> He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion. The rational position for him would be suspension of judgment, and unless he contents himself with that, he is either led by authority, or adopts, like the generality of the world, the side to which he feels most inclination. Nor is it enough that he should hear the arguments of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. That is not the way to do justice to the arguments, or bring them into real contact with his own mind. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them; who defend them in earnest, and do their very utmost for them. He must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form; he must feel the whole force of the difficulty which the true view of the subject has to encounter and dispose of; else he will never really possess himself of the portion of truth which meets and removes that difficulty.
Instead we get strawmen, soundbites and kayfabe. Somehow we've got to get away from this.
pssst put down your phone.
Posted from my phone.
We could use some more of that.
Given that we have many thousands of readers here, I think it is better to have a diversity of philosophical explorations (rather than intense interest only on a few).
A. There are variations within utilitarianism that Mill lays out but does not resolve. For example, 'rule utilitarianism' or 'act utilitarianism' 
B. Another level out, there many theories of political economy that contrast with utilitarianism.
C. Political economy is a fascinating area. Many people already read Milton Friedman, so I often recommend reading Arthur Okun's "Equality and Efficiency: The Big Tradeoff" as a counterpoint 
D. Go another level out, and you will find many theories of ethics that are worth examining.
> To the beloved and deplored memory of her who was the inspirer, and in part the author, of all that is best in my writings- the friend and wife whose exalted sense of truth and right was my strongest incitement, and whose approbation was my chief reward—I dedicate this volume. Like all that I have written for many years, it belongs as much to her as to me; but the work as it stands has had, in a very insufficient degree, the inestimable advantage of her revision; some of the most important por- tions having been reserved for a more careful re-examination, which they are now never destined to receive. Were I but capable of interpret- ing to the world one half the great thoughts and noble feelings which are buried in her grave, I should be the medium of a greater benefit to it, than is ever likely to arise from anything that I can write, unprompted and unassisted by her all but unrivalled wisdom.
- The Marketplace of Ideas
- The Harm Principle
- Utilitarianism as the moral mechanism of social policy
Is this a quotation? A phrase from a particular work? Could you share the context?
I do not accept that utilitarianism is "the" moral mechanism of social policy. Yes, many economists use utility maximization in their analyses, but there is a diversity of thought around many things, such as (but not limited to):
(a) what should utility include;
(b) the functional form of utility (the sum/average? the minimum? something else?); and
(c) to what extent reductionist theories of happiness/contentment/whatever are useful tools given that humans exist interdependently, with biological, tribal, social, and intellectual connections.
There is a whole field of thought that digs into these variations.
This has nothing to do with economists; the Western legal system is (more or less) based on the weighing of different interests (definitionally: utilitarianism). There are, of course, a few exceptions -- which graze deontology, and even rarer still virtue ethics and (more historically) some divine command theory -- but overall, I'd say that yeah, we're pretty much utilitarian.
> There is a whole field of thought that digs into these variations.
Agreed, ethics is a rich and valuable field.
Would you recommend an essay or book chapter that elaborates a bit on this assessment?
>> Utilitarianism as the moral mechanism of social policy
> "Is this a quotation? A phrase from a particular work? Could you share the context?"
"Democratic laws generally tend to promote the welfare of the greatest possible number; for they emanate from the majority of the citizens, who are subject to error, but who cannot have an interest opposed to their own advantage."
This is, by definition, utilitarianism (greatest amount of good, least amount of bad, and all that).
I'm pretty sure you don't mean "moral mechanism" as used in this article: Davenport, D. Moral Mechanisms. Philos. Technol. 27, 47–60 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13347-013-0147-2
Regarding de Tocqueville:
> "Democratic laws generally tend to promote the welfare of the greatest possible number; for they emanate from the majority of the citizens, who are subject to error, but who cannot have an interest opposed to their own advantage."
I understand the central argument of the quote. However, I don't think it demonstrates a strong enough connection between utilitarianism and social policy to call it "the" moral mechanism, granting of course, I'm not exactly sure what you mean (see above), but I am thinking it is along the lines of "moral influence" or "moral foundation".
Also, the claim that citizens cannot have an interest opposed to their own advantage is, at least, overly simplistic. Yes, de Tocqueville qualifies it with "Democratic laws tend", but I don't think this is enough of a caveat. Correct me if I'm wrong, but he didn't didn't do an empirical study of legislation nor did he attempt to categorize the effects in a utilitarian framework.
So my responses to dT's claim: First, preference aggregation is non-obvious at best and quite controversial in practice. Second, we have to talk about time scales. Some policies are intended to have long-term benefits with short-term costs, for example. Third, those with political power have the ability to use it in ways that disadvantage others. How often this happens would require a proper research design, which (correct me if I'm wrong) dT did not do. I view his work as valuable but largely as a record of his observations while travelling. He was certainly not a neutral observer.
I'll add a different point: given the phrase "Utilitarianism as the moral mechanism of social policy", do you view it as a metaphor? In what sense are you using it -- trying to identify patterns through history?
When I read philosophy, I actively seek to contextualize it. For example, I ask:
(a) Are the terms clear (admitting it can take work to get the context);
(b) Is it a way of thinking about the world (i.e. a reframing)?;
(c) Does it offer explanatory power?;
(d) Does it offer predictive power?
Another way to capture these four questions is: "To what degree is a particular clear, coherent, and/or interpretable by others? How does it assist in thinking about the issue? Is it testable in some way, not necessarily through a strict scientific method?"
Hopefully this background gives you some context as to why I'm digging into this phrase. For the sake of argument, let me say (and let you respond) that all four lettered questions are hazy to me.
Ok, now a few remarks about the United States and its social policies over time:
In the US, I'd like to highlight some contributing factors to "how we got here" with regards to social policy: (1) the historical moment; namely, perceived injustice by the colonies inflicted by the British; (2) the influence of common law on US legal foundations; (3) the innovation, so to speak, of the US form of government; (4) a long, complex history of social policy in the US, which includes religious influences, shifting awareness and beliefs, a civil war, mobilization of voters, and ensuing legislation, waves of resistance to change, and so on.
The origination of social justice initiatives.
I'm currently reading the book's predecessor, John Locke's works Second Treatise and On Toleration.
I think one thing that is very important to these books on liberties that is missed is finding one with a good introduction that can put it in it's historical (read: dated) place. It is too easy to otherwise miss that Locke is not exactly anti-slavery, for example. Or that the "family debate" and role of the patriarchal family, that left the suffrage of women in doubt, was not addressed. Or that the whole struggle for their times was really a question of how to morally justify rule by people versus rule by monarch (and your suggestion of Hobbes' Leviathan is actually arguing for the monarchy, on the other side of the debate). And this debate was otherwise taken within the cultural context of "Wealthy, Man, Head of household", which may be wrong on all 4 counts today (the culture itself is changing, the discussion is no longer limited to the wealthy, men, nor head-of-household family units).
The "monarchy vs people" debate of their time is not an argument we are exactly having in real life. And what I've found by reading the works of this area is: just as fans of this kind of liberty love to out the onus on the "other side" that they need to consider these points, the fans of this kind of liberty really have an onus on them to need to continue the discussion and update it for the modern world: as I move from Plato to Locke to Rousseau their writing really do faithfully build off one another and so it should be possible today in 2020, and modern writers like Haidt (whose works I have also spent time reading) do not meet this bar, I feel.
Without this, simply reading these authors and saying "see, America, read this and be convinced" keeps giving everyone the burden of catching up on the 300-ish years of criticism of these works and discards those intraveneing years' political philosophy debates. A major setback, in my opinion, as I may have the time and willpower to earnestly become a read person of political philosophy, but that is certainly a luxury of a wealthy individual like me (and the founding fathers of the time) and not everyone can afford that (and economic disparity is also a key factor addressed by people such as Rousseau).
I did not do much research into different translations of this work nor the translator themselves, before purchasing this book.
However, critical thought about how to run a just, fair society should not stop with 1859. Particularly in light of events in the 20th century, and with observations of the failure modes of actual democracies (which have (with some exceptions) only existed since the late 18th century). We should continue to read and reason about how to make our society even fairer, and even better, and how to prevent failure modes and regression to a less free state.
There is too much good material here to cite (it has been the focus of basically all political philosophy from WW2 forward) but relevant to this discussion, I can recommend Popper's "The Open Society and its Enemies", and Hannah Arendt's "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil".
Also of interest are historical treatments of how support of libertarianism in the mid-18th century could coincide with the most brutal zenith of race-based slavery.
I mention these because, I presume, this is being posted and upvoted in the context of the current political discourse. Understanding more _recent_ political philosophy, with more data available, is critical if one actually wants to understand and engage with movements such as (mentioned elsewhere in the comments) "cancel culture", or how to combat massive disinformation which, in the words of Sartre, "seek[s] not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert."
1. does not apply to all skin colors, genders or sexual orientations
If he'd said "does not apply to all countries" he'd probably not get downvoted, but the idea that people of different sexes and races don't have equal freedom is a hotly contested political question in many countries.
I think the point is that not everybody benefitted equally. I don’t think that’s very contentious, we can just look at the civil rights movement or even women’s suffrage, both of which are relatively new things. It would seem that the benefits are very slowly evening out though - every couple of decades there is a noticeable improvement. It’s not as fast as would be ideal, but at light speed compared to most of human history (which has been pretty brutal over all)
European fascism is the obvious example, but it's also really interesting to look at the trajectory of social freedom in places like China, Iran, Afghanistan, etc. Progress is not guaranteed.
The most obvious explanation being that the advocates of human freedom were predominantly the opponents of slavery. There were, after all, two sides to the civil war.
Understanding how and why that can happen is important for historical context of these movements, and understanding what is happening in our country now.
Many of the most fiery defenses of abolition were written by people who simultaneously enslaved others, e.g. Jefferson.
Something something banality of evil. You can know something is wrong, but if you're a farmer and the competing farmers are using slave labor, your primary options are to do the same thing or be uncompetitive in the market and starve to death.
You can argue that they should have chosen starvation over doing the wrong thing even while pushing for the systemic change that would allow them to do the right thing without self-destruction, but that level of unpragmatic selflessness is a lot to expect from real-life imperfect humans.
There can't be enough ways to get this work in front of people.
“Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement.“
-which of course was intended as an expression of support for the British colonial project in India.
1. The greatest enemy of liberty is a repressive majority.
2. Truth is the result of two, or more, opposing points of view.
Essentially most people seek agreement, not truth, and will actively suppress truth when agreement is challenged.
> This conduct consists, first, in not injuring the interests of one another; or rather certain interests, which, either by express legal provision or by tacit understanding, ought to be considered as rights; and secondly, in each person’s bearing his share (to be fixed on some equitable principle) of the labours and sacrifices incurred for defending the society or its members from injury and molestation.
> These conditions society is justified in enforcing, at all costs to those who endeavour to withhold fulfilment. Nor is this all that society may do. The acts of an individual may be hurtful to others, or wanting in due consideration for their welfare, without going to the length of violating any of their constituted rights. The offender may then be justly punished by opinion, though not by law.
> As soon as any part of a person’s conduct affects prejudicially the interests of others, society has jurisdiction over it, and the question whether the general welfare will or will not be promoted by interfering with it, becomes open to discussion.
> But there is no room for entertaining any such question when a person’s conduct affects the interests of no persons besides himself, or needs not affect them unless they like (all the persons concerned being of full age, and the ordinary amount of understanding). In all such cases, there should be perfect freedom, legal and social, to do the action and stand the consequences.
> It would be a great misunderstanding of this doctrine to suppose that it is one of selfish indifference, which pretends that human beings have no business with each other’s conduct in life, and that they should not concern themselves about the well-doing or well-being of one another, unless their own interest is involved. Instead of any diminution, there is need of a great increase of disinterested exertion to promote the good of others. But disinterested benevolence can find other instruments to persuade people to their good than whips and scourges, either of the literal or the metaphorical sort. I am the last person to undervalue the self-regarding virtues; they are only second in importance, if even second, to the social.
I cannot imagine what the other people in this thread think he wrote to respond as if it supports their idea of society not having authority over policing harmful conduct.
I think this quote is equally applicable to what is happening with our new cancel culture.
> But though this proposition is not likely to be contested in general terms, the practical question, where to place the limit—how to make the fitting adjustment between individual independence and social control— is a subject on which nearly everything remains to be done.
> All that makes existence valuable to any one, depends on the enforcement of restraints upon the actions of other people. Some rules of conduct, therefore, must be imposed, by law in the first place, and by opinion on many things which are not fit subjects for the operation of law.
It seems pretty clear that absolute free speech is absolutely off the table. We can agree that the pendulum has swung too far, without spiking it in the other direction.
Actually, speech is probably the one area that actually realizes Mill's otherwise unrealistic ideal case for when society should have no jurisdiction over individual action:
"when a person’s conduct affects the interests of no persons besides himself, or needs not affect them unless they like (all the persons concerned being of full age, and the ordinary amount of understanding)"
Mere speech cannot affect the interests of anyone: words are not magic spells. So by Mill's logic, society should indeed have no jurisdiction over speech--absolute free speech should not be off the table.
Another would be that there are any number of externalities of speech that affect society directly, such as coercion and fraud.
Depends on what you mean by "ulterior motive". If it's just speech, it is an expression of belief or opinion, as I said, and that is all it is. Everyone who hears it can judge it for themselves solely as an expression of belief or opinion. If it's a belief or opinion about public policy, any honest motive for expressing it will be part of the speech itself, so it won't be an "ulterior" motive in the sense of being hidden.
If it is not evident what a person's motives are for expressing a belief or opinion about public policy, any sane hearer will take that fact into account when judging the speech. If the hearer is not being given the freedom to make such judgments, then we're not talking about speech any more, we're talking about coercion or fraud.
> when it concerns beliefs or policy (and it does more than one may think), it is an action intended to influence the political process
No, it's an action intended to influence other people--but whether it does or not depends on the merits of what is said. Speech by itself can't change the political process; that requires changing the Constitution or laws.
> I think the distinction that was made is fairly absurd and lacks realism.
I think it is absurd and lacks realism to refuse to recognize the distinction between speech and action. The whole point of having the category "speech" at all is to force people to accept the reality that, if you want to live in a free country, you have to be enough of a mature adult to be able to tolerate people expressing beliefs that you think are false and opinions that you abhor. In a free country, the proper response to speech you think is wrong is more speech to refute or rebut the speech you think is wrong. Once the idea takes hold that it's okay to suppress people just because they say things you think are wrong, we no longer have a free country. Talk about "ulterior motives" is really just another way of suppressing people who say things you think are wrong.
Wow, well I have to voice some public disbelief over this statement. Maybe you just write it as a reflex?
You think personal liberties are at a low point? I must live in a different world.
We are in the age of the greatest emphasis on personal choice, personal satisfaction, and personal decision making in recent history. If anything we are in danger of the opposite -- personal freedoms making us unable to do or support things that are for the communal good.
Everything that is marketed to us, that enters our political discourse, that is stressed in our daily lives (as well as what many people seek to display to others) is about you deciding what you want and not having to put up with someone telling you what to do. "You do your way", "how you want it, when you want it", etc. The ease of finding subcultures and not having to have your individual interests and quirks diluted by a generic community. The ease of creating/joining isolated interest groups and segregating onesself from your neighbors, community, state, country. (This is not a new thesis -- written about extensively such as in "Bowling Alone".)
It's driven by our consumerism, of course, but it leaks into our government and other aspects of societal life very strongly. Note today, even governments almost feel they cannot force people to act in ways that benefit the community, and have to ask politely people to do things like wear masks (for fear of backlash and being voted out for violating people's personal liberties -- or what they believe are their liberties).
JSM was writing in an age where tyranny (or lack of recourse to rebel against tyranny) and material deprivation were common, social mobility was almost non-existent, and the notion that you could have a prosperous life without relying on the rest of society (and its rigid rules) laughable.
If you feel that (at least in the US) personal liberty is at risk, I shudder to think how your head would not explode in a real authoritarian country.
They are again under attack, as is free speech, mostly out of outwardly good intentions such as preserving justice, public safety, or even, ironically, inclusion.
This is a perpetual conflict, though.
> Everything that is marketed to us, that enters our political discourse, ... "You do your way", "how you want it, when you want it", etc
...as long as it's politically correct, and there's no vocal minority which is opposed to your doing that — again, out of some best intentions. Liberty inherently creates conflicts like that, because people are not going to want the same thing. Liberty is when you are allowed to do something that others might not like, and reciprocally must tolerate other people doing something you don't like. A lot of people are uncomfortable with this.
> JSM was writing in an age where tyranny
A tyranny of majority is a thing :( Consider all the minorities who were disenfranchised not by dictators but by majority of local voters back in the day.
> I shudder to think how your head would not explode in a real authoritarian country.
I was born in the USSR. I can compare. I see the vast difference. I also see certain disconcerting similarities.
By and large, supernova is correct I think in that the emphasis is on personal liberty, especially expressions which are not-normative ... more than ever before.
Communitarian ideals of 'duty' (ie 'Ask not what your Country can do for you, but what you can do for your Country') feel almost archaic these days. Like an old country song. We do not compel our children towards the community, rather to whatever expression excites them.
The push towards expression I think is mostly rooted in undoing some suppression in things like sexuality, but it extends to everything and as hinted in the OP the underpinning really is consumerism. 'Christmas' is actually a less important holiday than 'Easter' - but you'd never know it ... industry loves Christmas, or at least the parts that are non-controversial, and it wants to suppress everything else. This is the power of commerce. I work in Marketing and it's essentially a golden rule these days that nobody promotes a product based on features, it's promoted based on the basis of aspiration. Car commercials don't generally boast features, they take you on an journey of what driving XYZ car is like. (Think the Saab car, driving across the desert, with the Saab jet flying by, the driver portrayed as 'fighter pilot' - every little boy's dream job).
But nike also has a point - in that where there are sensitivities around minority groups (race, religion), it seems that almost any opinion can be construed as a 'transgression'.
Absent social rules to provide a basis for behaviour (some might say this is 'conformist') then humans I think will just do whatever suits them. We like to think of this in intellectual terms like 'having ideas' or 'avant garde art' - but for the most part it's just 'playing video games and Tweeting'. The 'PC' forces I believe are ideologically bent on a very specific kind of 'equalisation' wherein there's a kind of instinct to see any 'difference' as 'inequality' and therefore 'immoral'.
So I think those are the primary forces: lack of social agreement supported by commercial interest pulling us towards aspiration, and ideological forces promoting their specific version of 'moral equality'.
We are talking about deeply divided country back then in the middle of civil rights movement. Which happened when large parts of population were not free to speak their minds without very real threat to their safety. It is not change from people free to speak their minds to here. It is change from one group risks lynching, beating and economic consequences to another group risks economic consequences.
It was not only thing that was going on, obviously and it is not that everything is changing for the better. But the way we idealize the communitarian ideals of the past and their impact is mostly nostalgia - remembering good while ignoring bad. We are talking about good days of free speech of the past and then talk about suppression of sexual or racial minorities as if it would be unrelated.
Or for that matter free speech of whites who pushed for equality - the consequences for them were could be quite high too.
And I think the push back or just not taking these liberty arguments all that much seriously has something to do with those arguments not being really serious about past either.
"But the way we idealize the communitarian ideals of the past and their impact is mostly nostalgia "
Or rather ... of course we always make the past into 'nostalgia' but there's absolutely decrease in civic participation by almost all measures.
- Participation in local community groups is way down.
- Voting participation is way down.
- Direct political participation and Union memberships are way down.
- Millenials are the first generation in modern times to not consider 'hard work' (which is a kind of contribution) as top 5 'important value' (Greatest, Silent, Baby Boomer, Gen X - all had this as a top 5 value).
Now - we can definitely argue the value of 'community groups, classical political causes and definitely 'self described virtues' ... but it's definitely directional.
At very least it's a function of opportunity: people just have so many choices, young people can literally do anything. Three generations ago one's scope of choice was extremely limited.
People can now chose to participate in a 'political meme' on Twitter instead of joining the local cause. There are obviously many advantages to this, but disadvantages as well, as there is generally less materiality to Twitter wars. That said, when 1/2 nation Tweets, things can change.
Here's literally Google's 'ngram' viewer for the word 'duty' 
I don't need external evidence for this because in my own family I have very extended generations and I knew my grandparents generation very well: they were very coherent at the local level. My grandmother knew everyone on the street and must have helped or attended with literally over 100 weddings as it was the 'local ladies groups' that usually catered weddings -> for free (!) back in the day. Among other things. And yes, it was 'ladies' who made sanwiches, never the men.
The clubs my parents belong to are having a hard time attracting members's children into memberships which they have done for generations.
I would go so far as to say the level of local, social cohesion and the hyper local social networks were so strong and specific, that we can't read someone like Mill without understanding it.
The comparison between my grandparents youth, and suburbian 'placelessness' today wherein there aren't really any cultural demarcation points or locally established 'social rules' Mill references ... is really shocking, and that's only across several decades.
> it was the 'local ladies groups' that usually catered weddings -> for free (!) back in the day
And in between, women ability to earn money and social status by working went way up. We are less economically dependent on knowing everyone on the street, less dependent on hoping people will reciprocate the effort. We also socialize at work more, so we are not so lonely unless we form these organizations. Stay at home women who don't go out of their way to meet others are incredibly isolated and lonely, with all negative consequences, but todays women are dealing with this problem much less.
This has less to do with consumerism and more to do with pragmatical choices. All the socializing and networking that is necessary for all this was looked down at anyway. Despite completely necessary for sanity.
Men were not making sandwitches, because they were the ones who went to work.
> people just have so many choices, young people can literally do anything
Young people do things, they did not ceased to exist. They are even, all in all not that badly behaved - they are less violent, they take less drugs, teenage pregnancies are down.
> The clubs my parents belong to are having a hard time attracting the kids as members which they have done for generations.
Why would club membership was seen as good or bad or had anything to do with freedom or consumerism? It is either leisure activity or business networking activity, both of which moved elsewhere.
It's a meme for sure. Whether it's a "thing" in the reality of modern American discourse is sort of an open question.
The fact that the people most enthused with the idea of being suppressed by the tyrannical majority are members of the ruling party, dominant gender and most affluent racial demographics sorta makes the logical construction a bit complicated.
Coming from an Islamic country, minorities such as gay people or non-religious people cannot seek legal action without a strong sense of a chilling effect.
In the US, you have the electoral college as an attempt to amplify small state's voices to not have states with massive populations dictate who's president (at least in spirit, as I understand the implementation is far from perfect) which is understandable, since states are _first-class citizens_. The other thing, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that you have the house and the senate. The senate adheres to that first-class citizenship of states, while the house is a direct representation of citizens (blocks of them), which makes a tyranny of a majority (e.g. one-size-fits-all bill that suits people of California but wouldn't go well with the people of Wyoming) impossible.
So, if you don't feel like there is a tyranny of a majority in the US, you perhaps have to thank your legislative process for that. That sadly, does not map to private entities.
It takes a rather hard conscious effort to remember that other people freedoms need preserving if you value your own, because you are not always guaranteed be on the side of the majority.
You're also ignoring survivorship bias. It's no surprise that the victims of majoritarian tyranny you hear from are not the weakest in society, because the weakest in society don't have enough power to command the spotlight. That doesn't mean tyranny of the majority doesn't exist or that they are not its victims, only that you won't hear it from them, because you don't hear anything from them, because they don't have enough power to be heard.
Because the "cancel culture" thing doesn't work? The whole concept is nearly a complete fabrication. It's about 20% anecdotes of college kids saying dumb things mixed with 80% paranoia fueled by the conservative media. No one actually gets cancelled, certainly not the white republican men we're talking about constantly yelling (loudly, in a rather, let's say "unsuppressed" manner) about their Free Speech rights.
I'm not American but I think the underlying (philosophical) support for the type of liberty (of expression) that Mill is talking about is probably weaker than at some points in the past. I see more comments on Reddit bemoaning the 1st amendment usually indirectly but sometimes explicitly. The spirit of the old quote (usually misattributred to Voltaire) by Evelyn Beatrice Hall - "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" seems to be really out of favour these days.
On top of that, the power that corporations are able to exert over public discourse is probably at an all time high. Newspapers were often/usually owned by elite interests but a lot of the street level debate used to take place in forums they didn't control (i.e. face to face). Now both the newspapers and the discussion platforms themselves are controlled by basically the sets of same people. There's a reflex to say "Well, YouTube banning you isn't censorship, just a private entity making a decision not to host your content" and that's true but it's not quite the full story. If Facebook, Google, Apple, et al all ban you (and particularly if your ISPs refuse to host your content or the payment processors refuse to handle your accounts) then that is not too far from the level of influence governments have when banning things. When people like Alex Jones are "de-platformed" we might chuckle (or cheer) as he's either a huckster or a lunatic (and possibly both) but you don't need much imagination to see that the same thing could happen to anyone else deemed to be too radical/dangerous in the future. Fortunately the internet is still very fragmented and there are probably thousands of hosts I could go to put up my website if I wanted. But if AWS/GCloud/Azure/Alibaba end up dominating the market completely will that alternative exist in the future? And even if it does if everyone is getting their news from Facebook/Twitter then maybe they will delete any mentions of my call for a general strike anyway.
Again, to be clear - that does not mean that there is less liberty today. There is unquestionably more. But the direction of travel in both these areas is concerning.
Let's try get some more context before we make assumptions about what the earlier commenter meant. What was their context, for example? They might agree with your characterization of modern-day developed countries (if this is what you mean). Let's listen.
I think reasonable, educated people know there have been times in history where individual liberty was trampled upon. Some of the worst examples correspond to a lack of political representation and/or authoritarianism. Many people, for good reason, do not forget these awful moments in history.
>We are in the age of the greatest emphasis on personal choice, personal satisfaction, and personal decision making in recent history. If anything we are in danger of the opposite -- personal freedoms making us unable to do or support things that are for the communal good.
First, there are a few different definitions of individualism. One of them is indeed more about the personal habits of individuals who are able to express their individuality in private and public life through means and methods that sometimes buck the popular opinions of the masses. Putting aside the huge amount of manipulation in that arena used to create the illusion of choice in the consumerism you reference later, I would agree with you that in many ways that first definition is doing fairly well for itself...for now...
You see, the other definition is more about the foundational principles of individualism as a political-philosophical bedrock upon which the America was formed, which more broadly are the lessons of the enlightenment and renaissance condensed. This is more about the source of authority of government, the rights of individuals, and the pragmatic power dynamic between the popular opinion of the masses and those who don't align with them. What I would say is that the latter is quite demonstrably under attack in a myriad of ways, often subtle though they may be, and through that we lose sight of the foundation upon which the definition you speak of flourishes. Any structure whose foundation is eroded is in danger, and I argue that because one is threatened so is the other. I will get into this just a bit more, but first, I'm just going to take a moment and point out how amusing it is that in your defense of the state of individualism, you make the comment about the communal good being the thing under attack! The irony is palpable, but it is at the heart of the matter.
>JSM was writing in an age where tyranny (or lack of recourse to rebel against tyranny) and material deprivation were common, social mobility was almost non-existent, and the notion that you could have a prosperous life without relying on the rest of society (and its rigid rules) laughable.
>If you feel that (at least in the US) personal liberty is at risk, I shudder to think how your head would not explode in a real authoritarian country.
The patronizing tone here should be saved for those who you know better.
During my time in the military I have both been the boot of the authoritarianism and witnessed it applied in more than a few countries you would likely fear to walk freely in to this day. I didn't really get my brain back until I got out though, and have spent most of my free time trying to understand the bigger geopolitical and geostrategic issues at play in the world. One could spend a 10 lifetimes and still lack in this department, but one does their best. The thing to remember is I have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic, so that is where I come from to give you and other some context.
One of my conclusions in all my truth-seeking is that, yes indeed, individual liberties, are under threat. I'm having a hard time deciding if I should just start listing the ways, or give you the meta...
The meta is that individualism is the basis in theory of power in America. As James Madison, the father of the constitution said, "All power is originally vested in, and consequently derived from, the people." What I see is that principle being undermined and disregarded, as in my original statement, constantly. Before I start listing the ways, instead I will say the why: to get globalism you have to undermine the idea of national sovereignty. To get national sovereignty, you have to undermine the idea of individual sovereignty. That's the why, the details of which I will leave to some other time.
A lack of focus in the educational system on both types of individualism. I can't tell you how many younger people I've talked to don't even know the difference between positive and negative rights, for example. This used to be taught. It isn't anymore. The principles of Madison and those whom he studied such as Montesquieu are barely even a footnote in texts, if that, which can mostly be laid at the foot of the abuse of... federal aid to undermine more local school systems. In no place is individualism of your definition more undermined, though allowed in superficial ways. Schools are one of the most authoritarian places that exist outside of prisons.
A government completely unrepresentative of the people, a fundamental breakage. Even if we got past K-street and intelligence agency blackmail networks ala Epstein, almost always the retort is "but the people could do/elect X". What that fails to take into account is the absolute pervasiveness of psychological operations and propaganda, largely done through mass manipulation of the media... and before you knee-jerk into the easy position of calling me a conspiracy theorist, just understand this is all established fact for those who care to pay attention. Someone who knows about the Church Committee revelations such as Operation Mockingbird can easily understand the current state of media, while those who don't will tilt at a great many windmills. The divide and conquer tactics the news uses are more than just the organic brown nosing of "journalists" afraid of power or those convinced by it's colloquialisms. It is important here to note that everyone forgets the Y axis of the political spectrum. When many say the overton window has shifted to the right, what they really mean is that it has shifted up into authoritarianism for both parties! Authoritarianism is inherently and by definition the opponent of individual liberty.
That unrepresentative government has then, in turn, passed or allowed all kinds of fundamental abuses of what are rightly considered individual freedoms. For example: the old principle of Habeas Corpus was more or less suspended under the Obama administration with the MCA and NDAA; The right to privacy and against unreasonable searches and seizures by the patriot act and an increasingly totalitarian surveillance system; the TSA and their security theater and actual personal abuses of peoples personal right to not be touched or pictured naked; the freedom not just to speak being under threat by quasi-governmental influence over what are on the surface level private companies, but also the freedom to read what you wilt; a legal system that is completely in service of the rich, while abusing the poor in the worst ways, such as lack of speedy trials, or to trial by a proper jury, (lack of equality under the law); the allowance of executive orders to be treated as law, in violation of the separation of powers, the waging of forever wars unconstitutionally with flimsy AUMF's that abdicate the constitutional responsibility of congress to declare war; the complete dominance of a non-federal entity congress was deviously manipulated into giving the power of coin, the Fed (money printer goes brrr, but wait now the fed wants in on fiscal policy too!); a large movement against second amendment rights under the false or foolish guise of security (the same justification for many of the other abuses)...
I could go on and on. I have a list written down somewhere, where I took the time go through each clause and amendment of the constitution and listed all the violations currently happening to each. The point is that I think it is these fundamental principles, all based on the foundational principles of individual liberty, that have been eroded and are at the heart of the vast majority of our troubles as a nation these days. Black Lives Matter is about the abuse of these rights, for example, though they may fail to articulate it as such, and to their detriment. Many minorities of all types (Women, LGBTQ, Native Americans, atheists, etc) oppressed have found refuge in these principles and have indeed often won the legal battles necessary to create a state of things where the individualism you refer to can flourish.
What I am saying is that I am warning you and all other Americans, that a failure to understand this, and therefor guard against it, will mean both types of individualism shall increasingly fade away. A casual dismissal of the true state of things such as you responded with will fail to encourage the constant vigilance needed, for as Thomas Jefferson said ""eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty". No, the system was never perfect, and the actual implementation even less so, but we are losing our sight of the value of the foundational principles of the constitution, the declaration of independence that enabled it, and the enlightenment and renaissance that enabled them!
So yes, in the halls of true power I see an alarming increase of technocracy, coporatocracy, kleptocracy, inverted totalitarianism (Sheldon Wolin reference for the Chris Hedges readers), neofuedalism, neocolonialism, supranational globalism, bipartisan authoritarianism, totalitarianism, oligarchy, and dystopia, all discussed as the the normal and desired state of things. In the halls of the masses I see a desire to burn the whole thing down having lost all influence on those halls of power.
Both are a threat.
One thing I've said to others is this; just because the pendulum has swung back towards liberty a few times in history, doesn't mean that at some point the revolution of technology won't enable the oligarchs to stop the pendulum dead in it's tracks on their next turn... and it is surely looking to be swinging their way.
I'll leave you with part of the response from the late, great, Christopher Hitchens, when asked if he though America was the greatest nation:
"The American revolution, the one that says 'build your republic on individual rights, not group rights, have a bill of rights that inscribes these, and makes them available and legible to everybody, separate the church from the state, separate the executive, the judicial, and the political branch' do all these things, it doesn't sound like much but it is really a very revolutionary idea, there is hardly a country in the world that wouldn't benefit from adopting those principles. I think that gives the United States a really good claim to be a revolutionary country as well as of course paradoxically it's a very conservative one" and in another response to the same question called America "the last revolution that still stands a chance".
If we lose sight of what makes that so, all the advances in individualism in both senses will be under threat of retrogression, for there is nothing in history that says progress must always be forward. Mark my words well, ye reader.
It looks, in fact, like you're using HN primarily for ideological battle, and that's what we ban accounts for (https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=false&qu...), so please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and use HN as intended.
This comes across as a caricature of a serious issue.
For what it is worth, whether I agree or disagree with you (or anyone), I strive not to mischaracterize your concerns.
I would like to ask a favor. Please read  and come back here afterward. Try rephrasing your comment. I hope you are capable of making a good faith attempt at understanding sex (at birth), gender identity, expression, and so on.
Please include a link to some of these platforms.
> If I don’t use the proper pronoun at the right time for that person, again, I am committing hate speech.
This is a big claim -- please share a reference.
> If I say no one floats across the spectrum like that...
What is your basis for saying this?
See: Ontario school's 'Gender Unicorn'.
It's essentially now state-sanctioned orthodoxy, and if you don't buy it, you're basically fascist, and very close to legal scrutiny.
I think a lot of the concern over it is really misplaced, and some loud voices are 'true bigots' kind of thing, and I think it has good intentions. But I also reject the orthodoxy of the information, and the lack of rights concerning the role of parents in moral foundation of their children. It should be worthy of debate, but there will be none.
>> me: What is your basis for saying this?
> you: I don’t need a basis other than feelings now.
Of course your feelings and experiences matter. However, if you want to (a) have a deeper conversation; (b) help others understand where you are coming from; or (c) possibly convince other people, I suggest you try to unpack your experience.
> However my feeling are invalid because they are not the currently beloved norms.
If I interpret this literally: This is not true. Of course your feelings are valid.
If I interpret it this as sarcasm: I encourage you to rephrase your point; sarcasm is not useful if you want to engage in discussion.
My tentative impression, so far:
1. You seem currently seem focused on a narrow mental framing of this issue. You seem to fixate on a particular part of the debate without much rigor or reflection.
2. I have not seen much of a willingness or skill to engage on a deeper level.
3. It appears to me that you are using HN to vent. Keep in mind that venting or mischaracterizing others does not suit the audience here.
I'm not asking you to change your experience, values, or goals. I'm asking you to put an effort to engage and listen. I'm also asking you to use your strong feelings about the issue to encourage a deeper investigation into the situation; the nuances. At the very least, you can improve on how you present your experience, arguments, philosophy, etc.
Now, denial of a factual argument is not hate in and of itself, but denying it on the premise of assigning no credit to the messenger, cherry-picking the weakest arguments and calling it "relativism" can be hateful, because it is indicative of a reality that is actively impeding the investigation of truth.
Is this something you are able to see?
> Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith. - https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html
There are more than two reasons that a link about Mill might have been posted. You've only mentioned two very pessimistic interpretations. I will grant that choosing the least pessimistic is a step in the right direction, but I want to point out this: there are many positive reasons why people value Mill. If you ask first, you might find them. You don't have to agree to ask. You can have a conversation without attacking.
So, please don't take this personally -- you can make your points without an attacking tone -- that's what I mean by aim higher. As in, strive to give people the benefit of the doubt.
Perhaps the irony here is that I may actually support many of the same causes as you. I've learned that using an abundance of grace when responding to people is not only kinder but leads to better outcomes. So, yes, I want to believe that you are capable of making a better, clearer, more persuasive claim.
For example, you could have written something like this: "Given this moment in the world, with a history of racism and abusive policing, with tragedy after tragedy, with a blatant lack of accountability, with with protests in the US, I am concerned that some people are grabbing onto concepts such as individual liberty without realizing that in the very founding of the US that rights come with responsibilities." You might add some quotes from Mill where he argues against narrowly individualistic misinterpretations of his philosophy.
> Aim higher with your dishonest intellectualism.
One definition of intellectualism is "the exercise of the intellect at the expense of the emotions."
Remember this: you don't know me. You assume a lot without asking questions. These issues are both emotional and intellectual to me. They work together.
All in all, I invite you to have a better conversation.
Oh, and I don't work in your little corporate world where people value "constructive" feedback. I don't value it because I don't value dishonesty. Aim higher with your connection to reality.
This was written by a white man with a white life experience.
A lot of the ideas here are unproven and have no rational basis.
You know what's funny?
He was early in the fight for sex equality, but if he lived today he would probably be qualified as a sexist by the "progressive" mob for wanting equality of opportunity instead of equality of outcome.
This "equality of opportunity vs equality of outcome" discussion is a mischaracterization of the position of "the progressive mob" that is misguided at best, dishonest at worst.
Historically, in feminist, anti-colonial, and anti-racist circles, an inequality of outcome, on the basis of race or sex is the best indicator one would have of an inequality of opportunity. This is why the "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy V. Ferguson was manifestly unequal: it consistently resulted in unequal outcomes.
Those that hold that certain races or sexes are inferior conclude that these inequalities are due to the natural, inherent superiority of men/whites/westerners/etc rather than an inequality of opportunity. It doesn't take being in the so-called "progressive mob" to reject that line of reasoning.
It's good if you use it as an indicator, but it's currently used as "evidence" and as a justification to give certain advantages to certain groups under the (almost always unproven) assumption that there's inequality of opportunity. For example: quota laws, and affirmative action in general. Quota laws and affirmative action that are notably pushed by progressive mob that I talk about, so I don't see the mischaracterization.
The distinction didn't hold water in 1954, and I don't think it holds water in 2020. Consistent inequality on the basis of sex or race is the principle evidence that there is inequality "of opportunity."
y = f(x, [z1, z2, ...])
where z1, z2, ... are possibly other factors determining y
you seem to say that
y = f(x)
You need to prove that z1, z2, ... don't exist
and that y = f(x) has a causal relationship
Both can be proved or disproved through numbers.
In case the numbers don't exist, one suspends judgement.
It's only reasonable to expect equality of outcomes if everything else is the same. If people in different groups still have different parental income levels or cultural norms or diets or religious beliefs or a thousand other things then you wouldn't expect the same outcomes, even if both groups have the same opportunities, because their treatment isn't the only statistical difference between them.
> Those that hold that certain races or sexes are inferior conclude that these inequalities are due to the natural, inherent superiority of men/whites/westerners/etc rather than an inequality of opportunity. It doesn't take being in the so-called "progressive mob" to reject that line of reasoning.
It doesn't take accepting that it's due to inequality of opportunity to reject it either.
If you have two kids and they had the same opportunities but one became an engineer and the other a janitor, it doesn't have to be genetics, it could be that one had parents who encouraged them to become an engineer and the other didn't.
It's also misrepresenting Mill, who surely did not argue against the desirability of equal outcomes. He was simply writing in a different environment, where giant glaring differences of opportunity made for easier argument and lower hanging fruit.
I don't see how you get from "Women must have access to the same professions as men" to a person who necessarily agrees with "It's not a problem if chicks aren't paid as much as dudes, there are all these other factors".
> Please don't use Hacker News for political or ideological battle. That destroys the curiosity this site exists for. - https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html
It is certainly possible to make a variation of your statement without such loaded language.
I'm sorry to have to say this, but you've also made an overly shallow (and uninteresting) characterization of the ethics underlying progressive causes.