A Common Objection to Mill
The most common criticism of the position Mill argues in On Liberty and of the liberal tradition derived most directly from Mill is this: What room does his model of society have for those who are excluded from the competitions he favours because they have no access to the competitive arenas or to the training facilities necessary to equip them for the competition? Consider, for example, the issues of free speech and argument, the engines that are going to drive society's progress. Where are the forums for these debates? Mill would no doubt argue that these are to be found in all sorts of places—in the newspapers, legislatures, public meetings, universities, novels, plays, and so on—in short, in the political, social, and literary culture all around everyone. But one might still raise some objections about ownership of these forums. Someone controls access to the newspapers and legislatures, so how do those who have no stake in such ownership or who are expressly barred from such forums or who cannot afford to enter participate in the process which will lead to social progress? Without direct government interference to change the regulations governing access or the economic arrangements which make access possible, how will things change? Mill's answer would be, I think, a re-emphasis of his basic points. Yes, it may be difficult, but the individuals concerned must speak their opinions, join the debates to the extent they can, and seek, through persuasion, to change the situation, without any arbitrary actions by the government or physical harm to others. They need to create their own forums, raise their voices by all the means at their disposal, limited though these may be. An excellent example of what Mill would suggest might well be the history of modern feminism, in which, for the most part, those who were excluded from many forums made a concerted effort lasting many years to state their views, argue their case, and persuade others...
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