An essay or paper on The Democratic Ideals

Mill’s main criticism in his second essay was well taken: Tocqueville, in failing to define democracy with precision, sometimes confused its effects with those of a commercial civilization in general. As a nation progresses in industry and wealth, its manufactures expand, its capital grows, its class structure changes, and the intermediate group between poor and rich, comprised of artisans and middle class, multiplies. This may seem to make, as Tocqueville believed, a trend to equalization, but it could be merely one of many consequences from augmented industry and wealth, which created a highly complex society without necessarily furthering political freedom and democratic equality. Mill doubted whether in itself a commercial civilization, aside from other influences, necessarily equalized conditions among men. At any rate it failed to do so in Britain. There, he wrote, “The extremes of wealth and poverty are wider apart, and there is a more numerous body of persons at each extreme, than in any other commercial community” (193). Owing to their abundant children, the poor remained poor, while the laws tended to keep large concentrations of capital together, and hence the rich remained rich. Great fortunes were accumulated and seldom distributed. In this respect, Mill thought, Britain stood in contrast to the United States, although in commercial prosperity and industrial growth she was similar.

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Deep State America | The American Conservative

The first of these themes, which he had earlier explored in articles, emphasizes his distinction between true and false democracy. True democracy represents all, and not merely the majority. In it the different interests, opinions, and grades of intellect are heard, and by weight of character and strength of argument influence the rest. This democracy is achieved by reforming the electoral system according to the proposals of Thomas Hare, by ensuring that everyone, male and female alike, has a voice (although not an equal voice) in the voting process, and by fostering education from infancy through life. Mill believes that the expansion of democratic rights in itself exerts a pervasive educational influence. He accepts Tocqueville’s belief that American democracy fostered both a robust patriotism and an active intelligence. “No such wide diffusion of the ideas, tastes, and sentiments of educated minds,” he writes, “has ever been seen elsewhere, or even conceived as attainable” (468). He strongly holds this view, although in earlier essays on the United States he also acknowledged in the American electorate a narrow and intolerant mentality. Although Mill at times fluctuates between trust and distrust of democracy, he always believes in its potentiality to improve men. Active citizenship can usually nourish the qualities that good citizenship demands, draw out human resources otherwise dormant, and advance the lot of mankind.

The Ideals of the Roman Republic | janetthomas

Not the least interesting part of his essay is a sketch of the possible strategy whereby the literate and educated elements of the population might guide the masses or create a rival power to them. He believed that an effective civilization is possible only through the capacity of individuals to combine for common ends. Combination, as in trade unions and benefit societies, had already made the workers more powerful. Combination and compromise also could enlarge the influence of the literate middle class, demolish old barriers between all classes, and extend the range of law and justice. English educational institutions were imperfectly organized for their task, and he feared the advent of democracy before the people were sufficiently educated and ready to shoulder their responsibilities. He censured the ancient English universities for failing to make the present rulers grasp what had to be done in reform to avoid the worst features of mass domination. In pursuing narrow sectarian ends, as in the exclusion of Dissenters, the universities were ignoring political realities. They must moreover extend their scope to serve a larger proportion of the population, and at the same time sponsor more through research in the manner of the German universities.

Addams, Jane | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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