If Reincarnation Were Real, I Must Have Been John Stuart Mill In a Previous Life
After years of study, I finally arrived at a political theory framework that I believed would work best for the world based upon history, psychology, economics, biology, and other disciplines. It took me more than a decade of careful thought, consideration, and many, many late nights reading until 4 or 5 a.m. by the fireplace debating with myself and others about the nature of how the world should work to ensure the best possible outcome for the greatest percentage of mankind.
Only after much of this work had been completed did I stumble across John Stuart Mill, a 19th century economist, philosopher, and civil servant. Mill shared a vast majority of the beliefs and philosophies that I had developed for my own personal framework over the years, including the war on confirmation bias, the fear of the tyranny of the majority, the harm principle that man should be entitled to pursue his own happiness and desires as long as he harms no others, the strong defense of freedom of speech, the belief that mankind has irrationally suppressed women by disenchanting them from education and equal access to opportunity that is only now being rectified, and the abhorrence for slavery.
Though we don’t agree on everything, in the school of philosophy and logic, we would be brothers. (In fact, some of the wording in my journals nearly exactly reflect the conclusions to which Mill himself arrived, including the concept that the goal of civilization should be to produce the greatest aggregate happiness, within reason.)
There are moments when I find it amusing how much time I could have saved had I found John Stuart Mill as a teenager. Yet, my personality would have still required me to read every opposing viewpoint to make a rational decision based upon the evidence, just as Mill would have done. For the uninitiated, Mill was famous for studying, read, analyzing, and evaluating an enormous range of theories, writings, and topics, even some of which he believed were “clearly erroneous”. When asked why he did this – read authors he knew were fools or theories that are failures in the real-world – Mill responded that he was,
… “seeing that no scattered particles of important truth are buried and lost in the ruins of exploded error”.
For me, many of his writings are the intellectual equivalent of love; finding a kindred philosophical spirit. I mean, this is the man who wrote:
The despotism of custom is everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement, being in unceasing antagonism to that disposition to aim at something better than customary, which is called, according to circumstances, the spirit of liberty, or that of progress or improvement.
What a fantastic phrase to describe the stubborn clinging to irrational customs that prevent mankind from progressing: The despotism of custom. Just because a law or custom is old doesn’t mean it is wise or advisable. This is true no matter how revered the source. After all, our ancestors sacrificed their children to statues made at the hands of man and even the Christian Old Testament recognizes no less than eight (8) types of approved marriages sanctioned by the law, including the right of a soldier to force a captive woman to become his wife or a rapist to claim his victim as a spouse. Both are bad policy and inherently opposed to justice.
If I weren’t so busy, I’d schedule in a reading of his body of work. I might be able to fit some of it in around Christmas.