Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mill again

Flicking through the Guardian website for John Stuart Mill references (see post below) I came across this unintelligent article from Hywel Williams.

Amongst much tendentious, provocative, undergraduate exaggeration, he includes this:

Who but an idiot (or French aristocrat) could suppose that America's defining quality is a passion for equality? Still, like generations of undergraduates, the prime minister reaches for De la Démocratie en Amérique to demonstrate Atlantic breadth.

Well, the American Constitution, because that is what was being referred to, may have been flawed - it failed to deal with slavery for example - but the American approach to the institution of democracy, arising at a time of great tumult in the US - was a model of sober, rational judgement. Compare it to France, with their Year Zero approach after the revolution, and the hideous consequences that arose over the next forty or fifty years.

It was the first constitution in the world to define the limits of the state. It was wise enough to know that it could never be the finished article, so made provision for amendments - and how important have those been over the past two hundred years? Consider the first amendment, for example enshrining freedom of speech, freedom of petition, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly. How much more egalitarian do you want?

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