In Defence Of Comprehensive Liberalism

The legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin argued that a liberal political community must show “equal respect and concern” for each of its members. Can we metropolitan liberals honestly say that, in the decades after 1989, we showed equal respect and concern for people in the US rustbelt, or the neglected communities of northern England? Until, of course, the populist wave launched taxi-loads of metropolitan journalists on their domestic safaris to the former Yorkshire coalfields or the Appalachian mountains. For the profound changes needed to renew the foundations of liberal societies will require a consistency of application that is beyond the reach of any single grouping. In a liberal democracy it won’t do for one party, even if it consists entirely of the most impeccably liberal “big L” Liberals, to remain continuously in charge.

This has led occasional writers on the essay to a certain supposition. There is more to be said against this second understanding of the essay, but life is short. There is another more natural and more arguable understanding of Mill’s talk of interests, rights and obligations. Before coming to it, however, it will be useful to put aside a couple of things. There are other proofs, as indeed they are, of the uselessness of this first understanding of Mill.

It championed the idea that the government should intervene to help the poor. There was growing awareness of the problems of poverty in the early 20th century. Social, industrial, political and military factors all led the Liberals to introduce social reform. Through our imprint ECPR Press and via the OUP Comparative Politics book series, we publish research by, and for the political science community. Is it possible to secure such sacrifices by consent, through liberal democratic politics?

It does indeed inspire persons sympathetic to Mill’s attitudes but it can do no more than that. ‘New Liberals’ such as David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill rose to prominence in Asquith’s government. Our members are universities across the globe and the scholars who work and study within them; membership benefits both the individual and the institution. King’s College London reviews the modules offered on a regular basis to provide up-to-date, innovative and relevant programmes of study. We suggest you keep an eye on the course finder on our website for updates.

Theoretically, a liberal might argue that if everyone has enough for an equal opportunity in life then there is no problem with a few people having much more than enough. Levelling up will be expensive and cannot be paid for without taking some more money from the super-rich, who have done exceptionally well out of globalisation, but also from the so-called “comfortably off,” that is, middle-class people like me. Extreme inequality at the top is in practice incompatible with equal life chances because, through educational and other forms of privilege, it perpetuates that “hereditary meritocracy.” Last but not least, this extreme concentration of wealth results in an acute inequality of power. Nothing could be more absurd than to reduce “liberalism” either to the theory of John Rawls or to the practice of Goldman Sachs. Properly understood, liberalism offers an incomparably rich, four-century-long experimental history of a never-ending quest to find the best way for diverse people—and peoples—to live together well in conditions of freedom.

For the study we obtained the consent of the Ethical Commission of the University Hospital in Hradec Králové and the work conforms with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Each participant was familiarized with the conditions of the study, and informed written consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. For the N2, EEG epochs of 1,000 ms were selected, starting 200 ms before the NoGo stimulus was displayed.

Do ordinary people stand in analogy to the purse-owner because their interests or rights are or will be violated? This thought brings the passage into line with the second understanding of the essay already rejected, and also another one to be considered. Neither other harm caused by an individual to them, or other immorality, or his own good, justifies and permits intervention by the state and society. In fairness to Mill it needs to be added that he himself reports more or less this very problem. He does not think his own talk of harm and the like is sufficiently explicit. Look at passage 5, a page or two after it was announced, in passage 2, that a man’s harming himself and consenting partners is not ground for legal or social interference.

But it is wrong in its final implication that this makes some real sense of the essay. Just before passage 2 quoted at the beginning, Mill speaks of the need for a principle of liberty, as follows. It should be as widely known to all who know something about Mill that he provided no real answer at all to the inevitable question of how little higher-quality satisfaction is to be regarded as equivalent to how much more lower-quality satisfaction.

The left naturally tend to be supported by those who see themselves as working class. Lack of union organisation, increased income and the skill of the work may each weaken but not necessarily destroy support. Authoritarians think that centralised power is necessary to get things done, and rules and other powers get in the way.