John Stuart Mills on free institutions in a multicultural society | Wrath of Gnon

“Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist.”

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Somewhat ironic, in light of current events, that a philosopher known as “one of the most influential thinkers in the history of liberalism” would say something like this! The full text that this is taken from follows:

“Where the sentiment of nationality exists in any force, there is a primâ facie case for uniting all the members of the nationality under the same government, and a government to themselves apart. This is merely saying that the question of government ought to be decided by the governed. One hardly knows what any division of the human race should be free to do, if not to determine, with which of the various collective bodies of human beings they choose to associate themselves.”

I agree with him, and that is precisely the cause that both our Founders, and our Confederate forebears (for those of us in the U.S.), fought so bravely and nobly to defend! But Mills goes on:

“But, when a people are ripe for free institutions, there is a still more vital consideration. Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist. The influences which form opinions and decide political acts, are different in the different sections of the country. An altogether different set of leaders have the confidence of one part of the country and of another. The same books, newspapers, pamphlets, speeches, do not reach them. One section does not know what opinions, or what instigations, are circulating in another.”

Or, in this “information age,” one may have the opportunity to know, but instead tends to gravitate – understandably – toward those sources with whom one is in sympathy, or vice-versa: it is becoming increasingly rare for the same people to, say, watch Fox News and listen to NPR, still less read both HuffPost and Breitbart! And I have a great deal of empathy for this; some “news” sources are becoming increasingly difficult for me to stomach, myself. The problem, of course, is that this increases the fragmentation and polarization:

“The same incidents, the same acts, the same system of government, affect them in different ways; and each fears more injury to itself from the other nationalities, than from the common arbiter, the state. Their mutual antipathies are generally much stronger than jealousy of the government. That any one of them feels aggrieved by the policy of the common ruler, is sufficient to determine another to support that policy. Even if all are aggrieved, none feel that they can rely on the others for fidelity in a joint resistance; the strength of none is sufficient to resist alone, and each may reasonably think that it consults its own advantage most by bidding for the favour of the government against the rest.”

— John Stuart Mill, 1861

Methinks our contemporary “liberals” ought, perhaps, to read a bit more Mills! Or maybe they’ve read too much, and took this (like Orwell’s 1984) not as a warning, but a blueprint.

In any case, if that’s not a good (if disheartening) description of our present situation, I don’t know what is. But of course, the break-up of society into a people apart, isolated, entirely lacking in “fellow-feeling,” seems to be part of the Leftist agenda, leaving us isolated and vulnerable, precisely as Mills suggests. If so, importing large numbers of disparate peoples from disparate nations, regions, and cultures seems like a very effective way to disrupt and destabilize the host culture… 😡

Author: The Anglophilic Anglican

I am an ordained Anglican clergyman, published writer, former op-ed columnist, and experienced outdoor and informal educator. I am also a traditionalist: religiously, philosophically, politically, and socially. I seek to do my bit to promote and restore the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, in a world which has too-often lost touch with all three, and to help re-weave the connections between God, Nature, and humankind which our techno-industrial civilization has strained and broken.

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