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Considerations on Representative Government von Mill, John Stuart (eBook)

  • Verlag: Jovian Press
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Considerations on Representative Government

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), a British philosopher, political economist, civil servant and Member of Parliament, was an influential liberal thinker of the 19th century. He was an advocate of utilitarianism, the ethical theory of his godfather, Jeremy Bentham, but his conception of it was very different from that of Bentham. His father's History of India was published in 1818; immediately thereafter, about the age of twelve, Mill began a thorough study of the scholastic logic, at the same time reading Aristotle's logical treatises in the original language. A contemporary record of his studies from eight to thirteen is published in Bain's sketch of his life. It suggests that his autobiography rather understates the amount of work done. His works include Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy (1844), Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform (1859), Auguste Comte and Positivism (1865), Considerations on Representative Government (1861), The Contest in America (1862), and Utilitarianism (1863).

Produktinformationen

    Format: ePUB
    Kopierschutz: none
    Seitenzahl: 374
    Sprache: Englisch
    ISBN: 9781537821931
    Verlag: Jovian Press
    Größe: 546 kBytes
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Considerations on Representative Government

CHAPTER I-TO WHAT EXTENT FORMS OF GOVERNMENT ARE A MATTER OF CHOICE.

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ALL SPECULATIONS CONCERNING FORMS OF government bear the impress, more or less exclusive, of two conflicting theories respecting political institutions; or, to speak more properly, conflicting conceptions of what political institutions are.

By some minds, government is conceived as strictly a practical art, giving rise to no questions but those of means and an end. Forms of government are assimilated to any other expedients for the attainment of human objects. They are regarded as wholly an affair of invention and contrivance. Being made by man, it is assumed that man has the choice either to make them or not, and how or on what pattern they shall be made. Government, according to this conception, is a problem, to be worked like any other question of business. The first step is to define the purposes which governments are required to promote. The next, is to inquire what form of government is best fitted to fulfill those purposes. Having satisfied ourselves on these two points, and ascertained the form of government which combines the greatest amount of good with the least of evil, what further remains is to obtain the concurrence of our countrymen, or those for whom the institutions are intended, in the opinion which we have privately arrived at. To find the best form of government; to persuade others that it is the best; and, having done so, to stir them up to insist on having it, is the order of ideas in the minds of those who adopt this view of political philosophy. They look upon a constitution in the same light (difference of scale being allowed for) as they would upon a steam plow, or a threshing machine.

To these stand opposed another kind of political reasoners, who are so far from assimilating a form of government to a machine, that they regard it as a sort of spontaneous product, and the science of government as a branch (so to speak) of natural history. According to them, forms of government are not a matter of choice. We must take them, in the main, as we find them. Governments can not be constructed by premeditated design. They "are not made, but grow." Our business with them, as with the other facts of the universe, is to acquaint ourselves with their natural properties, and adapt ourselves to them. The fundamental political institutions of a people are considered by this school as a sort of organic growth from the nature and life of that people; a product of their habits, instincts, and unconscious wants and desires, scarcely at all of their deliberate purposes. Their will has had no part in the matter but that of meeting the necessities of the moment by the contrivances of the moment, which contrivances, if in sufficient conformity to the national feelings and character, commonly last, and, by successive aggregation, constitute a polity suited to the people who possess it, but which it would be vain to attempt to superinduce upon any people whose nature and circumstances had not spontaneously evolved it.

It is difficult to decide which of these doctrines would be the most absurd, if we could suppose either of them held as an exclusive theory. But the principles which men profess, on any controverted subject, are usually a very incomplete exponent of the opinions they really hold. No one believes that every people is capable of working every sort of institution. Carry the analogy of mechanical contrivances as far as we will, a man does not choose even an instrument of timber and iron on the sole ground that it is in itself the best. He considers whether he possesses the other requisites which must be combined with it to render its employment advantageous, and, in particular whether those by whom it will have to be worked possess the knowledge and skill necessary for its management. On the other hand, neither are those who speak of institutions as if they were

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