Mill’s increased sympathy for socialism is not evident in Since this work is strongly intended to foster individuality, it is perhaps hardly to be expected that it would pay tribute to the collectivist idea. In the last part of the essay he summarizes his principal objections to government intervention, apart from cases where it is intended to protect the liberty of individuals (305-10). He opposes it in matters which can be managed more effectively by private individuals than by the government, because they have a deeper interest in the outcome. He also opposes it when individuals may be less competent than public servants, but can acquire an invaluable public education in providing the service. Thus they strengthen their faculties, their judgment, and their grasp of joint and diverse interests that deeply concern themselves and society. He finds examples of these in jury service, participation in local administration, and conduct of voluntary philanthropic or industrial activities. Without such practical experience and education, no people can be adequately equipped for success in political freedom. It is the role of the central government, not to engage directly in these activities, but to act for them as a central depository, diffusing the diverse experience gathered in the many experiments of civic activity.
In his essay on the “State of Society in America” Mill expressed not merely some additional reflections on the American experiment, but also briefly raised questions on how environment determines a nation’s politics, how nations could benefit from one another’s experience through a science of comparative institutions, and how American society was judged by European observers in the doubtful light of their own prejudices, especially hostility to popular rule. He was strongly convinced that the American form of democracy must be directly related to the special character of American society, moulded by a wide variety of forces: abundant natural wealth, a fast growing population, a remarkable opportunity for all classes to raise their standards of living, the absence of aggressive neighbours, the lack of a leisured class except in the southern states, and the inheritance of a language and culture from a parent nation three thousand miles away. Its experiment in politics was scarcely comprehensible apart from the interplay of these numerous influences, all of which, although seldom the product of government, impinged directly on government. They were not all favourable to the success of democracy. To Mill the United States was a classic demonstration of the intimate bonds between social circumstances and political forms.
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The members of a democratic community are like the sands of the seashore, each very minute, and no one adhering to any other. There are no permanent classes, and therefore no few hereditary fortunes, and therefore few local attachments, or outward objects consecrated by family feeling. A man feels little connexion with his neighbours, little with his ancestors, little with his posterity. There are scarcely any ties to connect any two men together, except the common one of country. Now, the love of country is not, in large communities, a passion of spontaneous growth. When a man’s country is his town, where his ancestors have lived for generations, of which he knows every inhabitant, and has recollections associated with every street and building—in which alone, of all places on the earth, he is not a stranger—which he is perpetually called upon to defend in the field, and in whose glory or shame he has an appreciable share, made sensible by the constant presence and rivalry of foreigners; in such a state of things patriotism is easy. It was easy in the ancient republics, or in modern Switzerland. But in great communities an intense interest in public affairs is scarcely natural, except to a member of an aristocracy, who alone has so conspicuous a position, and is so personally identified with the conduct of the government, that his credit and consequence are essentially connected with the glory and power of the nation he belongs to; its glory and power (observe,) not the well-being of the bulk of its inhabitants. It is difficult for an obscure person like the citizen of a , who is in no way involved in the responsibility of public affairs, and cannot hope to exercise more than the minutest influence over them, to have the sentiment of patriotism as a living and earnest feeling. There being no intermediate objects for his attachments to fix upon, they fasten themselves on his own private affairs; and, according to national character and circumstances, it becomes his ruling passion either to improve his condition in life, or to take his ease and pleasure by the means which it already affords him.