating nature… This is what will seduce two centuries later Martine AUBRY and Nicolas HULOT.
Democrat like John Stuart MILL
In every constitution there should be a center of resistance against the prevailing power, and therefore in a democratic constitution a means of resistance against democracy. John Stuart Mill .
Feminist like John Stuart MILL
All the selfish tendencies which one finds in men, the cult of oneself and the contempt of the others, take their source in the current organization of the relations between the men and the women. John Stuart Mill .