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Mill And Classic Laissez-Faire Liberalism

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Autor:   •  December 13, 2010  •  1,047 Words (5 Pages)  •  470 Views

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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


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